On Monday, Judge Bill Prinsloo in the Pretoria High Court, ordered the repatriation of eight Zimbabwean children who have been held by the Department of Social Development for well over three months. The children are now in the care of the Zimbabwean government.
The children had been taken into custody in November after they were discovered in a truck. They were travelling to Cape Town to be with their parents.
Judge Prinsloo said the Child Advocate's office "made all efforts to make consultations with the applicants" but that office "received no cooperation from the applicants in this regard" nor had they proved they were in fact the parents.
Prinsloo said, "The fact that they allowed their children, if it is their children, which is open to doubt, to travel without documentation in the company of strange other adults, at night, hidden at the back of a truck ostensibly from Beit Bridge to the Cape leaves one with some doubt ... about the suitability of these applicants to simply take possession of these eight children."
"I am fortified in my view that it may not be appropriate at this stage to release the children to the respective applicants," said Prinsloo. He granted the repatriation to Zimbabwe.
"I suppose that one is entitled to assume on the balance of probabilities that the Zimbabwe authorities will look after them [the children]," said Prinsloo.
Minister of Social Development Susan Shabangu welcomed the decision.
On Tuesday, Zimbabwe Ministry of Public Service, Labour and Social Welfare confirmed to GroundUp that it has started the process of tracing the families of the eight Zimbabwean children for reunion.
One of the parents told GroundUp that they are still in the dark. They do not know the arrangements that were made for their children when they reach Zimbabwe. "The social workers blocked us on WhatsApp application and they are not answering our phone calls," she said.
GroundUp acknowledges Erin Bates of ENCA for reporting on what Judge Prinsloo said in court