CRIMES AGAINST CHILDREN
Eastern Cape community secures arrest of man after his son (8) escapes from being chained up in dark shack
A 53-year-old man was due to appear in the Peddie Magistrates’ Court on Tuesday after a child, who was subjected to ‘exceptional cruelty’, managed to escape from a shack in his rural village, dragging behind him the chains used to keep him locked up.
The community of Peddie knew the boy (8) as the one who would always stay out late.
Until they didn’t see him any more.
“Now we know why he never wanted to go home,” child activist Petrus Majola said. “Now we know why he wanted to stay with his friends. What happened to him was barbaric and extremely cruel.”
On 31 May, on the third day of Child Protection Week, the child, a Grade 2 learner, managed to escape from the dark shack where his father kept him chained up.
Wearing a pair of camouflage pants, his feet dirty from the mud, he dragged his chains behind him until he got to his neighbour’s house. It was dark already as it was around 6pm.
The neighbours knew his father and were scared of him. But they took the boy, still in cuffs and chains, to a nearby house where there was a funeral and as Majola put it, “strength in numbers”.
Majola said they fed the child and gave him something to drink while there was a search for a bolt cutter to cut the chains off his legs. Community members went to the police and reported the plight of the boy.
“This community did everything right. They listened to the child. They believed the child. They acted. The police also did everything right. They came and they investigated,” Majola said, “and they tracked down the father and arrested him.”
The boy reported to investigators that he had been raped. Majola said the police were waiting for the medical report.
“On that night when his dad left him alone in the dark shack, the boy knew that he could manage to get away as on that night the chain was not fastened to something else. He was dragging the chains with him.
“He is just a child but has been subjected to terrible violence and abuse,” Majola said. “That night was not the first night that he was beaten and assaulted. We think his makhulu [grandmother] was also maybe assaulted by his father because she too is very afraid. She wouldn’t tell us where this man was.”
Majola described the scene where the boy was held. “When you enter the premises there is a house by the gate. Here the makhulu lived by herself. Behind the house, there is a shack where the boy lived with his father. I just keep asking myself, why not let the boy live in the brick house?”
Praise for community and police
He said the community from the boy’s village deserved praise as did the police, who immediately responded to the community’s call for help.
“If we can keep this going we can eliminate a lot of crime,” he said. “Our communities and the police must be this proactive.”
He said the police quickly arrested the boy’s father and the community expected the prosecutor to oppose bail.
Police spokesperson Colonel Priscilla Naidu said that after community members reported the abuse of the child to the police, he was immediately taken to a hospital for medical treatment. He is now in a place of safety.
She confirmed that the boy’s father (53) was arrested in Motherwell, Gqeberha, about 190km away from his home, on Sunday, 4 June. He will appear in the Peddie Magistrates’ Court on Tuesday, 6 June.
“He was arrested and is detained on charges of rape and child neglect.”
“We will be there tomorrow [Tuesday] and we will picket and protest,” said Majola. “They will know what we think. We are going to try our best for the boy.
“We are all scared that the boy will be killed if the father is released. If the boy dies, there will be no case against him.”
Provincial Commissioner Lieutenant-General Nomthetheleli Mene commended the swift investigation by the Family Violence, Child Protection and Sexual Offences Unit in Peddie that led to the arrest of the man.
Mene said, “It is our responsibility as parents and/or caretakers to take control and protect our children, yet it is very sad when these very people become perpetrators instead of protectors. As we marked Child Protection Week, we need to strive for zero tolerance on crimes against children.
“We appreciate the efforts of the communities for looking out for our children and for reporting the maltreatment of children who do not have a voice. Let us be the voice for those who can’t, and stop the scourge of violence against the vulnerable.”
Turning the tide of violent crime
The Democratic Alliance’s Bobby Stevenson said the police should be commended for their fast action that led to the arrest of the boy’s father.
“The community responded to the child’s call for help and the police responded to the community’s call for assistance. What happened here is how it should be.”
He said they welcomed the minister of police, Bheki Cele’s announcement that R6.5-million would be used to strengthen community policing forums across the province.
“Only by working together will we be able to turn the tide of violent crime that is unabatedly sweeping across the Eastern Cape,” Stevenson added.
Last week, the South African chapter of the United Nations Children’s Fund (Unicef) said in a statement that the country’s latest crime statistics (January to March 2023) show that while child murders had come down in the first three months of the year there was a 29% increase in the attempted murders of children.
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“The violent deaths of 245 children and the physical and emotional impact of violence on a further 2,291 children are tragic reminders of the scale of the issue. Twenty-eight children are violently attacked every day, and three of them don’t survive,” the statement continues.
“The level of violence against children continues to shock and outrage us,” said Muriel Mafico, Unicef’s South Africa deputy representative. “There can be no excuse for violence against children.
“The human toll of this violence is far-reaching and not only has a devastating physical impact but also affects the emotional and social development of children, families and society at large.
“Every act of violence against a child is a tragedy. Ending violence removes a critical barrier for children to achieve their full developmental potential and at the same time can save costs to society.
“At a time of increased household and national economic strain, investing in the safety and wellbeing of children is an urgent necessity.” DM