Police have arrested a 33-year-old Bulawayo man for attempting to smuggle 19 children aged between three and 17 into South Africa through the Beitbridge border post. The children had been collected from various suburbs in Bulawayo and were being taken to South Africa where their parents stay. There were nine boys and 10 girls in the group.
Never Tshuma of House 710 Emakhandeni is now in police custody pending his appearance in court. He is being charged with contravening a section of the Immigration Act (Assisting Border Jumpers).
It is understood that on Saturday morning , Tshuma, who was in the company of his friend only identified as Danny who was still at large, left Bulawayo driving a South African registered Toyota Quantum enroute to Gauteng Province in that country.
They were ferrying illegal immigrants, among them the 19 children.
Tshuma and Danny then assisted the children to evade the immigration formalities on the Zimbabwean side and proceeded to South Africa.
Upon getting to the South African border, they ordered the children and other passengers to disembark from the vehicle, while they worked a plan to gain passage into that country.
At around 7pm, the undocumented children were spotted by an alert immigration officer who requested to see their travel documents.
It was then established that Tshuma and Danny were facilitating their movement.
Danny managed to flee with the vehicle before the immigration officers could interview him. The undocumented children and Tshuma were taken to the Zimbabwe immigration authorities where Tshuma was subsequently arrested.
The children were then taken to the Department of Social Welfare for further assistance.
Police officer commanding Beitbridge District Chief Superintendent Lawrence Chinhengo yesterday said at least 11 children have since been identified by their parents and guardians.
He said intensive investigations were in progress and the police were keen to interview the parents over their conduct.
"We are urging members of the public to desist from such negligent behaviour as they are putting their children at high risk of human trafficking and other criminal vices," said Chief Supt Chinhengo.
"We are still pursuing Danny and hope to catch up with him soon."