News24

Selling of babies 'widespread'

2010-05-24 15:39

Cape Town - Although Johannesburg is a flash point, selling babies or renting them out is a widespread phenomenon across the country, says a social worker at Child Welfare South Africa.

A joint report by Eyewitness News and Carte Blanche showed on Sunday that there was a thriving business involving the sale and rental of babies to beggars by their mothers in Johannesburg's city centre.

"It's obviously more rife in Johannesburg because more unemployed people go there to find opportunities. People still see it as the city of gold," Marihet Infantino told News24.

The organisation works with more than 250 member organisations and outreach projects in communities countrywide.

Syndicate

Infantino recalled an incident involving a woman who wanted to sell her baby for R1 000 at a Johannesburg intersection and reduced the price to R100 after no buyers approached her. She was removed from the intersection by police.

"They also borrow each other's babies, form some sort of syndicate and share the money," she said.

"A lot of times it's desperation. It takes a lot of guts to go stand at a robot and be treated the way some of these people are treated."

She said the high cost of crèches was also a contributing factor.

"There aren't a lot of cheap ECD (Early Childhood Development) programmes around," she said.

Drugged

Infantino said she was even more disturbed by reports that the babies and toddlers were sometimes drugged to induce sickness and earn more sympathy.

"To us that is huge. That can lead to irreparable damage to the child... emotionally, psychologically," she said.

Infantino said when these children were placed in the organisation's care, it was difficult to place them with new families because of the damage suffered.

According to people interviewed in the report, a "rent a baby" operation was also being run from the Central Methodist Church, where more than 2 000 homeless people, mainly Zimbabwean refugees, are sheltered.

The church's Bishop Paul Verryn told News24 he was unaware that such activities may be taking place at the church, but that he would "follow up" on the reports.

"If people want to use the church for that kind of nefarious activity, that is not the kind of thing we would like to be associated with," he said.

Women fed at church

He said should the reports prove to be true, it would be important to know what would drive women in the church to the point of doing business with their babies.

"It can't be because they are not eating," said Verryn.

He said apart from being provided with food, the church also ran a skills development programme for isolated Zimbabwean women in South Africa.

The church has in the past come under fire after reports that criminal activity and child abuse may be taking place surfaced.

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