JOHANNESBURG – Statistics show that a child goes missing in South Africa every five hours.
And just last Tuesday Boipelo was abducted outside her home in Constantia Park, Kroonstad while she was playing with her two friends a few streets away from her home.
According to Mesi’s mother Pena Sesele, the 9-year-old was last seen playing in the next street from their home with two of her friends. A 6-yearold claimed that a man wearing blue work overalls took her to go look for some change.
“I went looking for her before 3pm that afternoon and when I was told she had left with an unknown man, we then proceeded to search for her within the location, moving into different places as far as the mall, until we decided to go report the case because she is just a child.
“The child relaying the story to us is young, so we couldn’t expect a lot from her and that is where I was hoping the police would assist us,” she said, also saying that the police had a nonchalant attitude and after taking her statement, dropped her off at home and asked her “Are we done?”
“I was really confused, and I still am, at this point because I don’t know what I am supposed to do and I really expected the police to act with urgency in my case,” said Sesele.
As the description of Boipelo’s abductor and the clothes he was wearing kept changing, the small community has been going out searching on foot, to see if they can find the young girl who is still missing.
Boipelo joins a long list of children and women who go missing in this country daily and whose whereabouts still remain unknown.
Amahle Thabethe, Lunamandla Sithonga, Anothando Mhlobo, Desiree Reid, Boipelo Mesi and Megan Michelle Fillies are among the 23% of children that are still missing whereas 77% who go missing are normally found, according to the Missing Children South Africa statistics
According to Bianca van Aswegen, the national co-ordinator at the Missing Children South Africa that works hand-in-hand with the SAPS, the organisation has seen a significant increase in cases of missing persons in the last few years.
“Human trafficking is a broad spectrum. Yes, we do deal with human trafficking in South Africa, although I cannot comment on whether we are facing a crisis or not, I can confirm that South Africa is one of the countries that have a high number of human trafficking cases.
“When a case goes cold, the missing person case always stays open. We as an organisation have #Stillnotfound flyers that we repost of cold cases with the hope that someone somewhere will come forward with information. The organisation never gives up on any of our cases no matter how old the case is,” she added.
National police spokesperson Colonel Brenda Muridili said the phenomenon of missing persons is an unfortunate part of society linked to many factors and needs co-operation at all possible levels.
“The investigation of vulnerable missing persons is a priority to the
SAPS. The SAPS constantly implement new innovations and the recent co-operation agreement between the SAPS and Facebook brought along the Amber Alert system.
“This system allows for the activation of Facebook users who are geographically in the best position to assist the police if they notice a missing child flagged in an Amber Alert. South Africa is the first country on the continent to have benefited from this technology availed by Facebook,” he said.
Muridili emphasised the importance of assistance from non-government organisations and the media especially in the tracing of vulnerable missing persons. She further emphasises that there is no waiting period before a person can be reported missing to the SAPS.
“The investigation of all missing person cases are conducted by trained detectives. Missing person cases where foul play is suspected are prioritised and all missing child cases i.e. children under the age of 18 years, are investigated by the specialised Child Protection and Sexual offences units”.
Another family that is waiting anxiously to find their loved one is that of 23-year-old Granny Lerato Mabunda who was last seen on August 28 leaving her home with her ex-boyfriend in Hammanskraal.
While the ex-boyfriend had vowed to have last seen her at the Spar where he said he left her, the 23-year-old man committed suicide on Thursday at his workplace, according Mabunda’s uncle Makhitle Maimane.
“This latest development indicates that Granny could possibly be dead. But all we want is closure, we want her back to us so we can find peace as a family,” said Maimane.
“Like most things in South Africa, Granny’s case is not moving. We have case numbers and everything, but nothing has materialised so far and that is the biggest pain for us who trust in our police services.”
The family organised their own search party on Friday, with the hopes of finding leads to where she might be.
And Nosisa Hlanjwa’s mother Julia Hlanjwa said her life has lost meaning ever since her 36-year-old daughter disappeared together with her 5-yearold twins – Imibulelo and Mikhulu on August 14 last year in Germiston, Extension 9.
The heartbroken mother could not hold back her tears when describing the grief of living without her daughter and grandchildren, saying after being disappointed by the police – all she wants right now is to find closure.
“Since their disappearance, I can’t eat, I can’t even sleep because I keep wondering what kind of mother I am. I don’t know why I’m still alive because life has no meaning anymore,” said the grief-stricken mother who could not stop wailing.
Julia says although the police say the case is still on, there is no lead to their whereabouts.