The recent kidnapping of a newborn baby at Lakeside Mall in Benoni and that of a Grade 8 boy waiting for his lift at a school gate, has sparked a national public debate about the wave of abductions hitting the country.
The pupil at Queens High School In Kensington in Johannesburg who went missing on Monday afternoon was found alive at Maponya Mall in Soweto this morning, after a R5 million ransom was demanded for the safe return of the 14-year-old.
It is not clear whether the ransom was paid, but Gauteng education MEC Panyaza Lesufi said it was concerning that pupils were being targeted at schools.
A Vanderbijlpark school teacher accused of kidnapping a six-year-old Grade R pupil from Kollegepark Laerskool in September last year is presently standing trial along with her three co-accused.
They will be back in court on 27 March for a trial date to be set in the High Court in Johannesburg. Lesufi said that on 24 February a 15-year-old Grade 8 female pupil from Lantern School, a remedial school for children with special needs, in Roodepoort was reported missing.
“According to information at our disposal, she was not picked up by her parents as accustomed. Police are also investigating the circumstances surrounding this case.”
Captain Nomsa Sekele said the mother of the baby, Pretty Mphenemene, 39, left her baby and her handbag with a suspect named Katlego.
“It was not the first time that they had met so she trusted her [Katlego].”
She said Katlego held the baby while Mphenemene went into a store. When she came out of the shop the woman had disappeared with the baby.
According to the South African Police Service, kidnapping has increased by 139% in the past decade.
The South African Democratic Teachers’ Union ( SADTU) has insisted that preventing kidnappings and other school safety issues are not just the government’s problem.
The union was shocked by this weeks incidents, both of which happened right after school.
“We are concerned about this issue of safety some of which have taken place on school property and some outside the premises,” said SADTU Gauteng provincial chairperson Tseliso Ledimo.
“A classic example are these cases of kidnapping where the children are last seen outside the school. That is why we have been making the call to say that this is not only an issue for the department of education to solve. This is a societal issue and it demands that all stakeholders especially the communities around the school must rally around the institution. Community safety organizations and the police must also be be involved.”
he Citizen spoke briefly to a family member of the boy who went missing yesterday. The relative asked not to be named,but said the circumstances around the boy’s reunion with his family was not yet clear.
Meanwhile it was understood that the parents 15 year-old Grade 8 pupil, Kate Spies, from Lantern School for Learners with Special Needs, had registered their missing child’s case with NGO Pink Ladies. She went missing, supposedly after school on Wednesday.
According to Gauteng education department Spokesperson Steve Mabona, the girl was normally picked up daily by her parents, but was not picked up by her parents on the day on question.
A missing persons docket was opened at the Roodepoort Police Station.
Tips to keep your children safe:
According to Bessie Rechner, Director of crime fighting NGO Pink Ladies, the safety of school learners begins at home. She shared her 16 pointers for preventing abduction:
1.Teach your children to run away from danger, never towards it. Danger is anyone or anything that invades their personal space. Teach them to yell loudly. Their safety is more important than being polite. Teach your children that if they are ever followed by a car to turn around and run the other direction to you or a trusted adult. If someone grabs them try throw themselves on the floor kick scream move around fight because it is difficult to be picked up when your full weight is on the ground.
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