As South Africa continues reeling after the blatant, daylight rape of a six-year old victim in a Dros bathroom, the question arises; are instances of child trafficking, rape and murder on the rise across the country? While much focus has been placed on suspected human and child trafficking carrying people across the border, experts believe murder and crimes of a sexual nature pose a far more imminent threat.

From kidnapping to inculcation into the sex trade, crimes against children are particularly heinous. “In our experience, child trafficking in South Africa is largely due to the demand for body parts and organs for the muti trade, used by certain traditional healers,” says Kyle Condon, Managing Director of D&K Management Consultants. “We have also seen a massive surge of kidnapping for ransom.”

Condon confirms his belief that, per capita, the country faces the highest rate of rapists, murderers and psychopaths across the world. Sadly, many of the cases we see relate to children who are being raised in informal settlements or very poor areas. These children are often seen as a soft target, with perpetrators knowing that there will be little to no media coverage. These cases are often (grossly) seen as a ‘squatter camp problem’. This is a mindset that must change if any progress is to be made in combatting these types of crimes.

Parents are hard-pressed to raise their children with confidence and strength, while also attempting to keep them safe from the many risks that abound in Africa. The key is to maintain accurate information about where children are, who they’re with and the level of security at their schools or daycare centers. Children raised in informal settlements are often sent on errands for their parents or caregivers, and this lack of supervision provides the perfect opportunity for criminals to strike.

Maintaining your child’s safety involves total vigilance and embracing the spirit of Ubuntu. Use technology to your benefit, using cellphone tracking apps or GPS watches, although admittedly this only benefits those who can afford it. Remaining aware of your children’s whereabouts is an absolute  requirement. From a community perspective, we must band together. The old adage if you see something, say something’ cannot be more appropriate. It used to take a village to raise a child, now the village needs to work together to keep its children safe.

Condon stresses the importance of taking a common sense approach to safety and security. If it smells fishy, it probably is. Avoid situations and people that make you feel uncomfortable – you may be wrong, but if you’re right and you ignore your suspicions, the results could be devastating.

Adults must also be aware of their surroundings, online communications and face-to-face interactions to avoid placing themselves in a dangerous situation. A case in point is the recent spike in suspicious activity surrounding fictitious job interviews, designed to draw unsuspecting women to remote locations, for nefarious purposes. Here candidates must reverse the principles of background screening, ensuring they do their homework about the prospective employer before going to the interview.

The undeniably terrifying truth is that it simply isn’t possible to hold your child’s hand every minute of every day. Although, as parents, we wish this were possible, it doesn’t lead to much of a life for ever more independent children.

The best way to maintain their safety is to: teach them to be savvy and street-wise; prepare them for how to respond in a threatening situation; and avoid unnecessary risks. At the very least, don’t trust Uber as a transport service for children on their own, vet the security measures present at your child’s school, ensure you know your children’s friend’s parents before allowing unsupervised playdates or sleepovers, and don’t send them on solo errands without adult supervision.

Kyle Condon is a consultant at D&K Management Consultants an investigations and risk consultancy provider in Africa and abroad. 

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