Home South African Relative ‘sold’ 14-year-old girl to man for R5,000

Relative ‘sold’ 14-year-old girl to man for R5,000

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The relative of a 14-year-old girl has been arrested after he allegedly “sold” the girl for R5,000 to his 23-year-old co-worker – who claimed to be “in love” with her.

File picture: Reuters

DURBAN – The relative of a 14-year-old girl has been arrested after he allegedly “sold” the girl for R5,000 to his 23-year-old co-worker – who claimed to be “in love” with her.

The truck driver, 43, from the north coast, appeared in the KwaDukuza Magistrate’s Court on Wednesday on charges of human trafficking, defeating the administration of justice, perjury and charges under the finance act for the wasteful usage of state resources.

The 23-year-old Malawian national has also been arrested and charged with statutory rape and being in the country illegally. Both suspects worked for a local logistics company.

Both men were remanded into police custody until their formal bail applications.

The drama unfolded on February 5, when a teenager was reported missing to Reaction Unit South Africa (Rusa).

At the time, the relative told reaction officers that school children had seen the girl being dragged into the sugar cane field in Isnembe by a foreign national.

An alert was subsequently circulated on social media, appealing for people to help find the missing girl.

Umhlali SAPS and Rusa led the search for her.

Five days later, on February 10, the police received a tip-off that the girl had been spotted in an an informal settlement in Redcliffe, Verulam, called Sandpit. On Saturday night, police swooped on the area and found the teenager with the undocumented foreign national.

He was arrested and she was taken to hospital.

On Monday morning, things came to a head when the Umhlali Family Violence, Child Protection and Sexual Offences unit arrested the relative.

They had uncovered that he had opened a false missing person’s case.

He knew of the teenager’s whereabouts and that she had left with the suspect voluntarily, a police source said.

The source claimed the teenager had also disappeared in December 2023 with the same man.

The police source alleged the Malawian national had lived with the relative and his family for a period of time. It was then that he “befriended” the teenager.

“The man and the teenager began talking and spending time together. At some point, it is believed they fell in love. When the relative found out, he told the man he needed to start paying for the accommodation and food. When he did not pay, the relative chased him out of the house,” said the source.

That was in December last year, when the teenager disappeared for the first time.

“She was found a few days later in a local compound with the man. She was returned to her family,” the source claimed.

“It is alleged that when she returned home, the relative then met with the man. He said since the man was in love with the teenager, he needed to pay him R5,000. The relative basically sold the underage girl to this man,” the source added.

The Malawian national allegedly told the police that he paid the R5,000 to be with the teenager.

“This alleged payment of R5,000 is linked to the human trafficking charge as the man is believed to be under the impression that he had paid for the teenager,” said the source.

The source said they were also trying to establish if the teenager was “sold” for sex to other men.

“The relative became a prime suspect because he had conflicting stories. First he told police that schoolchildren had seen her being dragged into a sugar cane field by a man and then he told police that he saw her being taken away. He said he tried to follow them with his car but the sugar cane was too high.”

The family of the relative said he was innocent.

“There is no proof of money being exchanged. We need to see an agreement in writing. It cannot be verbal. If we do not see the proof, we will charge the authorities with defamation. As a family, we have not seen or heard anything about money being exchanged. It’s total nonsense,” said the relative’s sister.

Community leaders and farmers in the area were shocked when they heard news of the girl’s kidnapping and also searched for her. But, when they heard it might be the case of a runaway, they backed off.

One community leader, who did not want to be named, said this was the first time something so horrific had happened in the community.

“We are a close-knit, well-informed community. Incidents of this nature are unseen and unheard of in this area. We were fearful and troubled when we heard news of the girl’s disappearance and many of the farmers here, who are also fathers to young girl’s, were concerned. To learn that it was not a case of kidnapping made us very angry,” he said.

Prem Balram, spokesperson for Rusa, said they had invested over R120,000 in resources to search for the teenager when the relative notified them that she had been “kidnapped”.

“It was only when the relative asked us not to report the incident to police that we became suspicious. He also gave us various different versions of how the ‘kidnapping’ unfolded.

“He said he only wanted Rusa officers to be involved in the search and told us that when we found the man, we must bring him to him (the relative) and not take him to the police station.

“We explained to him that even though he may not have faith in the police, a kidnapping is a major crime and we needed to call the police,” Balram added.

“We had concerns when information was not forthcoming and his unnecessary requests made us suspicious. He also asked us not to circulate information about the missing girl. We immediately informed the police, however, thousands of rand in resources were already utilised by that time.

“It costs R120,000 a day to do a search with the helicopter, 15 vehicles, bikes and manpower. If you add this amount for every missing person we are asked to look for, it is exorbitant. The costs increase depending on how long the person is missing for and how long the helicopter is in the air.

“We do not charge the public a fee for searching for missing people as we have a duty to the community we serve. Depending on the court’s findings, Rusa will charge the relative for the wastage of resources. We will consult our legal team and lodge a claim against him if he is found guilty,” Balram added.

Police spokesperson Colonel Robert Netshiunda confirmed the arrests and the charges.

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