SA to repatriate 'missing' Zim children
Parents are planning to lodge an urgent court application to keep them here
South Africa is sending eight children, aged between two and 10, back to Zimbabwe after holding them in an undisclosed place since November.
But their parents who live in South Africa have now lodged an urgent court application to stop the repatriation of their kids.
The whereabouts of the children were still unknown last week, leaving their parents who live and work in South Africa frantic.
The group of children were on their way from Zimbabwe to South Africa to visit their parents last November when authorities stopped the truck and placed the children in a “safe house” in Rustenburg, unbeknownst to their parents.
Now the parents of the eight children will launch a bid in the High Court in Pretoria on Wednesday to stop their repatriation after the South African government confirmed they would be sent back to a shelter in Zimbabwe.
Their parents have been trying to gain access to their children but have been denied it repeatedly by social workers and police who were initially involved in the case.The Department of Social Development has not answered Times Select’s questions but an official said in an interview on television that the department had no proof of their identities.
The families’ advocate, Simba Chitando, said he had managed to collect birth certificates for seven of the eight children to prove that the parents are indeed their guardians.
The lawyer expects to be in the High Court on Wednesday, with affidavits of all parents and the documents to prove they belong to children.
Global Migration director Leon Isaacson, who is assisting the families, said the primary purpose of the interdict would be to stop the repatriation and unite the children with their parents.
“We have provided proof of location of the families and their parentage to South African and Zimbabwean authorities. We believe in the best interests of the children and that they should be reunited with their families, in line with the Constitution.”
Priska, a mother of one of the children who did not want to be identified, said she was out of her mind with worry.
“I don’t think he is still alive. I am so worried. Parents need to see their children. Why do these people say: ‘Don’t come’?”
She told Times Select she was bringing her child to South Africa because his caregiver in Zimbabwe was sick. She said she could not afford to travel back to Zimbabwe to fetch her child herself.
But while the court battle is unfolding, South African and Zimbabwean authorities are going ahead to send the children back to shelters in Zimbabwe.
The Department of Home Affairs has issued a waiver for their birth certificates, and the Embassy of Zimbabwe is issuing travel documents for their return.
“There is co-operation and information exchange between the South African Department for Social Development and the Zimbabwean Department for Social Welfare on this case,” said the South African head of International Organisation for Migration Richard Ots, director of International Organisation for Migration in South Africa.His organisation will repatriate the children.
“This case is yet another reminder of the human tragedies associated with irregular migration,” said Ots.
“It is important to keep in mind that the children were not separated from their parents by IOM or by either government, but the parents chose to migrate from Zimbabwe to South Africa without their children. Presumably, they left them behind in what they considered good care at that time ...
“Initially these children will be repatriated to shelters in Zimbabwe, and soon after, hopefully put in the care that the Zimbabwean Department for Social Welfare considers to be in the children's best interest.”
He said children who were smuggled into the country often ended in situations where they are exploited as cheap labour in farms, mines, factories or end up as beggars.
“The quick repatriation of irregular and unaccompanied migrant children is often considered to be in their best interest.”
Home Affairs spokesman Thabo Mokgale said: “The Department of Home Affairs is working with the Department of Social Development as well as Zimbabwean Consulate for the safe return of the children to their country of origin.”