Child trafficking: Zim govt hits back at South Africa claims; says numbers inflated

Child trafficking: Zim govt hits back at South Africa claims; says numbers inflated

By Lenin Ndebele I News24

The Zimbabwean government has begun investigating the “heinous offence” of trafficking children into South Africa – but has disputed that South Africa sent back 443 unaccompanied children under the age of eight.

According to Zimbabwean records, there are only 124 children, most of whom have already been reunited with their families.

“The ministry would like to advise the nation that during the period of 25 November and 3 December 2023… a total of 124 children (71 males and 53 females) were intercepted and handed over to the Department of Immigration at the Beitbridge border post,” said the Minister of Labour and Social Welfare, July Moyo.

The government said the children were travelling by public transport and were “attempting to cross the border without the requisite travel documents”.

Others were travelling “without an accompanying parent or guardian”.

To date, 101 have been reunited with their families, while 23 remain at the reception centre in Beitbridge.

Moyo said the majority of children were from the southern part of the country, Bulawayo and Matabeleland South.

Some of the parents of the children reached out to Nicholas Mabhena of the African Diaspora Forum.

READ | Why there’s an influx of smuggled Zimbabwean children into SA every December, and why it won’t stop

In a statement, Mabhena said some of the children were accompanied by their guardians, mostly grandparents, but the argument by the South African Border Management Authority was that the children were not with their parents.

“The problem arose at the border. According to the parents, the border management officials said that [grandparents] were not the biological parents of the children,” he said.

More than a million Zimbabweans live and work in South Africa, and it is suspected the parents were planning to spend the Christmas holidays with their children after the closure of the school year on 1 December.