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Kidnapping prank: Hawks cautions public against spreading fake news on kidnappings, human trafficking, which diverts resources

Cape Town – The Directorate for Priority Crime Investigation (Hawks) has appealed to the public to refrain from spreading fake news and bogus messages about kidnappings and human trafficking cases of women and children.

According to the Hawks’ spokesperson in the Western Cape, Zinzi Hani, this diverts resources from authentic complaints.

“The Directorate in the Western Cape is deeply concerned about the continued peddling of fake news and cautions the public against the ‘incessant promotion and distribution of such malicious untruths’,” Hani said.

This follows an incident where fake news surfaced on various social media platforms, alleging the kidnapping of a 32-year-old foreign national.

Hani said information claimed the man took a flight from Zimbabwe to OR Tambo International on December 1, 2022, to meet his fiancé.

“She indicated that he was here to collect her, and then they will travel to back for their wedding ceremony. Information indicated that he landed at Cape Town International Airport on a flight from OR Tambo International Airport.

“The information received indicated that he ordered a taxi to pick him up at the airport.

“He was allegedly taken by a different vehicle and not the taxi he requested.

“At approximately 8pm, the fiancé is said to have received messages from his phone that stated ‘WE GOT HIM’ (sic) and demanded money for his safe return. No ransom amount was mentioned,” Hani said.

She said this led to a multi-disciplinary task team being activated to locate the whereabouts of the victim.

A preliminary investigation found that there was no flight from OR Tambo, as alleged in the message.

“It also confirmed that no traveller with the name and surname as per information received has travelled from Zimbabwe to South Africa in the past three months. Video footage at Cape Town International Airport was viewed to verify the passenger as per the description given by the complainant.

“No person was found that matched such description on the CCTV system,” Hani said.

Hours later, the complainant received a message indicating the ‘victim’ was on his way home, and his phone’s battery was flat.

“The complaint contacted his family, and they indicated that he is safe and it was only a prank,” Hani said.

Members of the public are encouraged to report any crime or suspicious activities by contacting their nearest police station or calling the SAPS Crime Stop number on 0860 010 111.

“Information can also be conveyed to the police via MySAPS app that can be downloaded on any smartphone, and the community is discouraged to report fake news to the police as such conduct cause serious harm to the resources,” Hani added.