Zim, SA on pro­tect­ing chil­dren

Vuk'uzenzele - - General - SAnews.gov.za –

WIth the Num­Ber of un­ac­com­pa­nied and un­doc­u­mented mi­nors com­ing to the coun­try on the in­crease, South Africa is com­mit­ted to safe­guard­ing every child.

In Lim­popo, along the Zim­bab­wean bor­der, at least 70 un­ac­com­pa­nied mi­nors have been taken un­der the wing of the author­i­ties.

A del­e­ga­tion from the Zim­bab­wean Min­istry of Pub­lic Ser­vice, Labour and So­cial Wel­fare re­cently took part in a five-day bi­lat­eral meet­ing with the Depart­ment of So­cial De­vel­op­ment to look into the plight of Zim­bab­wean un­ac­com­pa­nied and sep­a­rated mi­nors liv­ing in South Africa.

The meet­ing in­cluded vis­its to child and youth care cen­tres across the coun­try. At the Tshi­tan­danani Child and Youth Care Cen­tre, in Makhado, chil­dren shared their sto­ries with the del­e­ga­tion.

Fif­teen-year-old Si­mon Jik­iza* from Masvingo, in Zim­babwe, crossed the bor­der il­le­gally in 2016, af­ter los­ing both of his par­ents. He tried to sell eggs in Zim­babwe, but this proved un­sus­tain­able and he de­cided to come to South Africa. “From Masvingo Vil­lage to Beit Bridge is about 288 kilo­me­tres and I walked with a plan, go­ing wher­ever I could sur­vive and find a bet­ter life,” he said.

Si­mon is now in Grade 8 and wants to write his life story so that other coun­tries can un­der­stand the plight of chil­dren in Zim­babwe. He is adamant that he is now bet­ter off and safer at the Tshi­tan­danani Child Care Cen­tre.

Dur­ing an Ind­aba on un­ac­com­pa­nied mi­nors, held in June, del­e­gates heard that the ma­jor­ity of un­ac­com­pa­nied mi­nors en­ter South Africa il­le­gally. Their rea­sons in­clude search­ing for bet­ter op­por­tu­ni­ties, mainly in the form of work or school­ing, or to join fam­ily mem­bers al­ready in the coun­try.

Look­ing af­ter all chil­dren

Un­ac­com­pa­nied mi­nors are de­fined as chil­dren who have been sep­a­rated from both par­ents and other rel­a­tives and are not be­ing cared for by an adult who, by law or cus­tom, is re­spon­si­ble for do­ing so.

In Novem­ber 2011, South Africa and Zim­babwe signed a Mem­o­ran­dum of Un­der­stand­ing (MOU) on So­cial De­vel­op­ment to look into so­cial se­cu­rity, wel­fare ser­vices, com­mu­nity de­vel­op­ment and un­ac­com­pa­nied and sep­a­rated mi­nors, amongst other is­sues.

The Depart­ment of So­cial De­vel­op­ment said it is un­able to pro­vide ac­cu­rate fig­ures on the num­ber of un­ac­com­pa­nied and sep­a­rated mi­nors in the coun­try. The depart­ment’s spokesper­son, Lumka Oliphant, said that South Africa - through the Chil­dren’s Act, the United Na­tions Con­ven­tion on the rights of the child and the African Char­ter on the Rights of the Child - is ob­li­gated to look af­ter all chil­dren within its bor­ders.

Mak­ing progress

Oliphant said sig­nif­i­cant progress has been made, in­clud­ing the in­tro­duc­tion of stan­dard op­er­at­ing pro­ce­dures which help un­ac­com­pa­nied chil­dren. The South African steer­ing com­mit­tee is led by the Depart­ment of So­cial De­vel­op­ment and con­sists of of­fi­cials from the de­part­ments of Jus­tice, Health, Home Af­fairs, Ba­sic Ed­u­ca­tion and In­ter­na­tional Re­la­tions and Co­op­er­a­tion and the South African Po­lice Ser­vice.

The Na­tional Steer­ing Com­mit­tee in­cludes in­ter­na­tional agen­cies, such as the United Na­tions Chil­dren’s Fund, United Na­tions High Com­mis­sioner for Refugees, Save the Chil­dren, In­ter­na­tional Or­gan­i­sa­tion on Mi­gra­tion and Lawyers for Hu­man Rights.

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