KwaZulu-Natal police have issued a warning to parents to be cautious during the festive season, as child abduction syndicates are operating in public spaces.
According to police, the number of children who go missing at this time of the year is usually high.
The 2022 Strategic Organised Crime Risk Assessment report by SAPS indicates that the province has the second-highest number of kidnappings of adults and children in the country.
Trafficking in children is a global problem affecting a number of countries.
According to UNICEF, it is estimated that 1.2 million children are trafficked every year.
In South Africa, a child goes missing every five hours. During the busy festive season and holiday rush, parents and guardians are urged to be vigilant with their children.
Police have sounded the alarm on child kidnapping syndicates – using the festive period as an opportunity to snatch children from unsuspecting parents. Shopping centres, beaches and tourist areas are hotspots.
“We are making an appeal to take parental responsibility for their children. They must never leave their children unattended. We are making this call because we have come to realise that there might be a syndicate out there that’s targeting children. In the past few years, children have been missing more during this time of the year. We are saying to parents, be in the know of where your children are at all times. If you are going to the shopping malls, make sure that you hold them by the hand and keep them with you always,” says KZN police spokesperson Robert Netshiunda.
KZN Police say the province has seen numerous child abduction cases in recent years. During the festive season – SAPS has launched several safety initiatives with the aim to increase police visibility in key areas.
“We are going to have a point where missing children can be reported. We are encouraging parents to know our numbers to identify where we are and stop us when they see police moving. We are at your service but above all …we say, parents please be responsible,” emphasises Netshiunda.
Children’s rights organisation, Operation Bobbi Bear, says during the festive period they are inundated with cases of mostly children who are victims of abuse.
“We deal with a lot of cases during the festive season. Children are being trafficked, they are being raped. Some parents during this time of the year are usually having fun and are less cautious. We always tell parents to ensure that they know where their children are and who they are playing with. We are facing a serious problem. We are going to have a lot of kids coming in at this time. We also go out to police stations and do counselling. There are a lot of kids that need help. Police sometimes bring kids here even social workers,” says Bobbi Bear trauma counsellor Sibongisile Ngcobo.
Department of Social Development
The Department of Social Development has made an impassioned plea to parents to monitor the well-being of their children. Social development says many children are neglected during the festive period.
“We are worried about the family gatherings and many children are neglected by that time. So we are very much worried. We urge parents and communities out there, child trafficking is real. Children are kidnapped for a number of reasons, sadly others are killed for muthi and others are kidnapped and sold to parents who are unable to have their own children. I am also very much worried about children who will be visiting families away from home this festive season,” says KZN MEC for Social Development Nonhlanhla Khoza.
Police say Christmas is also a period of incredibly heightened tension in cases where custody of children is divided between parents. Children’s lives can be saved if they are reported missing immediately – in the first 24 hours. This is crucial – as police can start looking for clues and leads to a greater chance of finding the child.