JOHANNESBURG – A bid to block the repatriation of eight Zimbabwean children held in South Africa since November has been dismissed.
Judge Bill Prinsloo dismissed the urgent interim application in the North Gauteng High Court on Monday.
The matter ran into the evening with just hours until the scheduled repatriation of the children.
The Department of Social Development’s Lumka Oliphant says the outcome was a victory for those acting in the best interest of children. She added the department had acted in the children’s best interests.
This statement was supported by Judge Prinsloo’s judgement. He found there were serious concerns over how the children arrived in South Africa, unaccompanied and without documents.
“I am of the view that the best interests of the children were taken into account,” he said.
Judge Prinsloo did not rule on the question of the children being trafficked, and there was no evidence before the court to that effect, “there is a very strong inference to be drawn” that they may have been trafficked from Zimbabwe to South Africa.
The children were found in a truck which stopped in Rustenburg on 12 November 2017. According to police evidence, the truck driver was arrested and appeared on charges of human trafficking and contravening parts of the Immigration Act. He was granted bail and is next due in court on 19 March 2018.
Judge Prinsloo questioned the ostensible parents’ actions. He said, “The fact that they allowed their children - if it is their children, which is open to doubt - to travel to travel without documentation in the company of strange other adults, at night, hidden at the back of a truck ostensibly from Beit Bridge to the Cape, leaves one with some doubt [...] about the suitability of these applicants to simply take possession of these eight children."
The eight adults who claim to be the parents of the children, aged two to fourteen, took the Minister of Social Development and the Minister of Homa Affairs to court on an urgent basis.
At first, they wanted access to the children, whom they claimed to have not seen in months. However, once they learned of a planned repatriation they sought to block the government from moving the children from South Africa to Zimbabwe.
They accused the Department of Social Development from denying them access to the children.
In late February, Zimbabwe’s Ministry of Labour and Social Welfare wrote to South African authorities saying they were ready to receive the children on Tuesday, 6 March 2018.
The Department of Social Development told eNCA the repatriation would occur on Tuesday.