Tuesday, December 20, 2016

Zimbabwe, South Africa Warn Child Smugglers
December 21, 2016
Thupeyo Muleya Beitbridge Bureau
Zimbabwe Herald

Zimbabwean and South African authorities have intensified efforts to fight an increase in the smuggling of children between the two countries’ boundary line. It is reported that 120 children have been intercepted along the boundary line since the beginning of December, prompting security agents to redouble their efforts in fighting the crime. A further 20 children were this year alone repatriated from the neighbouring country after being intercepted between Musina and Polokwane, en-route to Johannesburg.

It is reported that 23 others, which were intercepted in Musina on Sunday evening are yet to be repatriated.

The police officer commanding Beitbridge district (Dispol), Chief Superintendent Francis Phiri, said they have since intensified patrol along the many illegal crossing points along the Limpopo River, which include Dite, Panda-Mine, Mai Maria, Tshivhalamakula and River Ranch areas.

Limpopo’s police spokesperson, Brigadier Motlafela Mojapelo, said besides patrolling the boundary line, they were mounting a number of road blocks on all major roads in the province.

“We are not taking lightly on issues of irregular migration and child smuggling. We are out in full force to get the criminals and also reviewing our strategies in line with the modus operandi used by these criminals.

“The law will descend heavily on both the child traffickers and the parents,” said Chief Supt Phiri. He added that they had deployed adequately and would not tolerate any lawlessness along the country’s border.

His counterpart, Brig Mojapelo said they were working with a non-governmental organisation — Stop Trafficking of people to ensure that they bring all the criminals to book.

“Our officers have been thoroughly trained on detection skills and how best to handle issues of trafficking. “The Stop the Trafficking Organisation is also lobbying our Parliament to treat this crime with the gravity accorded to matters relating to domestic violence.

“It is important that the Parliament should come up with stiffer and deterrent laws to prevent the wilful abuse of children,” he said. Brig Mojapelo said the patrols, were continuous and that they were ready to deal with the criminals.

He added that irregular migration was rife in Limpopo province due to their proximity to Zimbabwe’s border. Zimbabwe’s Consul-General to South Africa, Mr Batiraishe Mukonoweshuro said the rate at which children were being smuggled across the border was appalling.

“We are very disappointed with the increased number of children being smuggles across Beitbridge border post and unmanned illegal crossing points. “Parents are urged to ensure that children travel by orthodox and traceable transport to avoid putting them at risk of abduction,” he said.

Mr Mukonoweshuro added that it was sad that most parents paid a lot of money to the traffickers instead of properly documenting them at a lower cost. It costs between 1500 and 2000 Rands to illegal transport a minor between Zimbabwe and South Africa, while an ordinary passport can be obtained at 530 Rands (in Zimbabwe).

He said in most cases it was difficult to trace and re-unite undocumented children with their parents. “Letting minors travel with strangers and inadequate documents makes them susceptible to crimes such as rape and sodomy,” he said.

He said it was important for parents travelling with their children to ensure that they carry passports and long birth certificates (with both paternity and maternity details), and a power of attorney in the case of single parents travelling with the children.

In December last year two children were attacked and killed by a hippopotamus under the New Limpopo Bridge while being smuggled to South Africa. Another 5 year old girl disappeared after the man who had been hired to transport her to the south of the Limpopo disappeared when they were attacked by a hippo.

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