A police raid on a suspected child-sex operation in Benoni found a three-year-old boy being held hostage, and an under-age girl being pimped out for sex, police said on Friday.
Four more men were arrested, one of whom was caught in the act of having sex with the 15-year-old girl, said Superintendent Andre Neethling of the Gauteng child protection unit.
He said no one was willing to say what the little boy was doing in the Benoni building, which police raided on Thursday night.
However, the mother of the child was traced to Nigel later that night — she was picked up off the streets where she had been working as a prostitute.
“Her child had been taken by the Nigerians about two months ago. They held the child there as some kind of collateral, to blackmail her to work for money,” Neethling said.
Neethling said the 20-year-old woman saw none of the money she earned. She was given crack cocaine in the morning, and R25 for the day.
“We experienced it as slavery happening right under our noses. She was living on bread and mayonnaise for two months,” he said.
Thursday night’s operation was part of a continued effort by police to clamp down on a child-sex ring that they believe is operating throughout the country.
“In Nigel, we got the impression that these people were trying to expand their business towards Heidelberg to see if there was any good business there,” Neethling said.
Thirteen other girls, aged between 13 and 16, have been rescued in the past month, and more than 60 people, mostly Nigerians, arrested.
Neethling told how the girls were often so tied up in their lives they did not want to leave. The girl they found on Thursday had left home at the age of eight.
“This is all the life she knows. She pleaded with us not to take her away.”
He said HIV is obviously a risk, and all rescued girls will be tested as a matter of course.
“Some of the girls we found were quite careful in terms of protecting themselves. Some of them didn’t seem to care really. Basically, they just work for their fix, in the form of cocaine rocks.”
The pimps controlled all the money, Neethling said.
Those who wanted to were returned to their parents, while others were put in places of safety.
Most arrests so far have been in Rosettenville and Hillbrow in Johannesburg, although arrests in Durban on the weekend have been linked to the same sex ring. — Sapa