Zimbabwean kids detained after being smuggled into SA

| Tariro Washinyira
Photo Tariro Washinyira

The parents and relatives of six Zimbabwean children and five adults have found themselves helpless after malaichas (their smugglers) were arrested for human trafficking.

They had arranged with Edward Maunganidze and his business partner to smuggle their children and relatives into South Africa via the Mafikeng Border Post. The family is in South Africa and wanted their children to join them.

Malaichas have become popular with many Zimbabweans for transporting goods, sending furniture and building materials home, bringing in Zimbabwean food and drink for sale, and also for the repatriation of bodies of relatives for those who cannot afford to buy the air tickets.

According to a family member, the youngest of the six detained children is only two years old. The father of one of the detainees, Ulysis Mudzerengi, went to the Mafikeng police, but he was not allowed to even see his child. He was told to go back to Cape Town. He was also told the children were to be deported because they came in illegally.

The children have been transferred to Rustenburg where there are better facilities.

Ulysis said the detained driver, Maunganidze, charged him R1,200. Smugglers charge between R1,200 and R1,500 depending on the age of the child; the younger the child, the higher the fee. Adults are charged R1,000 per trip because they do not need the driver’s concentration.

According to Mandy Mudarikwa of the Legal Resource Centre (LRC), the South African Children’s Act prevents the detention of children for immigration purposes.

“Section 138 of the Children’s Act prohibits the unlawful detention of children as well as their removal without a court order,” said Mudarikwa. “The Children’s Act is applicable to all children living within South African borders. It does not exclude children who have entered the country through irregular channels. In this case I am sure Mafikeng Police will not deport the children.”

Some Zimbabweans are angry with the minors’ parents. Mercy Shumba, a mother of three, said, ”What these parents did is negligent.” She explained that the parents, who were in Cape Town, could have got passports for the children at the Zimbabwean consulate in Cape Town and brought them into South Africa legally.

The driver’s wife, who preferred not to be named, said her husband had never transported human beings before. He never mentioned his intention to smuggle people into South Africa. She was shocked when he phoned and told her he had been arrested in Mafikeng, because all his documents are valid and the vehicle is in good condition. When she phoned Mafikeng police station, she was told her husband is a criminal and is not allowed to speak on the phone.

The Mafikeng police have not responded to GroundUp’s queries.

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