The South African Police Service (SAPS) and Missing Children South Africa (CMSA) have warned parents to be vigilant over the holiday season, and make sure their children are always in sight. SAPS has also issued Safety Tips (see bottom of page).
These cautions come after a two-year-old child was snatched in broad daylight at a shopping centre in Umhlanga, KwaZulu-Natal (KZN)… but was fortunately recovered safely.
SAPS said the kidnapping suspect, who was immediately identified as a security guard at the Crescent Shopping Mall, was also swiftly arrested.
The 29-year-old suspect – Ntandoyenkosi Bulose – appeared in Verulam Magistrate’s Court on Monday for kidnapping. State prosecutors have requested more time to investigate his possible links to a criminal syndicate, according to 702.
A recent Carte Blanche investigation revealed at least two children are abducted daily in South Africa; and that a current spate of kidnappings organised by syndicates has parents on high alert. The motives vary – from ransom to custody disputes and in some cases even for muthi (traditional medicine).
The alleged kidnapping of the toddler took place on Thursday afternoon when the child’s grandmother (57) was making a purchase at the Crescent Mall in Umhlanga. As can be seen in a video that went viral (watch below), an unknown man picked up her grandson who was sitting in the trolley and walked calmly away.
WATCH Child allegedly kidnapped in broad daylight in Umhlanga, South Africa
Attempted child kidnapping last week at a supermarket in Umhlanga KZN. pic.twitter.com/vHYHD9bv7m
— Yusuf Abramjee (@Abramjee) December 23, 2019
SAPS said: “When the petrified grandmother found that the child was taken she began running in the mall frantically screaming out for him. She then spotted the man attired in a security guards uniform walking into one of the shops with her grandson.
“She grabbed the child from the man’s arms and reported the incident to the mall management who contacted police. Police officers from the Durban North police station arrived at the scene and viewed the CCTV footage at the mall. The suspect was immediately identified as a security guard who was on duty at the mall and he was promptly arrested.”
The KZN Provincial Commissioner, Lieutenant General Khombinkosi Jula said: “We are appealing to parents and guardians to always keep an eye on their children especially during this peak festive period. At this stage we do not know what the suspects intentions were but this incident once again highlights the need for us to remain vigilant at all times.”
Missing Children South Africa said: “THIS IS THE HARSH REALITY in SA 👇🏽Watch how an Umhlanga toddler gets kidnapped in broad daylight, right in front of everybody, with the mom’s back turned for a few split seconds!”
The concerned group called on parents to “Be VIGILANT”.
“Keep a watch over your children, especially during the festive season!!” The group has tips including dressing younger children in bright clothing and setting a meeting point for older children if you get separated. (If you would like to support the group which helps bring children home safely, please visit their page here.)
Metro police have increased police presence around shopping malls during the busy festive season.
Meanwhile several mothers in Cape Town have reported incidents of alleged attempts to kidnap their children on packed beaches. One mom, who was on Strand Beach, said “a man aggressively picked my 2 year old up, whilst I’m putting their shoes on, eagerly trying to get away from us into the crowd of people. I had to grab hold my son and pull him out of the man’s grip. When I asking what he was doing, he swore at me and walked away.” Others shared similar stories on a group website.
SAPS Issued the Following Safety Tips for a Safer Festive Season in South Africa
- Talk to your kids before a family outing. Make a rule that you must always be able to see them and they must always be able to see you.. It may sound simple, but keep reminding them periodically, especially if you think they’re getting restless.
- Use the “two giant steps” rule – your kids can never be more than two giant steps away from you. It’s a fun and easy way for young children to remember not to wander away.
- Teach your kids that if they ever become separated from you, they should look for a “safe stranger” for help. Some examples include a mom with kids or a cash register person. With older children, agree on a “meeting place” ahead of time, in case you become separated.
- Tell your child never to leave the mall or store to go looking for you, no matter what anyone tells them. Remind your child that you would never leave until you are reunited.
- Dress your child in brightly coloured clothes to make him easy to spot.. Be sure to remember what they are wearing.
- In busy places like airports or shopping malls, consider using a cute harness for toddlers who are prone to running off. There are lots of fun ones out there that look like a lion’s tail or an elephant’s trunk. Your child’s safety is most important, so don’t worry about what others think.
- Establish the “check first” rule with older children. They must always check first with you before going anywhere in a public place, including another store, play area, or even the restroom.
- Don’t treat public facilities as a “convenient babysitter.” Do not leave your children alone at video arcades, movie theaters, play areas, or other public places. Predators are known to look for unsupervised kids.
- Always bring young children into the restroom with you. Look for well-lit restrooms in high traffic areas, whenever possible.
- Discuss age-appropriate safety issues with your child in a calm, non-fearful manner. Replace the word “strangers” with “tricky people.” Let your child know that it isn’t what people look like that makes them unsafe; it’s what they ask a child to do that makes someone “thumbs down.” Kids have been known to leave with a stranger because “he seemed nice” or “she didn’t look like a stranger.”
- Make sure that your child knows your cell phone number.
WATCH Child Kidnappings Investigation on Carte Blanche