Dros attack ‘a wake-up call’
● Bay restaurants beef up security precautions, including wristbands with children’s names on them
The alleged rape of a child in a family restaurant which rocked the nation has triggered an immediate response from Nelson Mandela Bay eateries, which have been busy ramping up safety precautions and rethinking their security.
“It’s been a wake-up call,” one Bay restaurant manager observed in the wake of the shocking incident at a Dros outlet in Pretoria.
Concerns have being expressed widely on social media that the attack had smashed perceptions of family restaurants being bastions of safety for parents with children.
The arrest and subsequent court appearance of a 20-yearold rape suspect who was allegedly discovered semi-naked in toilets at Dros in Silverton, Pretoria, on September 22, has been followed closely day to day by a concerned public which has been asking how it could have happened.
The suspect is accused of following a seven-year-old girl to the toilet and attacking her after he had apparently watched her in the eatery’s play area for some time.
In response to the Dros case, the Eagle Ridge Spur in Charlo introduced new precautions, going beyond Spur’s standard safety policy, to prevent any similar attacks on children.
“That attack was very sad and it was shocking. It was the last place we expected something like this to happen,” manageress Harriet Nyaumba said.
She said to instill confidence in its patrons, the eatery had implemented new safety precautions over and above those measures that were standard across the franchise.
“The first new measure we have taken is to issue children with wristbands with their names on. This allows us to monitor the children in the restaurant and make sure that we match the children up with their parents,” Nyaumba, a mother herself, said.
Nyaumba said staff were also being extra vigilant and keeping an eye on children whether they were in the play area – where a child minder was constantly present – or elsewhere in the restaurant.
“We have decided to offer patrons the option of a staff member accompanying their child to a washroom should they need one.
“Naturally, they can accompany their own children should they prefer,” Nyaumba said.
She said, however, that while eateries held a certain amount of responsibility, parents were equally responsible for the safety of their children.
Harriet Nyaumba MANAGERESS, EAGLE RIDGE SPUR
“We do as much as we can to ensure the safety of young patrons, but parents also need to be responsible for their children’s safety.
“Security starts at home where parents should be educating their children about things like not talking to strangers.”
Nyaumba said patrons had made mention of the Dros incident, with some asking staff about safety precautions.
Dr Thandi Ngxukumeshe, who owns the Wimpy at the Boardwalk, said vigilance was the business’s primary weapon.
“The Pretoria attack was a very, very shocking incident. We found it very strange it took place – in fact, we are trying to think how exactly that could have taken place in a setting like that. So yes, it has definitely shocked the industry.”
Ngxukumeshe said unlike other eateries at the Boardwalk, Wimpy had its own toilets on site.
“This means we have far greater control over what happens on our premises. We only have one men’s loo, and we keep a sharp eye on it.
“Secondly, our staff are instructed to check and clean the restrooms every 30 minutes and, in addition, our receptionist checks the restrooms every 20 minutes.
“Along with that, all our staff note and keep an eye on all children from when they enter the restaurant.”
The business also employs child minders for the play area.
“Our staff are also instructed to check in on the restrooms if, for example, it is noticed someone has gone in for an abnormal amount of time.”
Rachel Helberg, a manageress at John Dory’s on the beachfront, described the Pretoria attack as “very depressing” and said it had proved a wake-up call for the industry, which was now far more security aware.
“We have a security camera presence so we monitor what is going on all the time.
“In addition, we have two child minders in our play area,” Helberg said, adding that all the business’s management were women and were naturally vigilant around child safety.
Helberg said besides fathers with children, the eatery prohibited men from entering the children’s play area as an additional precaution.
“In terms of responsibility, I think it lies with both the venue and patrons. There is a fine line between expectations and what we can actually do.
Security starts at home where parents should be educating their children about things like not talking to strangers
“As an example, there was a child who kept on climbing railings. A child minder asked the child not to because it was dangerous.
“The child persisted and then fell and hurt himself. The grandparent then came and complained to us. This then raises the question around what control over children and legitimate responsibilities a restaurant has.”
Jurgens van Onselen, who manages Something Good in Summerstrand – which boasts an extensive outdoor play area – expressed anger at the Dros incident.
“We have an exceptionally good camera system, access to two security companies and frequent police patrols around the premises,” he said.
“Police horse patrols are also conducted in this area. Patrons and our staff are constantly monitoring the play area, which can only be accessed from inside the restaurant.”
Van Onselen said parents also generally took seats which overlooked the play area.
“Our staff also note the children when they come in, observe who they came in with, and keep an eye out for any behaviour out of the ordinary.”
Henry Grobler, of The Franchise Co, which has a Mike’s Kitchen at Garden Court Kings Beach, said child safety was a critical consideration.
“Kids are a big part of the business and we have a responsibility to take all precautions we can to ensure their safety. Staff vigilance over the children, the placement of child minders and the security we employ around the premises are all part of the effort.”
Grobler said he found the Pretoria incident shocking, particularly as it had taken place in a family environment.
Jane van Heerden, of Johannesburg, a single mother of an 11-year-old daughter, told Weekend Post at the Boardwalk: “I always make sure I am seated close to the play areas so my daughter can enjoy herself while I keep an eye on her.
“That Pretoria incident was frightening and it’s made me much more conscious of where my child is at all times.”
Speaking outside a Boardwalk eatery, a mother of four, Joanne Wood, of Port Elizabeth, said she simply did not trust anyone anymore.
“Of course that attack was shocking. No-one expects that sort of thing to happen in a public place like that.
“At the end of the day, parents must take responsibility for their own children, wherever they are,” she said.
Samantha and Gary Kemp, of Heidelberg, said while they believed the Dros incident was isolated, it had prompted them to be more watchful over their two young children.
“We will still go out to eat as a family, but we will definitely be more cautious.”