How SA woman tried to sell a baby on Gumtree

 ·16 Oct 2015

Weeping in the arms of a social worker, a 19-month-old toddler watched as his mother was arrested for allegedly trying to sell him for R5,000 on Thursday.

Police arrested the 20-year-old Imbali mother at the KFC in Chief Albert Luthuli Road after she allegedly posted an advert on online classifieds website Gumtree.

A tip-off from a Gumtree user led to a sting operation that led to the woman’s arrest.

Pietermaritzburg police spokesperson Constable Mthokozisi Ngobese said a female officer was tasked to contact the mother on Saturday and set up the deal.


Ngobese said the trap was set by officers in the Organised Crime Unit in conjunction with members of the Local Record Criminal Centre (LCRC), the police’s radio control unit, the Department of Social Development workers and himself.

With the fee and the location of the exchange finalised, the mother, who had not even met the woman she was about to hawk her child to, walked her baby boy to the KFC outlet before midday on Thursday.

While police in casual clothing kept watch, the mother met two undercover officers on the top floor of the building.

The officers bought ice cream for the mother and began negotiations while seated at a table in the fast-food outlet.

Ngobese said the mother explained that she was selling her child because his father would not offer any financial support, leaving her unable to raise the boy.

“She was anxious to get the money,” Ngobese said, describing the negotiation.

Police handed over R5 000 in duplicated notes to the mother as she said her final goodbyes to the child.

Police pounced as she exited the building, money and ice cream in hand.

The woman was arrested for contravening the Human Trafficking Act.

She stood against a wall, eating her ice cream, as the police questioned her before she was driven away in an unmarked vehicle.


When the social worker exited with the toddler in her arms, the boy had a slow stream of tears on his face.

It is unclear whether the boy will be placed in the care of the department or returned to family members.

The incident sparked outrage among children’s rights activists on Thursday.

Bobby Bear founder Jackie Branfield commended the police for “stopping the destruction of the boy’s life”.

“What kind of society do we live in that a mother can blatantly and brazenly flout the law and human morality by putting their baby up for sale on Gumtree?” she asked.

Former MPL Jo-Anne Downs, who has been actively involved in women’s and children’s rights for the past 18 years, said the incident indicated there was no safety net for mothers abandoned by their partners.

“There is a noted lack of support for women and children in our patriarchal society, and an incident like this speaks to the value women hold in society today.”

Previous attempts

Gumtree spokesperson Estelle Nagel said the advert was removed and the user blocked immediately after it was flagged.

“We have keywords that if they are entered in an advert, it will trigger a warning and go for moderation before it goes live,” she said.

“She did not use any of the keywords, but the community was very quick in reporting it to us and we removed it, blocked her, tracked her IP address and reported her to Childline.”

Nagel said the woman had made two previous attempts to “sell” her child, once when she advertised a car seat but mentioned she wanted to sell her child too.

She said Gumtree was already working on new key words to flag such adverts.


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