South Africa suffers many incidents of missing kids. Recently, updates about Madeleine McCann who disappeared from an apartment 17 years ago, appeared in the media. Actually, it brings to mind the thousands of children in South Africa who simply disappeared. The BBC reported that there may be more information on a possible perpetrator in the Madeleine McCann case. Unfortunately, the incident came when the family holidayed in Portugal. Understandably, her parents remain hopeful of eventual closure.
South Africa’s missing children
Without drawing attention away from Madeline and her family, one cannot help but wonder about the missing children in South Africa. What happens with them? Not enough, according to research published by Monique Emser and Marcel Van der Watt.
One of Nelson Mandela’s main concerns involved the welfare of South Africa’s children. And, the legislation written around child protection, seems extensive enough for their safety. Yet, the statistics say otherwise. Indeed, the total number of missing South African children reported in the last 18 years (2001-2019) exceeds 16 000. Sadly, of that number 25% remain missing. These figures relate to cases reported. Possibly, others remain off the legal radar.
Changed attitudes to rebellious children in South Africa
Attitudes changed toward missing children. Many of them on longer get written off as “rebellious” or simply runaways. Nevertheless, too many of our children seem vulnerable and exposed to danger through their living circumstances. Vulnerable children live without parents, live with poverty and live in homes exposed to violence, crime, and physical abuse.
Sadly, in South Africa, the legacy of Apartheid saw an era when children witnessed violence regularly. Often, this came from the authorities of the day. Coupled with subsequent corruption and looting of the democratic state means little changed for our vulnerable kids. In their article on missing children, Emser and Van der Watt highlight that children of illegal immigrants in South Africa seem more vulnerable than most. In fact, their parents fear reporting crimes in case they end up deported.
Madeleine, her family and the agonising heartbreak they suffered reverberates worldwide at every report of hope or loss. But, spare a thought though for our own children here in SA. According to the NGO Missing Children South Africa, a South African child goes missing every five hours. Their figures related to information from the police in 2013. While accused of using old figures, by Allafrica.com in 2016, the fact remains that about 25% of children never find their way home.
Crime in South Africa includes human trafficking and many cases remain open. Each missing child surely brings ongoing, daily agony for their families, just like Madeleine’s.
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