UPDATE: Gauteng education department warns against false claims of kidnappings at schools

2019-09-04 18:35
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Parents in Gauteng are being urged not to panic as false alerts about pupils being abducted around Ekurhuleni schools are doing the rounds.

The Gauteng Department of Education said no such incidents took place at any schools during the sporadic unrest that had hit the province.

The department's statement comes on the back of the kidnapping of six-year-old Amy Leigh de Jager outside her school on Monday.

Reports that were also circulating on social media that Lungisani Primary School in Katlehong was torched on Wednesday morning were untrue, Education MEC Panyaza Lesufi said in a statement. 

He maintained schools were safe and back to normal as usual. 

"We would like to appeal to parents to remain calm and urge the community to refrain from disrupting teaching and learning. We believe that with the ongoing criminal activities, our schools are a safer and conducive environment for learners than roaming the streets," Lesufi said. 

Among those who had shared information on alleged kidnappings at schools has been senior African Transformation Movement member and former GCIS CEO Mzwanele Manyi. 

Manyi took to his Twitter page, @MzwaneleManyi, saying: "Just got a frantic call from my relatives in Soweto that Pakistanis are abducting children at school. My blood is boiling."

He has since been criticised for and accused of fuelling xenophobia by saying Pakistan nationals were behind the alleged abductions.  

 

Speaking to News24 on Wednesday afternoon, Manyi said he had acted on information he received from an unemployed relative of his, based in Soweto. He added the relative had called him in a panic, seeking transport money so that they could fetch their child. 

"The transport that the fetches the children was not allowed [to pick them up] because the school principal were seeing these... I don't know how they got to know it was Pakistanis, in terms of abducting kids.

"This school became vigilant and closed the gates, phoning parents at random to say they were not allowing bakkies transporting kids, each and every parent must come and pick up their kids."  

Manyi said this was when he decided to spread the word. When News24 asked why he used "Pakistani" in his statement, he said: "I was repeating what I was told."

He added his relative had since gone to the school to pick up their kids. 

While some people have called for him to take down the tweet because it fuelled violence against foreign nationals, Manyi said he would not be deleting it. 

He added his relative had no reason to randomly call him and accuse Pakistanis of abducting children. 

"I will not be taking it down because I am not fuelling anything. I am just talking what is true. South Africa must learn to deal with the truth and stop trying to do PR even when it is not necessary." 

Manyi said because of the violence and activities that have been reported over the past few days, he had no regret about alarming people on Twitter about news he had received. 

"I am very active on Twitter and there is no day that passes by without a report that some girl has been abducted, this is just too common. Society must not be numb; everybody must be on their toes."

The police said disseminating news that children from Lungisani Primary School have been abducted, and other activities, were untrue and sought to instill fear and spark further violence.

"Social media users are urged to utilise the SAPS' social media platforms like Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and YouTube as well as the website to get factual updates or to even verify certain information," Gauteng police spokesperson Brigadier Mathapelo Peters said.

Peters said additional police officers have been dispatched to various areas of the province until stability was restored.

Meanwhile in Tshwane, the police said despite claims made on various Twitter accounts that five women were kidnapped in the Hatfield area in Pretoria on Tuesday, no cases have been opened.

Various tweets reporting the kidnappings have since gained traction, but the police were adamant this was misinformation and have cautioned people against spreading unverified information on social media.

According to one of the tweets on Tuesday, four girls were kidnapped in Hatfield. Another tweet by a different user stated on Wednesday that it was five girls.

A video of one of the alleged kidnappings was also posted to Twitter.

tweet, kidnappings, Hatfield

Brooklyn police spokesperson Captain Colette Weilbach said no cases of kidnapping have been reported at Brooklyn or Sunnyside police stations and there have been no reports of missing persons either.

"Posts like these are regarded as very irresponsible and it causes panic and alarm among the public," Weilbach said in a statement.

"The Brooklyn police station received numerous calls from concerned parents and residents who wanted to verify the information. Police resources are used to check on the validity of such claims and this puts unnecessary strain on the police.

tweet, kidnappings, hatfield

"Social media users are encouraged to use media platforms responsibly and sensibly when posting. Do not spread information that is false."

Had the allegations of the kidnappings been true, the police would have issued a formal media statement warning the public, Weilbach added. 

"Victims and/or witnesses of crime are urged not to report crimes on social media platforms alone. It is important to report crime to the SAPS. The SAPS can only investigate cases like these and execute arrests when a case docket is opened for investigation."

Read more on:    pretoria  |  social media  |  fake news
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