Agony of miss­ing child’s fam­ily

Run­aways, ab­duc­tion and traf­fick­ing – and the num­ber in­creases over the fes­tive sea­son

Weekend Argus (Saturday Edition) - - NEWS - SA­MAN­THA HARTSHORNE

WIL­SON Magude was two months and three weeks old when a woman ab­ducted him from his mother’s ven­dor salon in First Av­enue, Alexan­dra.

Nilza Magude was braid­ing hair and did not see the small, quiet bun­dle be­ing lifted from his pram be­side her where he had been sleep­ing be­side his twin brother.

Wil­son was taken on Novem­ber 14, and the Magude fam­ily, which in­cludes Wil­son’s twin and two other sib­lings, do not want to go back to their home town in Mozam­bique for Christ­mas with­out him. Magude says she prays ev­ery day that Wil­son will be found.

Ac­cord­ing to the SAPS’s miss­ing per­sons bureau, a child dis­ap­pears ev­ery six hours. The of­fice says the num­ber in­creases over the fes­tive sea­son in coastal ar­eas, which is why satel­lite sta­tions are set up and aware­ness is ramped up around this time.

The SA Cen­tre for Miss­ing and Ex­ploited Chil­dren (Sacmec) is an NGO that helps to find miss­ing chil­dren. It has a re­cov­ery suc­cess rate of 84 per­cent. It is also gear­ing up for the hol­i­day sea­son, a time when chil­dren are more sus­cep­ti­ble to get­ting lost or be­ing ab­ducted, as schools are closed and hol­i­day des­ti­na­tions be­come crowded.

Be­tween 570 and 580 cases a year are re­ported to Sacmec, but the num­ber rises ev­ery year, in part as a re­sult of in­creas­ing aware­ness of the ser­vice.

This year, in Gaut­eng, 164 chil­dren have been re­ported miss­ing, the high­est fig­ure in the coun­try, and com­pared to 70 in the Western Cape.

A per­son is con­sid­ered to be a child if he or she is younger than 18.

Miss­ing chil­dren may be run­aways or may have been ab­ducted, in­clud­ing by a par­ent, or fallen prey to hu­man traf­fick­ers.

In most cases, 37 per­cent, chil­dren dis­ap­pear be­cause they have be­come lost.

Nic Pana­gio, the chair­man of Sacmec, says South Africa is a key child traf­fick­ing cen­tre.

“(It) is a desti­na­tion, source and tran­sit coun­try, which makes the first 24 hours the most cru­cial pe­riod.”

Part of the ad­vo­cacy man­date of Sacmec is to dis­pel the myth that par­ents need to wait 24 hours be­fore they may re­port a child miss­ing.

Pana­gio says this is not true, and that Hol­ly­wood has con­trib­uted to this dam­ag­ing be­lief. The sooner the SAPS and Sacmec can pub­lish a pic­ture of the child, the bet­ter the chances of find­ing it.

“Our or­gan­i­sa­tion is a bridge be­tween SAPS and the vic­tim’s fam­ily. We have a team of four in ev­ery prov­ince and vol­un­teers who work closely with the po­lice.”

Ac­cord­ing to the po­lice, if you can­not find a child, that should be re­ported to the near­est po­lice sta­tion. “The only thing needed to re­port some­one as miss­ing is the ba­sic in­for­ma­tion on the miss­ing per­son and, prefer­ably, the most re­cent pho­to­graph of the per­son.”

At the po­lice sta­tion’s client ser­vice cen­tre, an SAPS 55(A) form must be com­pleted and the reporter will be re­quired to sign an in­dem­nity to safe­guard the SAPS from “hoax” re­ports.

Sacmec of­fers a free ser­vice and may be con­tacted at 072 647 7464, or 021 950 1546, or info@miss­ingchil­dren.org.za.

Call SAPS at 08600 10111

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