GIRL FORCED TO SELL SEX TO LIVE
An 11-year-old girl is entangled in a sordid life of prostitution at Kgomola village near Itsoseng township in North West.
Lerato (not her real name), a Grade three dropout, uses her tiny body as a means to support her two young brothers - aged 7 and 4. The seven-year-old boy is epileptic.
She and her siblings receive child support grants, but their mother, who no longer lives with them, allegedly uses it without giving them a cent.
Lerato said their ordeal started when their father left to work in Cape Town earlier this year.
"Our mother left in March to live with another man.
"She receives the grants every month but she does not buy us food or soap," said Lerato.
A neighbour who refused to be named said: "The situation these children find themselves in is sad. Lerato frequents a local tavern, especially on weekends.
"Men old enough to be her father have sex with her and reward her with R5 if she is lucky.
"I have confronted some of them and now they want to burn down my house because they say I am interfering in their affairs."
A spokesman for the South African Social Security Agency (Sassa), Smanga Selemi, confirmed that the children receive social grants.
"[The epileptic boy] receives R940 because of his condition, and the others get R210 each," said Selemi.
Sowetan located the mother, who cannot be named at this stage, at a gambling house.
She was angry and initially refused to talk to Sowetan. After being pressed for answers, she said that she bought clothes with the money.
Sowetan contacted the police and after the child protection unit obtained statements from the children and neighbours, the mother was arrested for child neglect.
She will appear in the Itsoseng magistrate's court today.
Sowetan also contacted the office of Nikiwe Manqo, the MEC for social development in North West, about the plight of Lerato and her two brothers.
Simon Mmope, the departmental spokesman, said the matter should be raised with his director, Mpumelelo Nhlapo, and advised Sowetan to take the matter up with Sassa.
"This matter should be dealt with by the social security department because this is a child-headed family.
"They should send social workers to assess the situation and deal with it," insisted Selemi.