SA introduces stiffer penalties for human trafficking

Mashudu Netsianda Senior Reporter
CROSS-BORDER transport operators commonly known as omalayitsha caught smuggling undocumented travellers or those with expired passports or no valid visas, into South Africa, will now fork out a fine of R15, 000 per person. South African Home Affairs spokesperson Mayihlome Tshwete, in a statement, on Friday, said the new regulation was necessitated by an increase in the number of undocumented travellers, particularly from Zimbabwe being smuggled into the neighbouring country.

“Cross-border buses or taxis conveyance is liable for penalties of R15,000 per traveller when they transport undocumented travellers, or those with expired passports and no valid visa,” said Tshwete.

Two weeks ago, South African police in Limpopo province arrested two omalayitsha for smuggling 24 children and 10 adults from Zimbabwe into the neighbouring country through Beitbridge Border Post.

The two suspected traffickers, both Zimbabweans aged 27 and 52, were arrested following the interception of their vehicles along the N1 highway near Makhado town. The neighbouring country has also suspended the temporary importation of firearms and ammunition to Zimbabwe, Botswana and Mozambique.

“No person is allowed to take firearms through to Zimbabwe, Mozambique and Botswana. The South African Police Services (SAPS) officials are no longer permitted to keep firearms for temporary storage,” said Tshwete.

He said foreigners entering South Africa should have a passport valid for at least 30 days after the intended visit to the neighbouring country.

Children below the age of 18 travelling in or out of South Africa are also required to be in possession of unabridged birth certificates. However, where a visa was issued to a minor, the unabridged birth certificate forms part of the visa application, and is therefore not required as a supporting document.

“This is to protect children, ensuring we know who is taking them in and out of the country lawfully, and with permission of their parents,’ said Tshwete. A consent affidavit is also required from an absent parent listed on the birth certificate.

“If an absent parent listed on the birth certificate can’t provide consent, a court order must be obtained allowing the other parent to travel with the minor,” said Tshwete.

In the case of unaccompanied minors, parental consent affidavits from both parents are required containing details of the person who will receive the child and care for them in South Africa.

Last week South Africa introduced biometrics system that uses human characteristics for identification of travellers as part of measures to address the problem of people using fraudulently acquired travel documents to enter and leave the neighbouring country.

The enhanced Movement Control System (eMCS) biometric pilot project, which Home Affairs Minister Malusi Gigaba launched at OR Tambo International Airport last Tuesday, coincided with the festive period during which Beitbridge Border Post handles an increased number of travellers, mostly injiva who will be flocking home for the Christmas holidays.

It has since become a norm that every year between December and January, the SA Department of Home Affairs launches a crackdown on illegal South African passport holders intending to enter or leave the country through the Beitbridge border post.

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