High court interdict asked to prevent Social Development from evicting children
Keeping Zimbabwean parents in the dark about their children's whereabouts is "callous"‚ advocate Simba Chitando will argue in the Pretoria High Court on Friday afternoon.
He has asked for an urgent high court interdict to prevent the children being returned to Zimbabwe without their parents.
The children were travelling unaccompanied in a truck from Zimbabwe to Cape Town in November to join their parents‚ who work here illegally.
The department of social development has kept the children in an undisclosed location‚ saying they had been trafficked. It will not reveal the whereabouts of the children to their parents‚ who learned through the media that the children would be repatriated to Zimbabwe without them.
Chitando has twice gone to court to argue that the every day the children spend away from their parents is painful and that they must be reunited.
The department of social development says it has a children's court order to return the children to Zimbabwe.
Chitando argued this is unlawful‚ as their parents weren’t involved in the decision. In papers he says: "The department of social development has provided evidence that confirms the fact that the children were detained‚ went through the children’s court without the applicants' knowledge‚ and are set to be repatriated.
"The callous way that the biological parents have been kept in the dark‚ without forthcoming explanation from the department‚ has left them to assume they have been stripped of their parental rights."
The department said through the media it wants to take the children back to Harare and then allow Zimbabwe to ask authorities to trace the parents.
But Chitando argues that the Trafficking Act requires that authorities need to trace the parents before repatriation and the department is behaving unlawfully. "More significantly‚ tracing efforts are pointless. We already know where the parents are."
Parents also have to be given the chance to repatriate the children themselves in line with the law‚ he argues.
The department of Social Development argues back that the parents are not who they say they are: "It is inconceivable that the parents want this court to believe and accept that it is okay to have your child transported with 20 or so strangers [...] in one truck from as far as Beit Bridge to Cape Town."
Chitando has provided documentation to prove that the parents are in fact who they say they are and argues that it is in a child's best interest to be with its parents.
"For an infant‚ there is no better 'care arrangement' than with the biological parent. The biological parents are in Cape Town."
The office of the family advocate is expected to hand in a report on Friday about the parents' suitability to look after their children. The advocate was forced to get involved after Chitando secured an order in February for him to do so.