‘I thought I had done a good thing by sending them with this woman’ – grandmother of trafficked orphans

2015-06-30 08:13
Me. Bathabile Dlamini, minister van maatskaplike ontwikkeling, gister in Pretoria waar sy oor hulp vir vloedslagoffers gepraat het. Foto: Lisa Hnatowicz

Me. Bathabile Dlamini, minister van maatskaplike ontwikkeling, gister in Pretoria waar sy oor hulp vir vloedslagoffers gepraat het. Foto: Lisa Hnatowicz

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Johannesburg - The grandmother of the two orphans who were abducted and trafficked to Malawi about a year ago says she never would have let them go had she known what they would endure.

The two siblings, aged 20 and 14, were abused physically and emotionally by their abductors, said Social Development Minister Bathabile Dlamini.

They are currently being assessed at a place of safety, but had an emotional reunion with their grandmother last week, when a team from Interpol and the department of social development’s International Social Services brought them home.

The grandmother, who cannot be named in order to protect the identity of the siblings, told police that she was approached by the abductor, who told her that she was a former teacher and would take the children to the United Kingdom so they could be educated there.

The teenage boy, who is in Grade 8, had learning difficulties and the abductor, who claimed to be from Swaziland, told his grandmother that he would receive specialist care there.

The elderly woman, who survives on her pension and two child support grants, agreed thinking she was giving her grandchildren a better life.

Instead of taking the siblings to the UK, Dlamini said the abductor took them to Malawi.

The young woman (20) and boy (14) were overwhelmed with emotion when they saw their grandmother waiting for them at the arrivals section at the OR Tambo International Airport.

The siblings returned to South Africa in the last week of June and were welcomed by their grandmother. Picture: Leon Sadiki/City Press

The 20-year-old ran and embraced her grandmother.

For a minute or two they stood hugging each other, sobbing.

Later on the grandmother told City Press that she had waited for this day for a very long time.

The elderly woman said she had been worried because the woman or the children had not called her since they left home in July.

When she received a call from a foreign number she was excited, hoping that it would be her grandchildren telling her that all was well.

But she was shattered when she heard her grandson’s voice. He told her that they were in Malawi, that the woman was not treating them well and they wanted to come home.

“I was devastated because I thought I had done a good thing by sending them with this woman. From that day I have not been able to sleep thinking what could be happening to them,” she said.

The grandmother reported the matter to the police in October. Police spokesperson Lieutenant-General Solomon Makgale said an investigation was opened immediately.

“Working with the Interpol and South African High Commission in Malawi we were able to trace the children. But the alleged abductor is still unknown and we also still don’t know why she took children and how many other children were taken,” he said.

Dlamini said the team found that the woman was physically and emotional abusing the children. She said the siblings would be kept at a place of safety while investigations were continuing and “will be assessed by social worker and health professionals to ascertain their holistic well-being”.

Dlamini said the youngsters travelled to Malawi through Mozambique together with their alleged abductor, her husband and four other children.

“They got through the Mozambique border by paying a bribe and spent about three months travelling towards the border of Malawi,” she said.

“During this period they lived in various rented place and at some point they were evicted and slept in a taxi rank for a week. There were instances where they walked for two days non-stop, sometimes spending days without eating any food,” Dlamini explained.

The siblings and the abductor, together with her husband and four other children, eventually reached a village in Malawi in October. This is where the teenager was able to contact her grandmother and tell her that they were not in the UK but Malawi.

“Ever since I received a phone call from my grandson that they were being held captive in Malawi by the woman who took them, I have not been able to sleep or eat. Each time I closed my eyes I could see my grandchildren crying out to me to come and get them,” she said.

Dlamini raised concern about the growing “culture of getting used to strangers” and how parents or caregivers easily give away their children to strangers.

“There needs to be repercussions for people who give away children to strangers. Parents are there to safeguard children and if they are the ones giving them away they must face consequences,” she added.

Read more on:    bathabile dlamini  |  malawi

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