Suffer little children: The missing, the lost and the dead
Five days ago, the body of 6-year-old Stacey Adams of Mitchells Plain was found in a shallow grave next to a wendy house. She had been raped and murdered. Adams was just one of several children who went missing and who were later found dead. News24’s Jenna Etheridge pieces together a country’s shame.
On Sunday, it was missing 6-year-old Stacey Adams of Mitchells Plain. But before her, scores of children went missing and they were later found dead.
While at least 17 children in different provinces, who were reported missing to various organisations, were found dead since January 2017, the actual figure is much higher. The most recent figures are contained in an addendum to the 2016/17 SAPS Annual Crime Report, which states that there had been some 839 child murders for that period.
However, due to the number of missing persons organisations – each with their own statistics – there is no consensus on the total.
The SA Police Service (SAPS) Bureau of Missing Persons also does not appear to share its annual statistics.
While most children who are reported missing across the country are found unharmed, others seemingly vanish into thin air, or their small bodies are found battered and violated.
In most cases, children who go missing and end up dead are killed by someone they know and trust.
Missing Children SA (MCSA) told News24 on Wednesday that five children reported to them as missing between May last year and April this year, were later found dead in the Western Cape, Limpopo and Mpumalanga.
In the same period, most of the 124 children who were reported missing to them were found unharmed.
National MCSA case officer Bianca van Aswegen said teenagers (aged 13-17 years) comprised most missing children cases reported to them, followed by 7-12 years and those between 0-6 years.
In most of their cases, children had run away. The next most common reason for their disappearance was crime, followed by kidnappings (recorded by the organisation as a separate crime).
It stressed that the figures did not reflect all the cases reported to the SAPS.
For the Pink Ladies, another well-known organisation helping to trace missing persons, some 12 children – of which 8 were in the Western Cape – were found dead between January 2017 and August 2017.
The names of the 12 children have made headlines around the country: Philip Volschenk, 16, in Brackenfell; Siphesihle Sibusiso Mbangula, 16, in Khayelitsha; Keleabetse Seleka, 15, in Lyttleton; Rene Roman, 13, in Steenberg; Stacha Arends, 11, in Mitchells Plain; Nomfundo Tsotetsi, 10, in Umlazi; Keketso Mahlakwana, 9, in Lenasia; Minentle Lekhatha, 5, in Lwandle; Iyapha Yamile, 4, in Lingelethu West; Courtney Pieters, 3, in Elsies River; and 1-year-old Mpilo Xaba in Jabulani.
Arrests were made in several of these cases.
In December, Randy Tango, who lived two houses down from Stacha, was sentenced to three life terms in jail for raping and strangling her.
Earlier this month, the man who raped and killed little Minentle was also handed three life sentences in the Western Cape High Court.
An addendum to the SAPS Annual Crime Report for 2016/17 offers some general insight into deadly violence against all children, not just those reported missing.
According to the document, 265 girls and 574 boys were murdered in 2016/17.
The addendum states that the Western Cape had the highest number of reported child murders (29.6%), followed by KwaZulu-Natal (19.9%), the Eastern Cape (15.3%) and Gauteng (12.2%).
Firearms, knives/sharp objects and physical force were often used by the perpetrators.
SAPS made arrests in 64.3% of the child murder cases for that period.
Lucinda Evans, who founded the Philisa Abafazi Bethu women and children’s safehouse programme in Lavender Hill, is no stranger to the stress and sadness that accompanies these cases.
She regularly joins search parties for missing children, like she did on Sunday when she witnessed Adams’ body being found.
Angry Cape Town residents petrol bombed a house while a man they suspected of killing her was inside.
An exhausted Evans said she was concerned that crucial information and evidence might have been destroyed with the onslaught of violence and chaos that ensued at the active crime scene.
“We have communities who want to deal with perpetrators and kill them. No one is giving answers,” she said.
She wondered why officials had not declared a state of emergency for child murders.
“It is another child in another community on the Cape Flats. We become hysterical and irate, when custodians and policy holders have not declared this province a state of disaster.”
Evans also questioned whether children were being adequately supervised in their communities.
“Working parents don’t have places and spaces to send their children. Children go home in the afternoon and then there is still no one home.”
She believed more community and church halls should be opened as safe spaces for children, who can take part in programmes under supervision.
Following the murder and rape of 6-year-old Stacey Adams in Eastridge, Mitchells Plain, and the community’s outrage at the incident, News24’s Jenna Etheridge pieces together a country’s shame.