Zimbabwe’s ministry of public service, labour and social welfare has said it had not been made aware of the 443 children who were allegedly trafficked and were stopped by the South African Border Management Authority (BMA) from entering SA on 42 buses.
This comes after BMA Commissioner Dr Michael Masiapato, during a media briefing on Sunday, said the newly established BMA intercepted nearly 44 000 people trying to illegally enter South Africa, arrested more than 2 000 for various crimes and seized stolen vehicles and drugs.
He said 443 children, under the age of eight, who were trafficked from Zimbabwe into South Africa were recently intercepted by border patrollers, adding that human trafficking was becoming a serious problem.
“Just last night, a sting operation conducted by the Border Guards, the Home Affairs Anti-Corruption team, and members of SAPS stopped and searched 42 buses at the Beit Bridge border post and found about 443 children under the age of eight who were travelling without parents or guardians being trafficked into South Africa. We denied them entry and activated the Zimbabwean officials to process them back into Zimbabwe,” he said.
Masiapato, who was giving an overview of key successes since the pre- and post-transitional period of April 2023, said that since April this year, the MBA intercepted more than 44 000 individuals attempting to illegally enter South Africa. They were arrested, fingerprinted, declared undesirable and deported.
He added that more than 279 stolen cars were prevented from being taken out of the country in the past few months, and more than 100 000 people were prevented from entering the country, for various reasons including that some of them were wanted by Interpol.
On Monday, in a statement circulated on social media, Minister July Moyo said: “The ministry is concerned with information released by the South African Border Management Authority (BMA) on 3rd of December alleging that 443 unaccompanied Zimbabwean below the age of 8 years were intercepted in South Africa on fears of child trafficking and were handed over to Zimbabwe authorities.
“To the contrary, the two Border authorities on both the Zimbabwean and South Africa side have not received any official communication or confirmation on the alleged 443 children as reported in some publications.”
The Zim authorities, in their statement, said it had, according to their records, seen only 124, not 443 children.
“The ministry would like to advise the nation that during the period of 25 November and 3 December 2023 … a total of 124 children (71 males and 53 females) were intercepted and handed over to the Department of Immigration at the Beitbridge border post,” Moyo said.