Boy Threatened with Death after Investigation into Circumcision Camps

SUNDAY TIMES, Johannesburg, Sunday, 14 March 1999.



Children kidnapped and mutilated


A GANG of suspected kidnappers this week threatened to kill a teenager who helped lift the lid on forced circumcision camps.

The racket is centred on the Vaal Triangle township of Sebokeng. For years, hundreds of boys and girls have been kidnapped by young hoods and taken to the camps. The victims are held until their parents pay between R350 and R500 for their release. Some have died while trying to escape.

The teenage gangs are said to work for a local woman - whose name is known to the Sunday Times and the police - who is so feared that she can operate with impunity.

This week eight teenage boys threatened another teenager with death if this story was published. The threat was made in front of our reporter, photographer and Patrick Mabija, a member of the local Community Policing Forum. One of the eight said: "We don't want you to publish this story and the pictures. If you do, [the boy] is going to be in trouble. He is going to die."

The boys are from Fundulwazi High School in Sebokeng. Three are known to Mabija as Welcome, Wilson and Ephraim. The boy they threatened was so fearful that he refused to name them to the Sunday Times. Mabija said after the encounter that he was certain the eight boys were involved in the kidnappings.

The threat is the latest in a number of attempts to stop this story from appearing. In other moves, a police file containing information on the racket went "missing", a local principal was threatened, and the parents of a girl who was abducted were told to tell the Sunday Times to back away from the story.

Sebokeng police officer Captain Michael Mohlala said as many as 10 teenagers were snatched every day and taken to camps near Sebokeng.

He said up to 80 abductees could be accommodated in the camps. Children - both male and female - were taken from the streets at night by thugs in a bakkie. Messengers were sent demanding money and food from parents in exchange for the children's return.

Mabija said he understood the kidnappers were paid R50 for every person they brought to the camps.

A caretaker at a camp on a farm in Kleigrond visited by the Sunday Times yesterday confirmed youths were kidnapped and circumcised against their will. She said: "I know the people responsible, but I'm afraid to mention their names because I may get killed. They have guns and sometimes shoot people at random."

Judas Moletsane, 18, who had already been circumcised, was kidnapped and taken to a camp several times but managed to escape. However, in December he died in a camp. This week, his father, Teboho Moletsane, 69, held back tears as he recalled the events. He said he was ready to pay a R350 ransom when he was told his son had died.

"I wake up in the middle of the night and feel sad. Sometimes, I think of taking the law into my own hands," he said.

Another victim was Johnny Moloisane, 22, whose body was found buried in a shallow grave near the camp between Kleigrond and Houtheuwel railway station after he had been kidnapped. His body was decomposed and his private parts had been cut off.

His sister, Seipati, said four people had demanded R350, a bag of potatoes and a blanket from his family three days after his disappearance.


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