Man arrested for smuggling children
Unregistered cross-border transporters, commonly known locally as omalayitsha, keep on smuggling undocumented Zimbabwean children into South Africa through the Beit Bridge Border Post.
Last Sunday, South African immigration officials at the border intercepted a Gauteng-registered Toyota Quantum with 19 undocumented minors aged between two and 17 years on board and arrested the 33-year-old driver, Never Tshuma (33) of Emakhandeni in Bulawayo, who was transporting them. Soon after the interception, the children were deported and taken to the Save the Children UK centre in Beit Bridge.
Police spokesperson Chief Supt Lawrence Chinhengo said Tshuma would appear in court on charges of contravening a section of the Immigration Act (assisting border jumpers). “Our preliminary investigations indicate that the driver of the vehicle brought the children from Bulawayo. On arrival in Beit Bridge, he helped them cross the border into South Africa illegally,” he said.
Eleven of those children have since been identified by their parents. “The police continue to urge people to desist from crossing the border into South Africa illegally, as they risk prosecution. “We believe omalayitsha are part of human trafficking syndicates targeting vulnerable young children specifically as there is a demand for labour and sexual exploitation in South Africa,” he said.
Chinhengo warned parents against entrusting their children to unregistered cross-border transport operators. Zimbabwean parents living in South Africa often pay omalayitsha to facilitate the smuggling of their children across the border during holidays. Lately, the number of Zimbabwean children being smuggled into South Africa by omalayitsha, for fees ranging between R600 and R1 000, has increased.
This has largely been attributed to stringent South African immigration law. According to the new regulations, which were effected in May, a parent or guardian intending to travel to South Africa in the company of minor children are 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 reportedly required for children below the age of 17. The move is mainly aimed at curbing child trafficking. South Africa has adopted the United Nations Protocols on Convention against Transnational Organised Crime, one of them being child and women trafficking.