Township gripped by fear

Khangale Makhado

Khangale Makhado

Residents of the tiny township of Phahameng in Modimolle (formerly Nylstroom) are shocked by incidents of unsolved cases where children as young as four have been raped and brutally murdered since 2004.

So far, 14 children - 12 girls and two boys - have fallen victim to these unknown attackers. Of the 14, seven have been murdered, three are still missing, and two girls, aged four and five, miraculously escaped death after being brutally raped.

This week Sowetan visited the area and spoke to the victims' parents. They all expressed their frustration and anger because the police have not apprehended any of the culprits.

Most agreed that there had to be one or two people who had information about the culprits. People were afraid that their lives could be in danger if they gave information to law enforcement agencies.

In a bid to try and encourage the community to come forward with information that might help solve the cases, police are offering a R250000 reward for information that will lead to the arrest and conviction of the culprits.

The problem is compounded by the fact that very few families in the area have photos of their children. This makes it difficult to put up pictures of the missing children in the area.

The secretary of the community policing forum (CPF) in the township, Cate Mphafudi, yesterday advised parents to ensure that they had their children's photos taken at least every two years.

"As a community, we should stop pointing fingers and instead work with the police because it is only through joint efforts that we can apprehend the culprit or culprits and end this nightmare in our township," said Mphafudi.

Mphafudi's call comes in the wake of serious accusations levelled at the police and the CPF by residents that, though the disappearance of the children has been going on for years, there has not been a breakthrough.

Refilwe Ringane, 10, a grade 2 pupil in the area, went missing on June 5 after she was sent to the shops to buy bread.

Her battered little body was only discovered five days later at the mountains outside the township.

She had been brutally raped and then strangled. She was buried last weekend in the area.

Ringane's father, Joseph Makua, says the community should be extra careful. He advised the community to teach children not to allow strangers to send them on errands.