WHAT started off as a promise of a job ended in an indecent proposal. Gerald* (15), from the greater Lansdowne area, recently spent time working for an independent contractor who owns a sound and lighting business. The contractor, John* is 42 years old and from Brackenfell.
The boy attends a technical high school. Working with John formed part of his practical training.
John was apparently outsourced to work on a production at the Artscape. He allegedly told Gerald to stay in touch as he may have been able to get him work at a later stage.
The two exchanged contact details and apparently spoke on a daily basis, mostly via MXit. MXit is a cellphone application that allows users to chat at cheap rates with their friends.
Once the user logs off, all messages are generally lost. Inspector Robert Lakey, Lansdowne police spokesperson, says John had allegedly promised to organise work for Gerald at the Artscape in return for sexual favours.
These alleged offers apparently continued from Tuesday 3 June to Thursday 19 June. Gerald then spoke to his teachers, who in turn informed his mother.
Lakey says the mother logged on to MXit, pretending to be Gerald. John then allegedly made more indecent proposals, unaware of who he was really chatting to.
The case was reported at Lansdowne police station. John was arrested on Friday 20 June and charged under the Sexual Offences Act. According to the act, it is prohibited for anyone to offer a minor a reward for sexual favours.
John appeared in the Wynberg Magistrate's Court on Monday 23 June and was released on R1 000 bail.
Since John's arrest, four of Gerald's school mates have also made allegations of being propositioned by the man. Meanwhile, Alastair Cockburn, Artscape operations director, confirms that John is not part of the Artscape staff.
He explains that many production companies hire the Artscape as a venue, and bring in their own crews for sound, stage and lighting.
He says there were definitely no reports of this incident to Artscape management.
In light of this case, Alison Stewart, Lansdowne victim support counsellor, says parents need to be more aware of their children, and like Gerald's mother, get on MXit to monitor their children.
Stewart also urges parents to take the time to not only know their children's friends, but also their parents.
If children have found a part-time job, or get involved in any activities involving unknown adults, Stewart recommends parents do background checks.
"Anyone who works with children must have police clearance, even if it is for weekend work," Stewart says, adding that this is a necessity, and by no means paranoia.
She says boys especially are prime targets for paedophiles as they are less likely to speak about it.
This is why, Stewart concludes, it is vitally important that parents take all the precautions they can to protect their children from predators.
*names have been changed