Shock as three-month-old is deported without mom

15 January 2012 - 02:34 By SIMPLICIUS CHIRINDA

A three month-old baby was deported to Zimbabwe after her mother ran away from South African police rounding up deportees.

And according to Zimbabwean deportees and NGOs in Beitbridge, the infant is one of many unaccompanied minors deported by South African police.

The three-month-old is being sheltered at the Save the Children Repatriation Centre for Children in Beitbridge, where staff have named her Vanessa.

She was abandoned by her mother along the border between Zimbabwe and South Africa when she ran away from the South African patrol police in the first week of December.

"The situation is so sad. Many children are abandoned when their parents are intercepted by the South African police as they try to cross into South Africa illegally," Alec Muhoni, a senior child protection officer at Save the Children, told the Sunday Times.

"The South African police are not supposed to deport children but they are not following the regulations. They just deport them and mix them with adults during deportation."

However, the South African police denied the allegations.

"We don't deport people, we only arrest and give the people to the immigration department. It is not our mandate to deport people. If there are police officers deporting people across to Zimbabwe they are acting outside the law," said South African Police Services spokesman Vish Naidoo.

He said those making the allegations were just bitter about being deported.

At the time of writing, the Save the Children repatriation centre was teeming with about 40 children, who were brought there by police after they were intercepted while being trafficked to South Africa.

Muhoni said they have had several cases of children, including a group of toddlers, who were deported back to Zimbabwe after being intercepted by the South African police while in transit to towns in Africa's largest economy.

Several deportees told of how young children are mixed with older people during deportation, exposing them to dangers such as abuse. Home Affairs Department spokesman Ronnie Mamoepa also dismissed the allegations.

"There is no such thing as deporting children, we have a stakeholders meeting with Zimbabweans here and we have no such reports," said Mamoepa.

So far, nearly 7000 people have been deported from South Africa to Zimbabwe since the beginning of October last year, according to the Zimbabwean Department of Immigration.

Among them is Brighton Tagwira from Gokomere in Masvingo, who accused the South African police of treating him like a criminal. "We feel like animals," said Tagwira.

Tambudzai Mawunganidze, 30, said: "We were kept in jail for too long and felt like criminals because they mixed us with South African criminals."

Rachel Dube added: "Men and women were mixed together in custody and some of the people we met inside were hard-core criminals." She was also angry that she had no time to pack her belongings which she had bought for Christmas.

Chairman of the parliamentary portfolio committee on Home Affairs, Paul Madzore, said: "There is a need to talk to the South African government to treat Zimbabweans more humanely, but the main problem our people face is unemployment."

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