Scars save 4 teens

2017-02-23 10:52
Four Edendale teenager girls were lure and locked in a room for the entire weekend.

Four Edendale teenager girls were lure and locked in a room for the entire weekend. (File)

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An 18-year-old Pietermaritzburg teen has spoken out about how she and her three friends survived a “horror” weekend after being lured to a non-existent camp.

While walking on a road in the Edendale area recently, the teenager and her friends were approached by an imposter who handed them leaflets advertising a “Wizzkids (sic) Youth Camp”.

This was the start of a seemingly hopeless ordeal in which they were locked in a room in Amanzimtoti without food or water for an entire weekend. The teenager told The Witness she was grateful to have survived what she believed was an attempt at human trafficking.

“It was nerve-wracking to endure. My phone battery died so I could not call home for help. A lot of things went through my mind as I was not sure if we were going to make it out alive,” she said.

The teens, who are between the ages of 14 and 18, left their homes on February 3 with the false promise of an educational weekend. They only returned home on February 6.

The Witness is in possession of the leaflet given to the young women explaining what the trip was supposed to be about.

The letter, written in Zulu, said they would be “taught about self discipline and how a young woman should conduct herself”, but this was just a ruse.

The terrified teens were released on Monday after simply being told they did not “meet the requirements” because of scars on their bodies. “If it wasn’t for my tribal scars and one of my friend’s scar on her thigh, things would have turned out even worse,” the teenager said.

WhizzKids United in Edendale has since issued a warning to parents and members of the public as the imposter used their name, incorrectly spelled, to lure the teens.

According to the centre, the woman who approached the teens is believed to live around Edendale.

“The letters were for parents to sign for consent as the ‘camp’ was going to be at Midmar for three days,” said the centre’s Sanele Shelembe. As the teens were leaving to go to Midmar they received a call saying the venue was changed to Durban. Their parents had not been informed of this. They caught a taxi to Durban and called the woman’s phone when they arrived, but it was on voicemail.

“The teens were stranded until another woman came and offered to help,” said Shelembe.

This woman, who is understood to be part of the well-orchestrated plan, approached them and said she had noticed they were looking worried. She asked what was wrong and then told the panicking girls “not to worry as she was also aware of the camp and would transport them” there, said Shelembe. The woman took them to Amanzimtoti and they were locked in a room there.

The frightened teens spent two nights fearing the worst.

After the woman told them they could leave, they were given taxi fare so they could all go home. They had only had enough money for two of them to return home.

The traumatised teen urged others to be careful and avoid signing these forms. “Our main concern is that the letters might still be circulating somewhere luring more girls. We have distributed copies of the false letters to schools across Edendale to warn pupils. Female pupils should be aware of the scam and not fall for it,” said Shelembe.

Pietermaritzburg South cluster police spokesperson Mthokozisi Ngobese said it would be difficult for WhizzKids to open a case.

“It would be better if they take one of the victims to a police station to open a case. The victim would then explain the events and describe the person in question,” he said.

Shelembe said they advised parents to open a case as “the matter had human trafficking written all over it”. The mother of the teen said because the children came back unharmed they decided not to open a case.

If anyone sees someone distributing such letters, they should immediately contact the WhizzKids Centre on 033 395 4683.

Whizzkids is an innovative educational programme that uses soccer to teach youngsters about life skills, gender equality and sexual health in and around Edendale. The centre also assists with counselling, HIV, and sexually transmitted diseases testing and tuberculosis screening, among others. The centre is located at Edendale Hospital and assists over 1 000 boys and girls.

Read more on:    pietermaritzburg  |  human trafficking

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