The six-year-old Joslin Smith is one of three girls who are currently missing in the Western Cape.

Apart from the little Saldanha girl Joslin Smith, whose disappearance almost three weeks ago made international headlines, another two children in the Western Cape are currently missing.

In the light of the extensive and ongoing search operation launched to find Joslin, Motor Industry Staff Association (MISA) operational CEO Martlé Keyter urged that all cases of missing children should get the attention and urgency they need.

All missing children deserve ‘same dedication from police’

joslin smith missing girl
Joslin Smith went missing in Middelpos, Diazville, near Saldanha on 19 February. Photo via X/ @Am_Blujay

“What about all the other Joslins our there? No case should be less important. This is a pandemic in our country,” said Keyter, adding that South Africa has been declared a human trafficking hub.

According to Missing Children South Africa, more than 1,300 children are kidnapped every month with South Africa ranked first on the African continent in kidnappings and seventh-highest worldwide.

“We must see the same dedication from the police and media attention in the search not only for Joslin, but also for the other missing children in the province, and in the country. If not, something is terribly wrong,” the trade union’s CEO urged.

ALSO READ: Mutilated Soweto boys laid to rest, grandmother and partner charged

Lack of manpower and expertise to find missing persons

According to statistics released in Parliament last year, the South African Police Service (Saps) shed more than 8,000 detectives in six years.

Keyter said numerous police officers and prosecutors have admitted to MISA that they don’t have the manpower or the expertise to investigate crime.

joslin smith missing
Police Minister Bheki Cele during his visit to the home of Kelly Smith, the mother of missing Joslin Smith, in Diazville on 2 March 2024 in Saldanha. Photo: Gallo Images/ Die Burger/ Theo Jeptha

“In Joslin’s case, Saps had to deploy the best of the best because of the international attention the incident is receiving and thanks to all the fake news being spread which derailed the investigation and wasted limited manpower and resources at a critical time.

“When there is a case like the one of Joslin, all the other police stations are expected to send manpower to assist with the operation. The same happens when they need to clamp down on illegal building occupation or to uproot illegal zama-zamas,” Keyter added.

SA a ‘source, transit and destination country’ for trafficking

Childline KwaZulu-Natal’s acting director, Adeshini Naicker, echoed Keyter’s concerns about the capacity and resources of police services.  

She told IOL that South Africa was a source, transit and destination country for human trafficking and children may be abducted for purposes such as forced labour or sexual exploitation.

Improving the police response to missing children cases involves addressing various factors, including ensuring that police services personnel receive specialised training in handling missing children’s cases.

ALSO READ: Back to School: Parents warned against posting photos of kids online amid kidnapping concerns

Kidnapping task team

Responding to the rise in kidnappings, Chad Thomas, an organised crime investigator from IRS Forensic Investigations, said Saps had set up a dedicated kidnapping task team equipped with resources and personnel from the crime intelligence component.

We’re now seeing children in informal settlements kidnapped where the kidnappers demand a few thousand rand for the return of children.

“Other forms of kidnapping, including children sold to human trafficking rings and adults sold into slavery, are also on the increase, and this is a worldwide phenomena,” Thomas said.

Don’t waste any time in reporting missing child or person

Criminologist and national coordinator for Missing Children South Africa, Bianca van Aswegen, warned parents and guardians not to wait 24 hours to report a person missing. 

“There is absolutely no waiting period in reporting a child or person as missing in South Africa. People still believe or get told to wait 24 hours. That does not exist. Report it immediately to your nearest police station.”

Cold cases: ‘StillNotFound’ campaign

According to statistics released in June 2023 by the Saps, close to 4 000 children remain missing in South Africa.

According to Van Aswegen, not enough attention was placed on missing children cases unless the case was fresh.

“Missing Children South Africa has a ‘StillNotFound’ campaign whereby we re-share cold cases,” she said.

“We make sure that these flyers are shared and that these cases stay active.

“There have been cases solved after many years by just the re-sharing of flyers where someone has seen it with information that they come forward with.

Cold cases do not get enough attention in South Africa as they should. There is definitely a need for a specialised team to actively only work on cold cases.

ALSO READ: Human trafficking in SA: Hawks raise alarm in Gauteng

Joslin Smith case: What to know

The case of the disappearance of little Joslin has gripped the country and sparked deep anger in the poor coastal community of the Middelpos informal settlement in Saldanha Bay.

  • The green-eyed Grade 1 Diazville Primary School pupil went missing on 19 February from her Middelpos home.
  •  Her mother, Kelly Smith, claimed she left Joslin with her boyfriend, Jacquin “Boeta” Appollis, because she had to go to work and her daughter was not feeling well.
  • When she came home that evening, neither one of the two was in their shack. On his return later, Appollis however could not account for the young girl’s whereabouts.
  • Despite a massive search operation involving the SA Navy, police, firefighters, city authorities, hundreds of community members, as well as specialised sniffer dog units, she has still not been located.

ALSO READ: Joslin Smith latest: The Saldanha sangoma and new beach evidence probed

Shock arrests: Mom Kelly accused of ‘masterminding sale’ of Joslin

Suspects In The Joslin Smith Disappearance Case Appear At Vredenburg Magistrate's Court
Jacquin ‘Boeta’ Appollis (boyfriend of the mother), Steveno van Rhyn (friend of the mother), Kelly Smith (mother of Joslin Smith) and Phumza Sigaqa during the Joslin Smith disappearance case at Vredenburg Magistrate’s Court on 7 March 2024 in Vredenburg. Photo: Gallo Images/ Brenton Geach

In a shocking twist, her mother was charged alongside Appollis, Steveno van Rhyn and a Middelpos sangoma, Phumza Sigaqa, for human trafficking and kidnapping in a packed Vredenburg Magistrate’s Court on Thursday morning, 7 March.

The state alleges that the mother instructed Appollis and Van Rhyn on 19 February to sell Joslin to a traditional healer for R20 000.

ALSO READ: Two men claim in grim confession they sold Joslin Smith for muti

The four suspects have all indicated that they will be seeking legal aid representation.

They are remanded in custody until Wednesday, 13 March when they will appear in the Vredenburg court again for their bail bid.

Kelly Smith and her co-accused Phumza Sigaqa enter the Vredenburg Magistrate’s Court during the Joslin Smith disappearance case 7 March 2024. Photo: Gallo Images/ Brenton Geach

National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) spokesperson Eric Ntabazalila said the state will oppose their bail application. 

Kelly and Sigaqa have been taken to Pollsmoor Prison near Tokai in Cape Town, while Appollis and Van Rhyn are held at Malmesbury Prison.

More Western Cape girls who are missing

  • Ongeziwe Kamlana: The Grade 12 pupil at Fezeka High School in Gugulethu was last seen by her mother on 17 February when she left home to attend extra classes. 
Ongeziwe Kamlana. Photo: Supplied
  • Police are also trying to trace 13-year-old Lizalise Mayi, who was last seen  was last seen by her mother before she went to attend a funeral in Lower Crossroads, Philippi East, on 24 February.

NOW READ: Shock arrests in Joslin Smith case: Mom, boyfriend and sangoma charged [Watch]


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