Concern about surge in child pornography cases in Western Cape and across SA

Sannon Manuel is facing charges relating to child pornography. Picture: NPA

Sannon Manuel is facing charges relating to child pornography. Picture: NPA

Published Jun 8, 2024


Cape Town - The Film and Publication Board (FPB) says they have seen a surge in Child Sexual Abuse Material (CSAM), known as child pornography, cases in the Western Cape and across South Africa, with seven reported to police.

Three of these cases are in the Western Cape.

According to Obakeng Maimane of the FPB, between November 2023 and January 2024, seven individuals were arrested in connection with an online child pornography ring.

These arrests involved a joint operation between the SAPS and the US Department of Homeland Security.

The suspects were found in possession of thousands of images and videos of child pornography, leading to charges of accessing, distributing, and possessing child pornography.

“The recent surge in child pornography cases in South Africa underscores the urgent need for robust measures to combat child online sexual exploitation.

“The FPB Child Protection Unit has been at the forefront of this battle, working tirelessly to identify individuals involved in the distribution and possession of child CSAM.

“With such cases lurking around the internet, the mandate of the FPB revolves around digital child safety and protection, with a focus on preventing and analysing child pornography, as well as providing consumer advice.”

One of those arrested was Sannon Manuel, 32, who was arrested and charged earlier this year on allegations of child pornography, its distribution and possible grooming. He was denied bail by the Mitchells Plain Magistrate’s Court last month.

The State is set to prove that he lured young girls via social media and allegedly asked them to exchange naked photographs of themselves.

Eric Ntabazalila of the National Prosecuting Authority said Manuel was arrested after a tip-off from US Homeland Security about him being part of an international syndicate which groomed, manufactured, and distributed child pornography.

“He was identified as a user of a social media platform in which he accessed CSAM images, whereby he accumulated his child pornography collection,” Ntabazalila said.

Ntabazalila said preliminary forensic investigation indicates he amassed a collection of 115 000 images and 20 000 videos of child pornography between April 12, 2021, and January 19, 2024, and that there were over 300 000 chat groups on social media of which 35 large groups were actively manufacturing and distributing child pornography.

Out of the operation, 27 targets in the country were identified and four targets in the Western Cape were all arrested and have appeared before courts.

Manuel, along with two other Western Cape men, was arrested in a joint operation by the SAPS Serial and Electronic Crime Investigations unit and the American Homeland Security Department over three days.

Garth van West, 53, of Worcester, was arrested in January and he was allegedly found with 95 000 images and 6 000 videos of child pornography and is facing charges of accessing, distributing, and possessing child pornography.

Corné van Rooyen, 40, of Kraaifontein, is facing child pornography charges.

Maimane told the Weekend Argus that in one instance, the FPB assisted in the analysis of over 733 000 images, of which about 27 000 were confirmed as CSAM.

“This underscores the significant amount of child exploitation content being distributed, and the efforts of law enforcement to address it.

“Additionally, the FPB has provided testimony and evidence based on their analysis to support the prosecution of individuals involved in these crimes.

“One of the FPB’s child protection officers worked closely with law enforcement in conducting analysis of the images found in the man’s possession. The investigating officer also provided testimony of the findings in November 2020.

“One of the key functions of the FPB is to prevent and protect children from harmful and prohibited content through a robust classification and rating system, comparable to that utilised in the developed world. This classification system serves as a crucial tool in identifying and restricting access to age-inappropriate content, thereby safeguarding children from exposure to harmful material.”

A Mitchells Plain mother who cannot be identified is fighting for justice for her 17-year-old daughter, who she believes was a victim of child pornography after inappropriate pictures of her were allegedly shared on social media by her former boyfriend.

“She must still give her statement to police, so it is at a sensitive stage. It is believed he lures girls via social media accounts and it’s just between the ages of 18 and 19.”

Weekend Argus