By Alex Bell
22 January 2013
More Zimbabwean children have been found in South Africa after they were smuggled across the border, just over a month after a Bulawayo man was imprisoned for smuggling 17 other kids.
Six Zimbabwean children were found at the Swartkop border gate in South Africa on Monday. According to local police two Somali men were found with the children, trying to transport them illegally into the country.
The six children are among 23 other Zimbabwean youngsters that South African authorities have placed at welfare centres across the country in recent months.
Last year a 33 year old Bulawayo man called Never Tshuma was caught in South Africa with 17 undocumented children, and has since been sentenced to eight months in prison. In that case, the parents of the 17 children had paid Tshuma to transport their children to South Africa, so they could be reunited.
Diana Zimbudzana from the Zimbabwe Exiles Forum in South Africa told SW Radio Africa on Tuesday that the smuggling of children across the border is an ongoing problem, mainly because of the ‘limbo’ situation created by the South African government.
“Some Zimbabweans have been able to get permits here (in South Africa), but it is not always clear what happens with their children. Undocumented children are left in limbo,” Zimbudzana said.
She also warned that not all children are being smuggled to see their parents, and that many are targeted by illegal gangs that are active along the borders. She said border crossing is a danger for children, particularly if they are travelling without their parents.
Recent statistics have indicated that rape cases involving Zimbabwean children are increasing, which Bulawayo East MP Tabitha Khumalo warned was a real threat to children being smuggled. She said children are increasingly vulnerable in Zimbabwe, because of the breakdown of traditional family units.
“There is a gap that has been created by political crises and it is a gap in the family units. We have lost out humanity and we are sentencing a generation to death,” Khumalo said.
She added: “We as a society need to change and all be the custodians of our nations children. Plus, we need to create a conducive social, economic and political environment so people can get jobs and family units can be restored.”