Government yesterday said it was taking care of eight children recently repatriated from South Africa after they were smuggled into that country by an illegal transporter based in Chitungwiza. The children were repatriated on Tuesday last week. They were received at the Robert Mugabe International Airport by officials from the Ministry of Labour and Social Welfare. In a statement, Labour and Social Welfare Minister Petronella Kagonye said the children would be reunited with their families when investigations were complete.
"The children, whose ages range from three-fourteen years were repatriated by the South African Government, after having been found without requisite identity documents, in November 2017.
"Our embassy in South Africa was immediately informed about this development, leading to further communication between Zimbabwe's Ministry of Labour and Social Welfare and their South African counterparts in the Department of Social Development.
"The children arrived at the airport in the escort of four government officials from the Department of Social Development led by the Director for Adoptions and International Social Services Dr Tebogo Mabe. Our officials from the Social Welfare Department received the children from their South African counterparts on their arrival," she said.
Minister Kagonye said the children were victims of child smuggling and were illegally migrated to South Africa in November last year through unlawful crossing points in Beitbridge.
She said South African police details apprehended the children at a shopping mall in Rustensburg, South Africa, while in transit to Johannesburg.
"It is alleged that a Malaicha who stays in Chitungwiza allegedly facilitated the smuggling of the children in a haulage truck which also had adults, potentially exposing them to further risk," said Minister Kagonye.
"Clearly, this is a coordinated syndicate facilitating the smuggling of children and in this case these arrangements were made by the parents of the children resident in South Africa.
"We also learnt that they were in constant contact with the Malaicha's during the ill-fated journey from Zimbabwe to South Africa.
"From the interviews which officers from the Social Welfare Department held with the children, it was clear that they (children) went through a traumatic experience starting off from the day they congregated at the Malaicha's residence in Chitungwiza, before stopping over at another alleged second residence in Masvingo, en-route to the Republic of South Africa."
Minister Kagonye said her ministry was actively working to ensure the psycho-social welfare of the children is restored.
"We also applaud our South African counterparts for having engaged with Zimbabwean authorities during the entire process. We also applaud the Department of Social Development, in the Republic of South Africa for further taking the children to Reamogetswe Child and Youth Care Centre in Rustensburg.
"The ministry continues to render necessary and appropriate support to the children, who were placed at a children's home on arrival from the Republic of South Africa," she said.