“A child goes missing every five hours in South Africa, according to figures released by the South African Police Service Missing Persons Bureau for 2013.” Visit Missing Children South Africa to continue reading or to report a missing child ASAP.


Kidnapping is where a person kidnaps a child or grownup, usually for ransom but not necessarily.

  • In the case of S v Mellors an adult woman was kidnapped at the library. The woman was not taken anywhere, but was forced to make certain telephone calls. This was still found to be kidnapping in that the woman was unable to leave the library (in other words, her right to freedom of movement was infringed).
  • The minimum sentence for kidnapping is five years’ imprisonment.
  • Often a kidnapper is arrested for more than one charge (kidnapping, rape, attempted murder, etc. for example). If the victim was under the age of 16 years and the rape involved the infliction of grievous bodily harm, the minimum sentence is life imprisonment (unless the Court is satisfied that substantial and compelling circumstances exist).

Common law abduction is where a person ‘kidnaps’ an unmarried minor child without the consent of a parent and with the specific intent to marry or have intercourse with the child.

  • The abductor may be found guilty of abduction regardless of whether or not he/ she actually married or had intercourse with the child. What needs to be proven is simply that he/ she intended to do so at the time of the kidnapping.
  • This is an offence because the law needs to protect the right of the parent/ custodian to control the whereabouts of a child.
  • The consent of the child is irrelevant and violence/ force is not a requirement. The abductor must, however, facilitate the abduction in some way to be found guilty (leaving a ladder under the bedroom window and encouraging the minor will suffice).
  • A few have criticized this common law crime, saying that it is old-fashioned and is often misused to punish a disliked girlfriend/ boyfriend.

What do you mean by ‘common law?’

Abduction and kidnapping are both common law offences in South Africa. Our common law is a mixture of Roman-Dutch and English law as we were colonized by the Dutch and Britain. South Africa’s legal system comprises of common law (as interpreted and changed by our Courts along the way), statutory law (Acts signed into effect by our President) and the Constitution of the Republic of South Africa, 1996 which is much more than an ‘Act’ signed into law, but also the supreme law of the Republic.

Recent kidnapping news articles