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SA intercepts 443 trafficked Zim children in special op

“We were able to take them out of those buses. We then engaged Zimbabwean officials and handed them over to Zimbabwe for processing back into the country,” Border Management Authority (BMA) Commissioner, Dr Michael Masiapato, said while briefing the media yesterday morning.

SOUTH Africa’s Border Management Authority yesterday said it blocked the attempted trafficking of 443 children under the age of eight from Zimbabwe into the neighbouring country over the past few days.

No immediate comment could be obtained from the Zimbabwean authorities last night but sources at the border said at least 120 children had been received in the past week.

Most of the children believed to be trafficked were reportedly intercepted at the Beitbridge Border Post between the two countries on Saturday night.

A total of 42 buses intended for South Africa were stopped and searched in a sting operation at the border post in Musina, Limpopo.

“Out of that, we found 443 children under the age of eight that were in those buses without any parent or guardian. Fairly, they were then trafficked into South Africa. 

“We were able to take them out of those buses. We then engaged Zimbabwean officials and handed them over to Zimbabwe for processing back into the country,” Border Management Authority (BMA) Commissioner, Dr Michael Masiapato, said while briefing the media yesterday morning.

The BMA said Home Affairs would temporarily extend operating times at busy ports of entry to facilitate fast and safe cross-border movements during the festive period.

Masiapato says the temporary extension of operating times at the extremely busy ports of entry was expected to deal with anticipated high volumes of travellers.

“During the planning phase, we had an agreement with our immediate neighbours, which are Lesotho, Zimbabwe, Mozambique, Namibia, Eswatini, and Botswana on synchronising processes and other work modalities such as specialized port operating hours,” he said. 

“The Minister of Home Affairs has approved our request to extend the operating hours on identified critical ports on certain dates that we agreed without neighbouring countries.”

The authority had issued a stern warning to foreign tourists coming into the country to refrain from committing any acts of criminality as they would be deported back to their countries. Masiapato says they had put measures to detect illegal goods.

“Starting on Wednesday the 6th of December, our primary focus will be to improve the efficiency and effectiveness of operations. We will be curbing illegal movement of persons and goods with a focus on border-organised criminal elements and other general crimes. 

“We have measures in place to detect confiscated illicit goods and stolen vehicles. We therefore urge all travellers to desist from committing acts of criminality as they will be detected, arrested, declared undesirable, and deported.” 

Authorities in Beitbridge last night said they were yet to get communication from South Africa. 

“We are yet to get the update from South Africa. However, in the past week were received 120 children who were turned away for various reasons, “ said an official on the Zimbabwean side of the border. 

“At the moment we are tracing contacts for these children and all border officials are working together to minimise irregular migration of unaccompanied minors” —SABC News/Herald Reporter

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