Claims of an attempted kidnapping close to a Bothasig school sparked panic on social media last week.
On Wednesday August 29, messages did the rounds about an attempted kidnapping of a two-year-old child, close to Wolraad Woltemade Primary School in Meerhof Street.
According to various WhatsApp posts, the school was on “lock- down” after a sibling of a pupil at the school was forced into a car by two men.
The following day a statement signed by school principal Elaine Kesten was released on the school’s Facebook page, saying the incident had been reported by a parent.
“He informed me that the little boy and his nanny, who he brought with him to the office, were en route to the school to collect his sister, who is a pupil at our school.
“Apparently, on their way to school, a white Opal Corsa (sic) stopped next to them with two black males in the car. They grabbed the child from the nanny and tried to force him into the vehicle,” the statement said.
“I immediately requested all available staff members to assist me to gather all children outside of the school premises, back onto the school grounds to wait for their parents and /or transport. The teachers escorted the pupils to the entrance of the foyer to ensure their safety and where we have cameras installed to monitor them too.”
The statement went on to say that, from now on, parents should collect their children from inside the school grounds and that the school had reported the incident to Bothasig police station.
However, Warrant Officer Jacques Mostert, of Bothasig police, said people should “not listen to the grapevine on social media”.
He said Ms Kesner had not said at any time that the school was “on lockdown”.
“It could not happen, as there were rugby games played on the fields against visiting schools,” said Warrant Officer Mostert.
“Social media exploded with messages regarding the school being on lockdown, the child that had to be drawn out of the vehicle by passers by and everyone adding to the story,” he said.
He claimed that it had emerged after officers interviewed the nanny that there had been no attempted abduction.
The police, he said, had tried to counter the incorrect information doing the rounds on WhatsApp but some members of the public had accused them of a cover-up.
“For what reason would we do that? As parents, the safety of our, and the community’s children are of paramount importance,” he said.
He said the woman and the child had been walking from the school when a white Toyota Tazz had stopped close by and a man had climbed out while two other men had remained in the car.
“The male approached the female and made a comment regarding the child and enquired where they live and offered them a lift,” said Warrant Officer Mostert.
“She refused and continued walking with the male following her. She crossed the road with the male still following her, and close to the residence where she works, a neighbour came out, spoke to her, and when she informed him what was happening, he assisted her.
“The male following her got back into the car which sped off. At the time, she was wearing nice jewellery as well, therefore it is suspected that she might have been targeted for a possible robbery.”
He said no charges had been laid as no crime had been committed.
He urged the public to call the police to verify information instead of listening to social media, which was “misinformed most of the time”.
“Luckily nothing happened, but imagine if the child was actually taken and the police had to respond and work with the barrage of information emanating from social media which was wrong. Precious time could have been lost, which could have made it more difficult to locate the missing person or child,” he said.
Meanwhile, Ward 5 councillor Helen Carstens is launching a walking bus project tomorrow, Thursday September 6, to keep pupils safe on their way to and from school.
In recent weeks there has been a spate of child abductions and attempted child abductions across Cape Town.
In Kensington, a primary school child was allegedly almost abducted. Two weeks ago, there were reports of pupils being abducted in the Zonnebloem area and over the weekend, an eight-year-old girl was abducted in Goodwood but later returned to her family. Last week, a Grade 9 pupil on her way to school in the Steenberg area was abducted and sexually assaulted.
Spokesperson for the Western Cape Education Department Jessica Shelver said none of the alleged incidents had happened on school premises and the department had no control over what happened outside the school grounds.
Parents should educate their children about how to stay safe on the way to and from school, she said.
“Schools will also be engaging with pupils around safety while travelling to and from school.
“No advocacy or awareness programmes will, however, stop these incidents. The police need to increase their visibility around our schools and investigate these cases as a priority.
“This is difficult to do when the Western Cape is the most chronically under-resourced in terms of police to population ratio,” said Ms Shelver.