Zimbabwe has no record of child trafficking in SA
Zvamaida Murwira-Senior Reporter
Zimbabwe has no record of child trafficking arising from the reported interception of 42 buses carrying 443 unaccompanied children on the South African side of the Beitbridge Border Post as was reported by the media at the weekend.
Home Affairs and Cultural Heritage Minister Kazembe Kazembe yesterday said Government was concerned at such false reports, adding that if at all there had been an interception of those buses, the appropriate laws on trafficking in persons and immigration related charges would have been preferred on the bus crews as applicable to both South Africa and Zimbabwean laws.
Minister Kazembe said this at a post-Cabinet meeting briefing in Harare last night.
“We have noted with concern media statements attributed to the Minister of Home Affairs, Republic of South Africa, Dr Aaron Motsoaledi, alleging that 42 buses carrying 443 unaccompanied minors were intercepted at Beitbridge Border Post on the South African side. We wish to categorically state that no such incident occurred,” said Minister Kazembe.
“If at all there was a case of human trafficking of minors, the buses, the drivers and the crew would now have been arrested facing human trafficking charges as guided by the Trafficking In Persons legislation common to both jurisdictions in line with our regional and international obligations.”
He said Beitbridge Border Post is yet to get reports of the purported interception neither has it received children from South African authorities, deporting the children for entering in that country outside the confines of established legal provisions.
“To date, Beitbridge Border Post has no record of any 42 buses denied entry into South Africa or 443 minors intercepted or handed over to Zimbabwe authorities. If there is any information to the contrary, we hope to be advised through the well-established communication channels between the two countries,” said Minister Kazembe.
He said Government was aware that during festive periods, Zimbabwean parents resident in South Africa would be keen to invite their children in that country once schools closed.
“We are, however, aware that during the festive period, once schools close, Zimbabwe parents resident in South Africa, especially on Zimbabwe Exemption Permits, which do not allow for the inclusion of any dependants, invite their children to South Africa for the festive season. It is a requirement that the minors travel with their guardians accompanied by supporting affidavits obtained from their consenting parents in line with agreed procedures. However, of late, the South African authorities are not accepting commissioned affidavits preferring that the minors and their guardians tender affidavits commissioned by local courts,” he said.
“As Zimbabwe, we remain committed to cooperate with our South African counterparts and the region to ensure that movement through our borders remains safe, orderly and regular.”
Reports from Pretoria on Monday said South Africa’s Border Management Authority had blocked the attempted trafficking of 443 children under the age of eight from Zimbabwe into the neighbouring country over the past few days.
It was reported that a total of 42 buses intended for South Africa were stopped and searched in a sting operation at the border post in Musina, Limpopo.
South Africa’s Border Management Agency commissioner Mike Masiapato was quoted as saying they had activated the Zimbabwean officials to process them back into Zimbabwe.
“Out of that, we found 443 children under the age of eight that were in those buses without any parent or guardian. Fairly, they were then trafficked into South Africa. We were able to take them out of those buses. We then engaged Zimbabwean officials and handed them over to Zimbabwe for processing,” he was quoted as saying.
He said the they would temporarily extend operating times at busy ports of entry to facilitate fast and safe cross-border movements during the festive period as well as deal with anticipated high volumes of travellers.
Speaking earlier, the Minister of Information, Publicity and Broadcasting Services, Dr Jenfan Muswere said Government had taken note of reports of child trafficking of unaccompanied children at the Beitbridge Border Post.
“Government has taken note of the alleged interception of 42 buses at the Beitbridge Border Post which was alleged to be transporting 443 unaccompanied children under the age of eight years,” said Dr Muswere.