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A group of 21 children who were allegedly smuggled into South Africa from Zimbabwe on Wednesday have been taken home by the Department of Home Affairs.
Limpopo police spokesman Lieutenant Colonel Mohale Ramatseba said on Thursday that a 32-year-old Bulawayo man had allegedly helped the children to cross the Limpopo River into South Africa on Wednesday morning.
"The children were referred to Home Affairs and taken back to Zimbabwe," Ramatseba said.
"The Bulawayo man paid a R2000 admission of guilt fine for smuggling illegally."
Ramatseba said the man had "apparently" been hired by children's parents.
He was to have transported the children, aged between one and 16, to Johannesburg from Bulawayo.
He was apprehended in South Africa at around 6am on Wednesday while loading the children into a car in a bushy area between the South African side of the border and Musina.
The man paid a fine and was handed over to the Zimbabwean police.
"More charges will be preferred against him upon completion of investigations," Zimbabwean police officer commanding Beitbridge Chief Superintendent Lawrence Chinhengo told the country's Herald Online newspaper.
The children were taken under the care of Save the Children Centre in Zimbabwe while investigations continued.
"We are yet to verify the suspect's claim that he was taking them to their parents," Chinhengo said.
"The suspect will soon be sent to court and we want to strongly warn all those involved in such criminal acts that their days are numbered."
Seven other men who were travelling in the same vehicle were also arrested for contravening the Immigration Act.
Among them, five had valid travel passports though they had opted to leave the country through an illegal crossing point, said Chinhengo. - Sapa