Children are kidnapped for ransom
Missing Children SA (MCSA) has revived dozens of cold cases from the past 17 years to highlight the issue of missing and kidnapped children.
National co-ordinator Bianca van Aswegen said the group was dealing with more than 500 unsolved missing-child cases, some dating to 2001.
The StillNotFound campaign hopes to bring closure for the families.
She said the youngest abduction victims in the organisation's files were Koketso Sithole, who was snatched from a Pretoria clinic in June 2011 at eight days old; Phenelopy Shabagu, taken from a Johannesburg shelter the same month at the age of one month; and two-month-old Wilson Magude, snatched at the Pan Africa shopping mall in Johannesburg in November 2013. None of them have been found.
"Many of the missing cases we are dealing with relate to kidnappings, which has become a norm in South Africa," Van Aswegen said.
"We have noticed an increase... especially kidnappings for ransom and human trafficking."
She said the group was recently involved in the cases of 13-month-old Eden Laird of Alberton, whose kidnappers demanded R6m, and 13-year-old Katlego Marite of eMalahleni, whose kidnappers wanted R1.5m in bitcoin. Both children were rescued by police. Four Zimbabweans and a South African have been arrested for Eden's kidnapping.
"The motives range from human trafficking to ransom and muti," Van Aswegen said. "So far this year we have dealt with three cases of children kidnapped for muti, which is up from last year." Two of the victims were living with albinism.
MCSA's latest report, which contains statistics for the year ended April, shows its caseload is rising while its success rate at finding missing children is dropping.
During this period, MCSA received reports of 124 missing children, 94 of whom had run away from home.
The Pink Ladies group, which deals with missing children and adults, said its caseload was also increasing.