While Mitchell’s Plain children’s organisations welcomed the conviction of paedophile Nizaam Ajam, 42, on 180 charges of sexual crimes against children in the Western Cape High Court last week, they feel that the sentence could have been harsher.
Ajam was sentenced to 20 years’ imprisonment.
The charges include various grooming of children, creation of child pornography, using a child for the purposes of child pornography, exposing child pornography to children, distribution of child pornography, encouraging self sexual assault, rape and extortion.
Eric Ntabazalila, the regional communications officer for the National Prosecuting Authority, said they welcomed the sentence and urged parents and guardians to monitor the activity of their children on social networks.
He said Ajam, from Mitchell’s Plain, had targeted young children. “The victims were aged between 12 and 16 years of age, including boys and girls.”
Mr Ntabazalila said: “The accused used social networks such as BBM, WhatsApp, Facebook and Mixit to contact and connect with minors.
“He used fake profiles depicting himself as a minor and sent friends requests to the various minor victims,” he said.
Mr Ntabazalila said after victims accepted Ajam’s request he would chat with them (victims) and exchange pictures. “After receiving these pictures he would threaten to expose the naked pictures when they refused to send him more naked pictures of themselves. At three instances he lured three minor victims and raped them,” said Mr Ntabazalila.
State advocate Bonnie Currie-Gamwo cautioned parents about the danger of social networks and urged them to be vigilant when it comes to their children. “One of the negatives of social networks and the easy access that our children have to them is that predators like Nizaam Ajam are able to use them to target young unsuspecting children.
“The calculated manner in which he went about befriending these victims on Facebook using fake Facebook profiles of a boy and girl inducing them to send him naked pictures of them and blackmailing them with a threat to expose them if they refuse makes him a danger to society,” she said.
Advocate Currie-Gamwo described the sentence against Ajam as a warning to other people abusing children. “This sentence shows the results of the continued fight and prioritisation of cases involving vulnerable groups such as women and children in the province. It also sends a message to anyone who is involved in these types of activities that they will receive this type of harsh sentences,” she said.
She pleaded to parents and guardians to ensure that they monitor the use of social networks used by children. “Please speak to your children – warn them about the dangers of being involved with strangers on social networks. There are a lot of dangerous people lurking in the shadows who will pretend that they are young and start by making innocent suggestions which will end up with victims being raped and murdered,” she warned.
The court also ordered that Ajam is unfit to own a firearm and that his name be included on the national register of sex offenders.
Patricia Britz-Smith of the Afrikaanse Christelike Vroue-vereniging (ACVV) said the sentence is not enough for the damages done to the children and the possibility of a lack funding to have Ajam’s child victims send for proper counselling.
She said parents must always know where their children are and who their friends are. “They should make them aware of their rights and their responsibilities. From a young age teach them about their body and bad touches and good touches. Our community should be aware of strangers and adopt a sense of care for each other.
“My experience is that people are so concerned about their rights that they forget about their responsibilities,” she said.
Mareldea Sonday, operations manager of the Mitchell’s Plain Network Opposing Abuse, said the children’s lives are destroyed. “What about their ongoing trauma? The perpetrator should be removed from society, he knew what he was doing was wrong,” she said.
Ms Sonday said there are many cases that go unreported, especially if the perpetrator is a member of the family. “Parents must be proactive and keep a watchful eye – there should be strong supervision and monitoring. Don’t trust anybody and don’t take anything for granted. Parents must listen to their children – to what they say and also to what they don’t say. When you notice unsocial sexual behaviour don’t be in denial, seek assistance or guidance,” she said.
Rochelle Philander, director of Safeline Child Abuse Treatment and Prevention Centre in Mitchell’s Plain, said the sentence was too lenient as Ajam’s victims will suffer lifelong trauma.
She said children who have suffered trauma due to sexual abuse or sexual exposure, may develop feelings, emotions and behaviour such as self-blame, powerlessness, loss and betrayal and multiple personality disorders.
“As a result of the above-mentioned children will suffer substantial long-term psychological damage. As an organisation Safeline advocates, lobbies and protects the well-being and safety of victims or survivors of sexual abuse,” she said.
Regarding social networks Ms Philander said it is important to be aware of what children are doing online. “For parents it is sometimes difficult to maintain when trying to find out what their child is up to on social media. The parent always runs the risk of alienating their children and damaging the trust they have built together.
“Ultimately a parent wants to get involved in such a way that their children understand that the parents’ involvement is about their child’s own well-being and safety,” she said.