Missing 3-year-old: Cops took five days to issue picture, alert media

Khanyi Ndabeni ndabenik@avusa.co.za

POLICE have taken five days to issue a photo of a three-year-old girl who mysteriously vanished while playing outside her Motherwell home on Sunday afternoon.

Zenixole “Nontinga” Solomon disappeared from outside her home in Makhangiso Street, NU6, some time between 3pm and 6pm while her foster mother, Xoliswa Mashiqana, was watching television.

While the police said yesterday they had interviewed neighbours and were doing everything they could to find the child, the disappearance was only reported to the media yesterday when the police went on community radio station KQFM and approached The Herald and other print media about the case.

“We searched everywhere for her that day before reporting her missing to the police,” Mashiqana said.

“No one knows her whereabouts. Even the little children she was playing with don’t know who took her.”

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Mashiqana has been looking after Zenixole since her mother, Khanyiswa Solomon, died in 2009.

“It is puzzling how she disappeared. She was playing with children about the same age as her on the lawn. I was watching TV. Later, I noticed they were not in the garden and went to look for them in my neighbour’s yard.

“All the other children were there except for her.

“The little children didn’t know where she went or who took her,” Mashiqana said.

She said the family had searched everywhere for the child and even asked relatives to help find her.

She suspected someone who knew her and the family had taken her be cause they would have heard the child scream if she had been taken by a stranger.

Mashiqana said Zenixole never strayed far from the house.

“If she is not playing with her toys inside the house, she plays with her friends on the lawn or in my neighbour’s yard because she has a child almost the same age as her,” she said.

“She is also on medication and I worry that should she not take it, her situation might get worse.

“I appeal to anyone who has seen her to please bring her home or contact the Motherwell police.”

Mashiqana said she had reported Zenixole missing at the Motherwell police station on Sunday night and given the police a photograph of her.

Motherwell Constable Chantel Ross said the police were doing everything they could to find the child.

“We’ve interviewed neighbours and other residents in Makhangiso Street and will be going back to interview more,” she said.

“On Wednesday, we searched the house of a woman whom the family had suspected, but found nothing. We appeal to the public to come forward with any information.”

She said after the radio announcement yesterday, “we were told the child was at the Emmanuel Haven, but that was a false lead”.

Asked why the police had taken so long to inform the media and supply it with a photograph of the child, Ross said she had started working on the case on Wednesday when the docket reached her office. “The crime office normally handles the missing persons case for 24 hours before it is brought to the detectives.”

Dora Nginza social worker Pamela Rubushe said in this day and age parents should not leave their children playing outside without parental supervision.

“Even if they [the children] were playing in the yard, someone should have been looking after them.

“The child could have been raped. The fact that the other children couldn’t tell where the child had disappeared to is a clear sign that they are very young,” Rubushe said.

Community Chest chief executive Beuala Lumkwana condemned the slow reaction by the police.

“They should have searched for the child on Sunday evening as soon as the mother had reported her missing.

“For all we know, she could still have been around where she lived, crying for help,” she said.

Richmond Hill Crime Forum chairman Alan Mounter said time was of the essence in a case of a missing child.

“The chances of a child being found during the first 48 hours are quite good, much better than after five days.

“During the first 48 hours, it is easier to obtain leads and that is also when a poster of the missing child should have been distributed,” he said.

Missing Kids SA national coordinator Judy Olivier said the first three hours were golden because the child could thereafter be in another province or area.

“The best thing to do now is to create as much awareness as possible.

“It is not too late to find the child, but the police and the community must put all their efforts into finding the child,” she said.

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