As a parent, merely the thought of my children going missing grieves me and my heart deeply goes out to any parent who faces this nightmare. I fully believe that parents who go through this should be supported in as much as possible, not only in their immediate communities- but their extended ones too. I also believe that the state, particularly at local government level should do as much as possible to support the search for missing children. This could include assisting with the equipment needed to conduct a search; coordinating searches and such efforts. This is particularly important because the longer a child is missing, the smaller the chance of finding the child unharmed.
According to a summary of cases reported to Missing Children SA, for the term 1 May 2011 to 30 April 2012, the provincial break-down of missing children was as follows:
- Gauteng 251
- Western Cape 172
- Kwazulu Natal 57
- Eastern Cape 19
- Mpumalanga 17
- North West 8
- Free State 8
- Limpopo 5
- Northern Cape 3
It is important to note that these statistics do not reflect the number missing children cases reported directly to the South African Police Service (SAPS), which is estimated to be as many as 1460 cases per year.
The Executive Mayor of the City of Cape Town, Patricia de Lille, recently offered a R50 000 reward for “information leading to the arrest of the suspect identified in the case of the missing 4 year old Shaskia Michaels, who disappeared on Thursday, or for information in the case of Kauthar Bobbs, who disappeared last October”. This was reportedly done as the area, Michelle’s Plain, has a high incident rate of missing children.
Although the Mayor’s commitment to finding missing children is commendable, the reward offer raises many questions, including:
- Why these two children when so many others have gone missing?
- Where will the money for the reward come from, is it from the City’s coffers?
- How will the City of Cape Town respond to other parents of missing children who may demand that rewards are offered?
- How does this offer affect attempts to deter such incidents from occurring?
And although I do not question the motives for the offer of the reward, it would make me feel much more comfortable knowing that the City of Cape Town is improving its response to missing children for all- rather than offering a reward for two when there are other families also experiencing the very same heartbreak.