Phindile Kunene, the woman who was arrested last week after allegedly falsely telling Soweto police that she had been hijacked and abducted, has been released on R2000 bail.
Kunene appeared in the Protea Magistrates’s Court on Monday after being charged with “contravention of section 9 of the Commissioners of Oath Act – making a false statement under oath”.
Last Thursday, Kunene went to the Protea Glen police station and told officers how on Wednesday evening, her car was taken by unknown men in Mohlakeng township in Randfontein, west of Johannesburg.
She alleged that the men had put her in the boot of her car and had driven around with her but police later ascertained that the alleged hijacking and kidnapping never happened.
She had also posted as Simphiwe Manzini Mtimande on Facebook, saying she was hijacked and kidnapped in a string of updates that went viral in an attempt to #FindSimphiwe.
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“It emerged on a further probe that the said hijacking and kidnapping report was false and this was subsequently corroborated by the woman’s confession that she was never kidnapped. Police confiscated the car of the suspect that she alleged was hijacked and her two cellphones, including the one she claimed was taken by the ‘hijackers’,” the South African Police Service (Saps) spokesperson Captain Mavela Masondo said last week.
Kunene is due back in court on 18 June.
Harriet Klopper, a lecturer in forensic criminalistics, said Kunene wasted resources both financially and human in a country that could barely afford it.
Klopper said our country was already crippled by the fear of crime.
“The massive outrage and quick sharing of her ‘plight’ on social media testify to a public that believed her because of the scourge of gender-based violence [GBV] in this country made her cry for help plausible,” Klopper said.
Dr Henk Swanepoel, a clinical and neuropsychologist, said the most common motivation to fake a kidnapping was a desire for attention or sympathy, revenge or financial profit.
“Research suggests that this act is about gaining attention, sympathy, money or to avoid certain responsibilities or consequences. This type of behaviour falls within the context of ‘malingering’, which describes a person who exaggerates or falsifies illness for external benefits or incentives, referred to as secondary gain,” Swanepoel explained.
“In this regard, the person knows what they are doing, and understand on a conscious level why they are fabricating the situation,” he added.
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Swanepoel said it was also possible that a person might suffer from a psychological disorder that impedes their ability to fully understand the impact of their actions.
“Malingering is when they are not aware on a conscious level that their behaviour is pathological.”
Swanepoel added that clinically, it was difficult to conclude if a person was driven by deceitful tendencies when malingering, or mental illness.
“Regardless, a person who stages a kidnapping may already feel victimised, and subsequently justify their thoughts that they deserve attention.
“In this regard when people go through difficult times they may already see themselves as a victim and suffer from trauma or depression. Therefore, becoming a victim can be a way of getting attention and sympathy from others,” Swanepoel said.
Additional reporting by Neo Thale