A young woman on her first ever visit to East London has been reported missing amid fears that she may have been abducted.
Charedene Myburgh, 24, has not been seen since last Monday, when she arrived by taxi in East London from Port Elizabeth.
Leon Nel, a forensic investigator who is helping her family track her down, fears the young woman may have become one of the many to be forced into the sex trade.
A manager of a fast food chain near to where the young woman went missing confirmed to the Daily Dispatch that in the past 30 days three sets of parents had come to his store looking for their daughters, all of whom had gone missing in the area, which is close to a busy taxi rank.
He said all the girls, judging from the photos shown to him, appeared young.
Nel explained that Myburgh had caught a taxi from Port Elizabeth to East London where she was to meet a family friend, referred to as “aunty”, who would then travel with her to Mthatha where she would visit family.
Security camera footage shows Myburgh arriving in East London, as planned, at around 3pm.
At 3.13pm footage from within the fast food restaurant, close to the Uncedo taxi rank in the city’s CBD, shows the girl walking past its window before entering, money in hand.
Daphne Soetland, the family friend, said Myburgh was given R120 for food before she left.
According to the footage, it seemed she was going to use the money for just that reason before something out of the view of the camera distracted her.
The short, slim girl, described as a tomboy, appears to turn around to look at something, momentarily leaving her bag, and then returns to collect her bag which she pulls away out of camera.
This is the last time she was seen.
As per a prior arrangement with the young woman’s father, Soetland received a call from the taxi driver saying she had arrived in East London, but upon arriving at the restaurant she was nowhere to be found.
The worried friend then went to the Fleet Street Police Station, a mere 450 metres away, to report Myburgh missing.
Charles Myburgh, the missing girl’s father, drove from Port Elizabeth the next day to bring police a photograph of his daughter, whom he said did not own a cellphone. It was a first visit to the city for him too.
Nel explained that it was a common tactic for organised gangs to abduct young girls and women who looked vulnerable, force them to consume highly addictive drugs, gang rape them and then force them to work as prostitutes.
On Saturday evening a police team, which peaked at roughly 15 members and five vehicles, conducted seven raids within Quigney in search of the young woman.
The first raid was at 8.10pm. The searched building was the Masque palace of adult entertainment. Police were inside for no more than 10 minutes before leaving empty-handed.
At 8.22pm police raided houses numbered 41, 39 and 37 in Moore Street and, after 12 minutes, again came out empty-handed.
When police conducted a raid in January, led by then police minister Fikile Mbalula, 17 girls, some of who were underage, were removed from these dwellings.
At the time it was claimed that a former senior member of the police force owned these properties.
A reliable source has informed the Dispatch that “police corruption in this area [sex trafficking] is high and that traffickers pay them off to look the other way”.
The third stop of the night was at 8.34pm at a house in Caxton Road, too dark for the Dispatch to make out its number. Once again police came out empty-handed.
The fourth and longest stop, of nearly half an hour, was at a green double-storey tavern.
While police were busy on the bottom floor, occupants in the rooms upstairs kept frantically peeking through curtained windows. By the time the raiding officers reached the second floor the girls had run out the back, it was claimed.
Again no arrests were made and the girl was not found.
The final stop of the night was at a house on the corner of Longfellow and Signal streets. Mere minutes were spent here.
Dr Lesley-Ann Foster, executive director of Masimanyane Women’s Support Centre, said: “There has been quite an increase in abduction and forced prostitution in East London and the country as a whole.”
Foster said she had been told there were numerous girls, originally from other provinces, being held in different homes throughout East London.