Every year, hundreds of children go missing across South Africa. While the majority of these children are found and returned safely to their families, the whereabouts of the rest remains a mystery, or are unfortunately found deceased.
However, it is non-profit organisations like the Western Cape Missing Persons Unit (WCMPU) that are taking from their time to assist the police in returning missing children to their families. The WCMPU is one of many groups, along with the Pink Ladies Organisation, in Cape Town, who are going out into communities in search of missing people.
These volunteers who do not get paid a cent for what they do, are mostly unemployed and single mothers, who go out in the early hours of the morning and late at night in search of the missing, explains Shareefa Job, project manager for the WCMPU.
The WCMPU was founded by Candice van Rheede in 2007 and officially registered as a non-profit organisation in 2017 after receiving hundreds of calls, (after assisting on the Courtney Pieters case). Three-year-old Pieters went missing in May 2017. Her tiny body was discovered after a nine-day search, wrapped in a plastic bag and dumped next to a factory in Epping. Her death was one of many that occurred in Cape Town that year.
(Picture: Shareefa Job from WCMPU/ Deen Times)
“We have received over 800 cases to date. About 90% of our cases have been successful and are safe returns. We have over 100 volunteers who are trained by the police and are located in several communities across the Cape Flats.
“However, many of these volunteers are unemployed and are SASSA beneficiaries. This brings me to my next point that stresses the importance of assistance from the public.
“We are dependant on donations from the public in order to continue community projects. We can not operate without the use of proper equipment, and in most cases struggle to go out when duty calls.
“In order for us to be successful in what we do, we need donations for a much-needed vehicle. We also need cellphones with data and airtime, laptops and many more. When we go out to look for missing children we travel by train and taxi, because we do not have access to our own vehicles. Sometimes the police assist us with transport.
“It is very difficult to operate like this, especially when many of the volunteers are unemployed. They sometimes use their last money to go out with the group in search of missing people,” she explained.
Job said that she has tried to get sponsorship from various businesses but it was all unsuccessful.
“To add, our organisation also host ‘play-time’ programmes on the Cape Flats every Saturday to keep children off the streets. This is also mainly to keep the children busy with beneficial activities in poor areas like Mitchells Plain, Manenberg, and Grassy Park among other areas.
“With these programmes, we bring along play toys or sports equipment and give these children a meal or two, thereafter. We have a few businesses who are giving towards the play-time programme, but not always.
“Our big project for the year will be our Christmas Party where we will bus in hundreds of children from poor communities for a morning of fun and thereafter feed them. Funds are needed for this project too. We have a lot on our agenda and are calling on the public to assist us in any way possible. Without the public’s assistant, we cannot operate properly.”
The next play-time programme will take place behind Grace Court in Heideveld Road, Heideveld on Saturday 13 April from 13h30 sharp. Job urged local businesses to support the WCMPU in order to operate efficiently. For more information call Shareefa Job on 0834433546 or visit the Western Cape Missing Persons Unit on Facebook. Aishah Cassiem (Deen Times)