Four suspects appeared before the Madadeni Magistrate court on Wednesday, 23 May facing charges of kidnapping, car jacking, human trafficking and possession of an unlicensed firearm.
On 21 May the four suspects, 32- year old Zamani Richard Ndlovu, 25-year old Thamisanqa Sithebe, 22-year old Sabatha Zulu and 24-year old Segundo Xulu had allegedly kidnapped the three children after hijacking a vehicle in Madadeni.
According to police, unknown men had waved down the BMW containing the driver and five children who were on their way to school that morning, indicating to the car tyre. Assuming that there was a fault with the vehicle, the driver had pulled over near Qaphelani School to check what the problem was. The suspects then closed in on the vehicle and allegedly threatened the driver with firearms. He was pulled out and the suspects fled the scene with three school children still in the vehicle, while the two older children managed to jump out before the vehicle sped off.
The story of the kidnapping quickly went viral with pleas from family members to assist in locating the missing girls. Newcastle residents banned together in prayer and hope that the children would be returned safely.
A joint operation headed by Newcastle FCS Commander Captain Nagesh Moothilal , Newcastle K9 Unit and Madadeni Detectives led to the successful rescue of the three children just hours after they were taken.
“The children were found in a house in Inverness in Osizweni. The hijacked vehicle was also recovered at Osizweni C Section.It is believed that one of the suspects who orchestrated the carjacking and kidnapping is a relative of the victims whilst another is a close family friend. The suspects demanded a ransom from the family for the safe release of the children,” said KZN Media Centre Spokesperson, Colonel Thembeka Mbhele.
Speaking exclusively to the Newcastle Express newspaper, family member, Farida Gama, confirmed the kidnapping.
“Yes, the kids were taken and we were lucky that we got them back soon after they were abducted. One of the suspects is indeed a family member. He said he wanted to apologise, but we are not interested in that gesture, we just want the law to take its course. I really don’t know what more to say, that day was a very traumatising one for me and my family.”
The family said they intended to oppose bail during the bail application set for 29 May. The suspects have been remanded in custody until then.
Police have recently done awareness programmes on kidnappings and human trafficking in Newcastle. At a recent awareness campaign, held at SE Vawda Primary, children were told to be careful of their surroundings. Police had demonstrated to children how they could be abducted.
Missing Children SA have recently reported that kidnappings are on the rise at present in South Africa. They said kidnapping cases are like a missing person case, which need to be reported to the police immediately.
“Reporting a case as soon as possible can assist the parents and also get counselling for them so they can work through the trauma, while the SAPS go about finding the child. In such cases, parents are encouraged to stay strong, to believe their child would be found, and trust that the police are doing all they can to solve the case.”