in on South African immigration authorities’ refusal to allow entry to Zimbabweans travelling to that country with minor children who do not have affidavits accompanying their passports.
Omalayitsha, who spoke to Chronicle yesterday said the number of people approaching them to help facilitate the smuggling of their children into South Africa had increased following the latest development.
“We are back in business and it is very good as we continue to get several people coming to us seeking our services. In fact, two days ago I managed to smuggle four children who had passports but did not have accompanying affidavits and had been denied entry by (South African) Home Affairs authorities at Beitbridge Border Post,” said one umalayitsha, who identified himself as Mr Mlotshwa.
Mr Mlotshwa said they were charging between R300 and R1 500 depending on whether the child has a passport.
He said most of his “clients” were Zimbabweans based in South Africa, popularly known as injiva.
“In most cases, minor children travel to South Africa for the holidays when schools close to join their parents based in that country. Most of these people who approach me are those working in South Africa as they want to spend time with their children during the holiday,” he said.
Another malayitsha who declined to be named concurred with Mr Mlotshwa and said: “Since the beginning of the month several people without the required travel documents have been approaching me so that I smuggle them.”
He said some of the money paid by those who would have approached them for assistance goes towards bribing immigration officers, police and security guards manning entry and exits gates on both sides of the border.
However, some the undocumented people are smuggled out of the country through undesignated entry points along the crocodile-infested Limpopo River.
This is despite the dangers of being attacked by armed robbery syndicates operating in bushy areas near the river.
Last week, a Bulawayo man was arrested for attempting to smuggle a group of 29 border jumpers from Bulawayo, among them 24 undocumented children, into South Africa through Beitbridge Border Post.
The children’s ages ranged between four and 12.
The suspect was arrested following the interception of his car, a South African-registered Nissan Hardbody pick-up, at a road block mounted near Malala area along the Beitbridge-Bulawayo highway.
A fortnight ago, scores of Zimbabwean women travelling to South Africa with minor children were left stranded at Beitbridge Border Post after the neighbouring country’s immigration officials turned them away as they demanded affidavits for the children.
According to South African immigration officials at the border, a parent or guardian intending to travel to South Africa in the company of minor children is now required to produce an affidavit signed by the other parent or both parents in the case of those travelling with a guardian before the child’s passport is stamped.
The document is required for children below the age of 17.
This is despite a conflicting official statement by the Head of Communications in the South African Department of Home Affairs, Mr Ronnie Mamoepa.
Mr Mamoepa, who is also the ministerial spokesperson in the SA Department of Home Affairs, recently said the conduct of immigration officials at Beitbridge Border Post was illegal.
The assistant regional immigration manager-in-charge of Beitbridge Border Post, Mr Charles Gwede, said they held a meeting with their South African counterparts over the issue during which immigration officials from the neighbouring country argued that the move was in line with their new immigration requirements.
There are indications that the new development could be aimed at reducing child trafficking across the Limpopo River.
Co-Home Affairs Minister Kembo Mohadi said recently his South African counterpart might have adopted the United Nations Protocols on the Convention against Transnational Organised Crime, one of them being child and women trafficking.
The development sparked an outcry from travellers who are complaining that their travelling rights were being infringed upon yet they had the necessary travelling documents.
In separate interviews, some travellers said they were now forced to resort to omalayitsha for assistance.
“South African immigration officials are doing an injustice to us by denying us entry simply because of an affidavit for a child below 17 years. I believe a passport is all that is needed for one to cross a border. We are now forced to approach omalayitsha to help smuggle our children,” said Ms Nomalanga Moyo of Nkulumane.
Another traveller, who declined to be named, said: “It is unlawful for South African Home Affairs officers to refuse our children entry yet they would be having the proper travel documents. Can you imagine I had to approach one local cross-border driver who facilitated in smuggling my two boys into South Africa for R300? We are calling on relevant authorities to look into the issue and address this challenge.”
Beitbridge-based regular cross-border drivers are also capitalising on the situation.
“I am into the business of ferrying groceries and household property from Musina to Beitbridge and I cross the border daily. I am now making extra money from people whose children do not have affidavits as I smuggle them using my car,” said Mr Nhamo Chuma, a local cross-border driver.