A young mother has warned parents not to ignore social media warnings about a child kidnapping syndicate, after her daughter was nearly snatched outside school last week.
Police and the principal of Rusthof Primary School in Strand have confirmed the incident in which a white woman with long blonde hair allegedly tried to force a girl into a “blue car”.
The child managed to break free and run into the school yard to safety.
Meanwhile in Franschhoek, the Western Cape Education Department (WCED) confirmed the male driver of a white taxi linked to the syndicate was confronted at a school, but drove away.
Mom Marotena Thomas, 33, of Strand says at first, she too didn’t take note of the warning that had been distributed on WhatsApp.
“I first thought it was just one of those messages people always send, but after I received the second one, I had a talk with my kids to warn them about the dangers,” says Marotena.
Last week, the Daily Voice reported on the messages, which warned of a woman with blonde hair, sometimes working with two black men, who go around to schools in a blue or green Nissan Micra, taking photos of children outside school and attempting to snatch them.
In other warnings, a white Quantum van was spotted parked outside schools.
Marotena says she got the shock of her life last week when her 10-year-old daughter Nadine escaped from the clutches of a blonde woman.
According to the Grade five meisie, on Wednesday shortly after 7am, she was walking from a spaza shop opposite her school when the woman approached her.
“She had long blonde hair and she was dressed in black. She was also wearing sunglasses and black gloves,” says Nadine.
The traumatised girl says the woman tried to force her into a blue car; a black man was seated in the back.
“I broke free and ran into the school yard. A short while later they also took photos of another girl in my class,” she adds.
Deputy school principal Ikraam Wentzel says they immediately reported it to authorities and stepped up security measures at school.
“The police patrol the area before school and when school ends for the day,” he adds.
Police spokesperson Constable Noloyiso Rwexana confirms that the police are investigating a case of attempted kidnapping.
“No one has been arrested as yet,” says Rwexana.
WCED spokesperson Millicent Merton confirms the case and adds that another incident was reported at a school in Franschhoek.
“A teacher at a school in Franschhoek also reported a suspicious looking van outside the school on Thursday morning. Someone from the school went to confront the driver and he drove off,” says Merton.
She adds that Safe School coordinators, as well as social workers and school psychologists are working with schools to address these kinds of incidents.
Rumours of laaities being targeted at schools in Franschhoek, Strand, Somerset and Paarl started making the rounds a few months ago on WhatsApp and Facebook.
The official SAPS Facebook page last week posted a message dismissing the warnings as a hoax.
A message posted on Crime Watch Strand Facebook page had warned people that kids were being targeted by people who sell their organs to hospitals, and that drug addicts were being paid thousands of rands.
It also states that children were nearly snatched at Wemmershoek Primary in Franschhoek and at Paarl Gymnasium, but both schools have denied this to the Daily Voice.
Hein Swart, principal at Danie Ackerman Primary School in Somerset West, says he too had to deal with parents streaming to pick up their kids after a Facebook post that two kids had been snatched at school.
“A girl also reported that a taxi tried to pick her up. We informed the police, stepped up security measures and managed to calm down the parents,” says Swart.
Ewald Botha, spokesperson for Community Safety MEC Dan Plato, says they are aware of the rumours on social media.
“We will be raising the matter with both our education counterparts as well as SAPS management to determine the validity of the rumours and if true, what the appropriate course of action would be,” says Botha.
SAPS has warned laaities to be wary strangers.
“We warn children not to go to vehicles with strangers,” urges Rwexana.
Anyone with information may contact Crime Stop on 08600 10111.