Police probe existence of child sex ring

Mary Papayya and Sne Masuku

Mary Papayya and Sne Masuku

Durban police yesterday extended their investigation into the possible existence of a child trafficking syndicate in the city.

This after the arrest of a man said to be a Sierra Leone national.

The man, whose name is being withheld, remains in police custody and will appear again in court for a bail application on June 27.

Police Superintendent Muzi Mngomezulu said detectives were probing suspicions that the alleged "pimp" was not working alone.

"Our investigations are in the early stages but we suspect that a human trafficking syndicate could be operating in the city," he said.

Three girls, one said to be about eight years old, was among the suspect's known "workers". She, and the other girls have since been taken to a place of safety.

The suspect was arrested when police set up a trap for him.

Mngomezulu said he was not "aware that detectives had recovered a data-base of clients" when they raided the suspect's home.

Detectives working on the case said that only a small number of the girls used as child prostitutes were street kids or homeless.

The police said they had information that other victims were "sold" to the suspect by their parents, while others were the girlfriends of foreigners in the area.

In most instances clients would phone the suspect and provide the age of the "child prostitute". The suspect would then take the child in a metered taxi and hand her over to the client. Once the client had finished he would call the suspect for the child to be picked up.

Meanwhile, National Child Line director Lynne Cawood said SA remains a hotbed of child trafficking and prostitution.

"We know of a number of cases in which young girls were trafficked and commercially sexually exploited," she said.

Child rights expert Joan van Niekerk said in most cases children and their families are intimidated and often withdraw charges.