Six more smuggled kids to be repatriated
Mashudu Netsianda, Senior Reporter
SIX more Zimbabwean children who were smuggled to South Africa by omalayitsha through Beitbridge Border Post will be repatriated back to the country on Thursday as the governments of the two neighbouring countries intensify the fight against child trafficking.
Speaking during the Zimbabwe National Council for the Welfare of Children (ZNCWC)’s 50th dinner awards ceremony in Harare last week, the Minister of Labour and Social Welfare, Cde Petronella Kagonye, said the Government is concerned about the increasing number of unaccompanied minors being smuggled into neighbouring countries.
“We have had quite a number of children being smuggled to neighbouring countries, particularly South Africa. As Government we are trying our best to ensure that there is no unaccompanied child seen at our borders. We are expecting about six children to be repatriated from South Africa on 19 April,” she said.
Cde Kagonye said they were working with the South African government to address the challenge.“As Government we have been working together with our South African counterparts to ensure that there is no unaccompanied child who crosses the border because we want to ensure the safety of children,” she said.
Cde Kagonye said most of the cases of children being smuggled to South Africa were recorded during school holidays.
“We have realised that most parents went out of the country and left their children in Zimbabwe. So they try by all means to smuggle their children, especially to South Africa which is very close during school holidays, but unfortunately they wouldn’t be having the necessary documents,” she said.
The South African Department of Social Development has a Memorandum of Understanding with the Ministry of Labour and Social Welfare on matters related to unaccompanied and undocumented minors.Last month the South African government repatriated eight undocumented Zimbabwean children who were last year smuggled into that country.
The children, aged between three and 14 years, were brought into the country through Robert Gabriel Mugabe International Airport, a day after a Pretoria-based North Gauteng High Court Judge Bill Prinsloo dismissed an urgent chamber application by the minors’ parents who sought an order interdicting their repatriation by the Department of Social Development.
The minors were accompanied by South African police and officials from the Departments of Social Development, Home Affairs and International Relations and Co-operation.
The children were smuggled into the neighbouring country last November. They were travelling in a truck to join their parents in Cape Town for the Christmas holiday.
The driver of the truck they were travelling in was reportedly in possession of 15 passports — none of which belonged to the minors in transit. The truck was intercepted at a service station in Rustenburg after police received a tip-off by people who suspected that the minors were victims of human trafficking.While in South Africa the children were not able to see their parents and they were also not allowed to speak to them.
Despite stiff fines imposed by the South African Home Affairs on omalayitsha caught smuggling undocumented travellers or those with expired passports or no valid visas, into that country, cases of smuggling of such persons continue to rise.Those caught smuggling undocumented persons pay a fine of R15 000 per person.
Last December more than 100 children without requisite travelling documents were repatriated to Zimbabwe.The Zimbabwe-South Africa Cross-Border Coordination Committee for Unaccompanied and Separated Migrant Children has on many occasions raised a red flag against the rampant smuggling of minors into the neighbouring country.
The committee is made up of officials from the two countries’ social service departments, immigration, police, non-governmental organisations and human rights lawyers.