Abducted SA siblings suffered a terrible ordeal in Malawi - Minister

2015-06-25 21:31
Bathabile Dlamini. (Netwerk24)

Bathabile Dlamini. (Netwerk24)

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Johannesburg - The threat of transnational crime, in particular child trafficking, destroyed the lives of children and brought misery to their families, Social Development Minister Bathabile Dlamini said on Thursday.

Speaking to media upon the repatriation from Malawi of two siblings, a 14-year-old and a 20-year-old, who were abducted from South Africa under false pretences, she said the siblings from Mpumalanga were taken out of the care of their grandmother in July 2014 by a woman claiming to be from Swaziland.

The woman had posed as a former teacher.

"She had promised to send them to the United Kingdom [UK] to further their education. The matter was referred to our International Social Services unit in May this year by the Mpumalanga provincial department of Social Development," Dlamini said.

'They wanted to return to live with the granny'

"According to the grandmother, the 14-year-old child had learning difficulties and the alleged abductor had offered to take the child to the UK for specialist care which the grandmother could not afford.

"The promise of taking them to the UK to further their studies had also not materialised.  It has also been confirmed to us that the 14-year-old contracted malaria while in Malawi, but has since been treated and cured."

Following an investigation, the children were contacted and they said the woman was abusing them physically, by forcing them to perform heavy household chores. 

"They wanted to return to South Africa to live with the granny. A specialist team comprised of the Department of Social Development’s International Social Services and Interpol therefore travelled to Malawi on June 22 to return the child and youth safely back home," Dlamini said.

"The two were officially handed by the Malawian government to the South African government, represented by the South African Higher Commissioner to Malawi, Ms Cassandra Mbuyane-Mokone."

Travelled to Malawi through Mozambique

Dlamini said, from what had been learned from its social worker, who over a few days conducted in-depth interviews with the siblings, their lives since leaving South Africa had been an ordeal. 

They travelled to Malawi through Mozambique, together with their alleged abductor, her husband and four other children, because they had no proper documents. They got through the Mozambican border by paying a bribe and spent about 3 months in Mozambique travelling towards the border of Malawi.

"During this period, the group rented out different places and at times was evicted because of non-payment of rent. There was a stage where they ended up sleeping at a taxi rank for a whole week," Dlamini said.

"There were instances where they walked for 2 days non-stop, sometimes spending a whole day without food. When they eventually reached the border of Malawi, their alleged abductor approached the police and made a false claim that they were mugged and their passports and money had been stolen."

They were ultimately assisted to go through the border illegally. It took them another month from the border of Malawi to reach their village.

Since being handed over to the South African government, they have been kept at a transit home for children in Lilongwe.

Physical and emotional abuse

Social workers from Malawi have reported that the siblings were subjected to physical and emotional abuse and have asked the South African government to provide them with extensive counselling. 

"The child and youth will now be further assessed by social workers and health professionals to ascertain their holistic well-being with the view to providing the necessary care and support as well as a smooth reintegration into the country," Dlamini said.

"This case highlights the need for society as a whole to be vigilant about the trafficking of children, especially those communities situated in regions where South Africa shares borders with other countries."  

According to the UN's 2014 Global Report on Trafficking in Persons, in Africa and the Middle East between 2010 and 2012, sexual exploitation accounted for 53% of trafficking victims, while 37% were subjected to forced labour, servitude and modern day slavery. 

'106 000 people living in conditions of slavery'

"Unfortunately, people are trafficked into our country as well. Research shows that in South Africa, there are 106 000 people living in conditions of slavery, where modern slavery is defined as human trafficking, forced labour, forced marriage, debt bondage and the sale of children," Dlamini said.

"While South Africa has put in place legislative measures to prevent human trafficking, the country is still a source, transit point, and destination country for children, men and women subjected to trafficking for forced labour and sexual exploitation."

Read more on:    bathabile dlamini  |  malawi

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