Thirty children who were smuggled into South Africa in the back of a delivery truck‚ which had no windows‚ have been sent back to Malawi.
They were found near Rustenburg in the North West in July‚ after having travelled more than 2‚500km from Malawi squashed into the back the truck with adults. The vehicle had been stopped for speeding.
The children flew from (Johannesburg’s) O.R Tambo airport early on Wednesday morning‚” the police’s Directorate of Priority Crimes Investigation (Hawks) said.
“The adults were handed over to the Department of Home Affairs two days ago for deportation and they are expected to leave the country by the end of the week‚” the Hawks stated.
Police said the children were aged between 11 and 17 and had been cared for in safe homes while the Malawian Embassy was engaged.
The adults are between 18 and 28 years old.
Three Malawian nationals were arrested for trafficking but the charge has since been amended following an investigation.
Providing an update‚ Captain Tlangelani Rikhotso from the Hawks said the “victims” told investigators that they had stopped the driver as he was driving past.
“They alleged to have been stranded at a certain spot for four days without transport en route to South Africa.
“The matter was investigated thoroughly‚ leaving no stone unturned‚ including tracing relatives of the individuals who are based in South Africa and taking statements from them too.
“Investigations later revealed that this case was not a Trafficking in Persons case but rather‚ Smuggling of Persons under the Immigration Act.”
The driver‚ Jabu Sailesi (48)‚ and an occupant of the vehicle Mussa Kaswili (31) now face a charge under the Immigration Act. They will appear at the Rustenburg Magistrate Court on 13 February 2017 for trial.
A third person initially arrested‚ Uka Wasili (30)‚ was not charged under the Immigration Act as he was in possession of a valid passport when the offence was committed‚ the Hawks said