Task team probes schoolgirl abductions
Durban - A police task team has been set up in KwaZulu-Natal to investigate the abduction of young women to be wedded to older men in Bergville, a practice known as ukuthwala.
“A task team was set up by the provincial commissioner after a school principal from Bergville complained about children being scared to go to school because of abductions,” Lieutenant Colonel Vincent Mdunge said on Thursday.
The principal laid a complaint with police and said in some case the parents of the children taken were allegedly part of the process, or wanted to negotiate the matter themselves, without involving the police.
Ukuthwala involves a man and his peers setting out to compel a girl or young woman's family to endorse marriage negotiations. The tradition is practised mainly by Xhosa-speakers in the Eastern Cape and in parts of KwaZulu-Natal.
Mdunge said he could not name the school to protect the victims.
“The school principal reported [the matter to us] in January. He was particularly concerned that one girl in his school had been abducted twice and her parents had not acted on this. The principal believed the child needed to be assisted.”
The task team was set up last week after provincial commissioner Mamunye Ngobeni received a report on the crimes.
“At the moment the children are being interviewed and sworn statements taken. Once all dockets are completed arrests will be made and the matter will be taken to court.”
He said a number abduction cases were opened last year.
“Parents choose to negotiate outside court. The provincial commissioner has said this matter has to be handled within the law.”
The focus was currently on Bergville, but authorities would look at other affected areas.
Police would ensure abductions did not happen in the area, Mdunge said.
Mdunge could not say how many girls had been affected and how many were currently being interviewed.
“It is unclear how many girls have been interviewed, but police are dealing with girls from the school.”