EIGHT children from Zimbabwe held by authorities in South Africa for three months face being repatriated despite being claimed by their parents who live in Cape Town.
The SA department of social development wants to repatriate the children who are in the country illegally.
They were travelling on November 11‚ unaccompanied and without documents‚ from Zimbabwe to join their parents for Christmas.
While on the back of truck‚ they were intercepted at a Rustenburg garage after observers assumed they were victims of human trafficking.
They have been held by the department of social development for three months in Rustenburg without being granted access to their parents‚ some of whom have tried to visit.
On Wednesday‚ three parents arrived at a Rustenburg safe house and were denied access to their children. The parents later learnt that the children had been moved to an unknown location.
The department of social development has refused to reveal their location.
A father of a six-year-old learned on Wednesday that his son had been moved to an unknown place. He told TimesLIVE: “They don’t want to tell us where they put our children … Please help us get our children.”
The father said: “Now the children are the slaves”. He meant that children kept at an undisclosed location were more similar to human trafficking victims than they were while travelling to their parents in Cape Town.
Department of social development spokesperson Lumka Oliphant said: “They are in the care and protection of the department of social development.
Zim govt ready for them
“The department has received confirmation from the Zimbabwean government of their preparedness to receive the children at the Robert Mugabe International airport next month.
“The department is now awaiting a waiver from the SA Department of Home Affairs.”
Immigration practitioner Leon Isaacson‚ who is involved in the legal battle to free the children‚ contacted senior officials in the department of social development who would not disclose the children’s location.
He said sending the children to Zimbabwe rather than releasing them into their parents’ care would be in breach of the Immigration Act.
The department of social development believes these children are victims of human trafficking as they were undocumented and unaccompanied in the truck.
But this is a case of undocumented migrants and not human trafficking‚ said Isaacson.
He said the parents came forward‚ confirmed their children were on the truck and said they were expecting them to be delivered by a driver in Cape Town.
The parents have asked the Pretoria High Court for an interdict allowing for the children to be released. The department of social development’s lawyers did not appear in court and gave no reasons why‚ when TimesLIVE enquired.
The Pretoria High Court ordered the office of the family advocate to get involved and prepare an urgent legal report on the matter. However‚ the family advocate only became aware of the case after being contacted by attorneys.
Family lawyer Simba Chitando confirmed on Thursday that the family advocate was now aware of the case and could produce a report.