The Zimbabwe-South Africa Cross-border Coordination Committee for Unaccompanied and Separated Migrant Children (CBCCUSMC) has raised concern over the use of Zimbabwean children by illegal mining syndicates in the neighbouring country.
CBCCUSMC is made up of officials from the two nation’s social service departments, immigration, police, non-governmental organisations and human rights lawyers.
Speaking during a quarterly meeting held in Beitbridge last week, Zimbabwe’s Consul-General to South Africa Mr Batiraishe Henry Mukonoweshuro said they had roped in a number of stakeholders to deal with issues of child smuggling and involvement in illegal mining activities.
He said the mining syndicates were more pronounced in North West, Free State and Zeerust where there were a lot of disused mines.
“We have a challenge of young adults aged between 16 and 19 years who illegally cross the border to South Africa where they fall prey to illegal mining syndicates,” said Mr Mukonoweshuro.
“This is quiet disturbing considering that in some cases they spend close to two years in underground mine shafts and sadly fruits of such operations are enjoyed by the unscrupulous predators.
“We cannot tell the exact number of these children because they are scattered all over mining towns. So far we have 10 who were picked up by the South African police during a raid at one disused mine.”
Mr Mukonoweshuro said South African authorities had promised to intensify raids at most of the illegal disused mines in crime hotspot areas.
He said most of the young adults who fell prey to the syndicates were from broken families.
“This is unfortunate and sad scenario considering that a few months ago we lost many of our people in these disused mines,” he said.
“These children are used and abused by people who at times don’t pay them. We are working with the department of home affairs, the police and social services departments in both countries to minimise cases of irregular migration and child labour.”
Mr Mukonoweshuro said they were also disturbed by the rise in incidents of child smuggling between the two countries’ borders, which is rife during school holidays.
He said there was need to strengthen awareness programmes in the high migrant sending areas on issues around documentation and safe migration methods.
“We need to redouble our efforts as stakeholders in addressing the root causes to this trend,” said Mr Mukonoweshuro.
The Herald is reliably informed that since the creation of the CBCCUSMC in 2015, cases of children being deported from South Africa together with adults had stopped.
South African coordinator of the forum (CBCCUSMC), Mr Robert Mukwevho, said some of the syndicates had been operating since 2015.
“Among those who were arrested during an Easter Operation in North West were children who came illegally in South Africa from neighbouring countries amongst them from Zimbabwe,” he said.
“These children have been working in the illegal closed mines as Zamazamas (Amakorokoza). They have been there as back as 2015 underground and only came up to the surface around November 2017.
“The South African Police Services were raiding the illegal shafts/mines on regular basis and these children were found.”