Police in Mpumalanga, Johannesburg, South Africa are investigating what appears to be a spike in child kidnappings in the province following the murder of a six-year-old girl.
Noluthando Masango disappeared on Saturday, July 21, while attending a traditional ceremony with her grandmother. It is reported that she was in a room playing with other children while the adults were enjoying the ceremony outside when she suddenly went out of the room and never returned.
Her tiny bruised body was found in a shallow stream in Siyabuswa few days ago. Police suspect she may have been raped before she was killed.
Hours after Noluthando went missing, her kidnapper allegedly called her family and demanded for a R5000 ransom. She was raped and killed after her family missed the ransom deadline.
Her aunt Zanele Masango, 20, said Noluthando disappeared on July 21 at a traditional ceremony at home.
“The kidnapper called using a private number, and all we could hear was Noluthando crying in the background, calling out for her mother, Portia. The caller did not say anything. We received the call a number of times. On Sunday (July 22), the person sent a message to Gogo Leah’s phone. The person demanded that we deposit R5000 at Shoprite. We were also warned not to involve the police,” Zanele told The Star.
She said they informed the police, who advised them not to deposit the money.
“The person told us that we had until 1pm on Thursday (July 26) to deposit the money or he would kill Noluthando. The caller said he was sent by a relative to kidnap Noluthando. We still do not know who could do something like this.
“We did not deposit the money, and on Thursday just before 1pm, I identified Noluthando’s body after it was discovered in a stream. As soon as I got home, we received another text message and the person said he was aware that we had found Noluthando’s body,” Zanele said.
A post-mortem will be conducted to reveal the cause of her death, says Police spokesperson Leonard Hlathi says.
“People who kidnap and murder young children are heartless. There’s also a possibility that she might have been sexually molested, and this is what we’re exploring in terms of identification.” he said.
In a statement, Mpumalanga MEC for community safety, Pat Ngomane said it appeared that there had been a spike in child kidnappings, with the worst cases ending in death, while others fortunately ended in children being reunited with their families.
“Not long ago a 13-year-old, Katlego Marite, was abducted by men at Tasbett Park in Emalahleni, while another girl was abducted near her school in the same area of Siyabuswa,” the statement read. Katlego was returned safely to his family.
‘Children should not be worrying about safety’
Ngomane has condemned the killing children, saying that it destroys the social fibre of communities and the future of the country.
“What type of a society [is it] that constantly violates its children? It cannot be that children cannot walk freely in their own neighbourhoods,” said Ngomane.
“We need to urgently remove these beasts from the society. We should never normalise evil. We must do [everything] in our power to ensure that the most vulnerable members of our society, especially children, are safe at all times.”
He added that children should not be worrying about their safety but instead should be mainly preoccupied with their school work.
Ngomane asked police to urgently bring the suspect to book and that the criminal justice system ensures that those who are found guilty of any offences relating to the ill-treatment of minors receive lengthy jail sentences.