A convoy of 11 vehicles carrying 133 undocumented men, women, and children was intercepted outside Polokwane.
More than 130 undocumented men, women, and children were intercepted by the Limpopo Provincial Tracking Team outside Polokwane on Thursday evening.
According to the Limpopo police, the team intercepted 11 vehicles allegedly loaded with 133 undocumented people, including children between six months and 17 years old, at around 8:30pm.
Brigadier Hlulani Mashaba said the police acted on information received and managed to locate a convoy of eight Toyota Quantums, two Toyota Hilux GD6 Double Cab bakkies with canopies, and one Toyota Fortuner travelling along the N1 North bypass gateway outside Polokwane.
“The vehicles were tactically approached, stopped, and searched and found to be overloaded with 73 underage children between six months and 17 years, including 60 adults,” said Mashaba.
ALSO READ: Zimbabwean govt says 124 children, not 443, intercepted at Beitbridge border post
Suspected victims of human trafficking
He added that the passengers could not provide the legal documentation for being in the country and were placed under arrest on the spot.
“Most of the passengers could not establish where they were going and were suspected to be victims of human trafficking,” Mashaba said.
The police confirmed that the police and other stakeholders, including the Department of Home Affairs and Social Development, were summoned to process the undocumented people and suspected victims of human trafficking.
The police’s investigations are continuing.
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Trafficking suspects arrested with 14 children
Earlier this week on Wednesday, the Hawks confirmed that two Zimbabwean nationals were arrested on allegations of trafficking in persons after the suspects, a 46-year-old man and 41-year-old woman, were seen boarding a bus in Midrand with 14 documented children aged between six and 14 years old.
Lieutenant Colonel Tebogo Thebe said the police were notified about the incident by a passenger on the bus that was travelling to Cape Town.
According to the Hawks, the bus stopped in Kimberley when the passenger called an off-duty police officer. The officer then notified the multidisciplinary team consisting of Kimberley Crime Prevention, Child Protection and Sexual Offences (FCS) Unit, Hawks Serious Organised Crime Investigation, and Kimberley Family Violence about the investigation and possible arrest.
Suspects claimed to be taking the children to their parents in Cape Town
Thebe said the suspects claimed to be taking the eight boys and six girls to their parents in Cape Town, but the information could not be verified, leading to the arrest.
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“The victims were inspected and looked dirty without any additional clothes or bags, and they looked hungry,” he added.
The Hawks confirmed that the provincial trafficking in persons rapid response team led by the Department of Social Development was contacted to assist with placing the kids at a place of safety and providing food.
Zim govt says 124 children, not 443, were intercepted at Beitbridge border post
On Saturday, the Border Management Authority (BMA) alleged that 443 unaccompanied Zimbabwean children below the age of 8 years were intercepted in South Africa on fears of child trafficking and handed over to Zimbabwe authorities.
However, the Zimbabwean Ministry of Public Service, Labour, and Social Welfare said the numbers were not adding up.
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“The two border authorities on both the Zimbabwean and South African sides have not received any official communication or confirmation on the alleged 443 children, as reported in some publications,” it said.
“The Ministry would like to advise the nation that during the period 25 November to 3 December 2023, [it] received a total of 124 children (71 boys and 53 girls) who were intercepted and handed over to the department of immigration at Beitbridge border post.”
Additional reporting by Vhahangwele Nemakonde