Human traffickers held over 16-kid haul

Sukulwenkosi Dube Plumtree Correspondent
THREE Zimbabwean men have been arrested in Botswana for allegedly trying to smuggle 16 children aged between four and 18 years into South Africa.

The trio from Khame area in Bulilima District were allegedly using two vehicles to transport the children from Bulilima District to South Africa, where they were supposed to spend the festive holidays with their parents.

Speaking at the International Organisation for Migration (IOM) Centre in Plumtree yesterday, the officer in charge of the Criminal Investigations Department (CID) Northern Region in Botswana, Assistant Commissioner Lazarus Moalosi said the first vehicle was intercepted on December 3 about 80 kilometres from Francistown with 13 children on board.

He said the second vehicle was intercepted around the same area on December 9 with three children.

The children were repatriated yesterday after a three week stay at a children’s home in Botswana.

Ass Comm Moalosi said Stoney Ncube, Kholisani Ndebele and Witness Ndlovu had been arrested and had appeared at Selibe Phikwe Magistrate’s Court facing charges of aiding the illegal entry of foreigners into Botswana.

“We’re here to hand over a group of children that were being trafficked into South Africa in two separate groups,” he said.

Asst Comm Moalosi said during their three-week stay, the children were housed at the SOS children’s village in Francistown under the Botswana Social and Community Development Department.

Asst Comm Moalosi said his government delayed repatriating the children because it wanted to first ascertain that all the children were from Zimbabwe.

“We had to first establish contact with the parents of each child and also confirm that these parents were authentic. As a result each parent had to travel to Botswana and we had to carry out DNA tests for all children and their parents in order to ascertain paternity.

“This process therefore delayed the release of the children but eventually all parents were tested together with their children,” he said.

Asst Comm Moalosi said the three suspects had all pleaded guilty to the charges and they had been remanded in custody to January 4 and 11.

One of the children aged 16 years, Nontokozo Moyo, said she was on her way to visit her mother who works in South Africa.

“I stay in Ntoli area in Bulilima and the driver collected me together with 12 other children from our homestead on December 3. We didn’t use the border. We went through a bushy area but we were later intercepted along the way.

“The driver had been instructed by our parents to collect us and take us to South Africa. I was on my way to visit my mother who works in South Africa,” she said.

Officials from the Immigration office, Social Services Department and police received the children from the Botswana officials.

In an interview Assistant Regional Immigration Officer in charge of Plumtree Border Post, Nqobile Ncube, said a number of parents working in the diaspora became desperate to spend the festive holiday with their children and in the process engaged the risky services of omalayitsha.

He said this was common during Christmas and school holidays.

Ncube said parents working in the Diaspora should ensure their children have proper travel documents to avoid exposing them to risks.

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