SAFEGUARDING CHILDREN: SOUTH AFRICA-ZIMBABWE CROSS-BORDER COLLABORATION

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  • The Department of Social Development held its quarterly cross-border meeting with Zimbabwe to ensure the safety of children during the Easter holiday, focusing on protection measures during border crossings.
  • Collaborating closely with the Border Management Agency, representatives from various social development offices and organisations attended the meeting, including the Zimbabwean Consular General’s Office in Johannesburg.
  • Agreements were made to strengthen referral mechanisms, expedite family tracing and reunification, and provide aftercare and support post-repatriation, with officials stationed at Beitbridge and Groblersbridge to ensure legal compliance and child welfare.

In anticipation of the Easter holiday, the Department of Social Development convened its quarterly cross-border meeting with counterparts from Zimbabwe on 26th March 2024. The objective is to ensure the protection of children crossing borders between the two countries during the upcoming long weekend festivities.

The Department of Social Development collaborates closely with the Border Management Agency to safeguard and provide care for children. Representatives from Musina DSD, Vhembe DSD District Office, Limpopo Provincial Office, as well as National DSD, Red Cross, and Save the Children, attended the meeting.

The Zimbabwean Consular General’s Office in Johannesburg, which assists in verifying the citizenship of children and issuing necessary documents for repatriation, was also among the stakeholders present at the meeting.

In the meeting it was agreed that the following should be strengthened namely:

  1. Referral mechanisms, 
  2. Fast-tracking of family tracing and reunification and 
  3. Aftercare and support post repatriation to the families to avoid the recurrence of children crossing over again to South Africa.

Officials from the Department of Social Development will be present at Beitbridge and Groblersbridge over Easter to ensure that the processing of children complies with the law. The department is committed to providing necessary care and protection for all children within its borders.

South Africa is obligated through the Children’s Act, the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNRC) and the African Charter on the rights and welfare of the child and any child found to be undocumented and/or unaccompanied must receive the necessary care and protection.

This includes a thorough assessment before they can be safely integrated with families in their home countries. The Department of Social Development has a cross-border Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with Zimbabwe and Lesotho, especially on children.

The MOU is about cooperation in relation to the provision of social services between the two countries.

In the realisation of this cooperation, there are cross-border meetings quarterly to discuss issues faced by unaccompanied and separated children on the move, seeking solutions and unblocking challenges that are in the best interest of the child.

The Department of Social Development continues to engage the respective country authorities through the MoU to intensify their efforts during every holiday season to make sure all children are documented and accompanied before entry into South Africa.

The department works with international organisations like Save the Children and UNICEF to make sure that the rights of children on the move are protected.

UNICEF estimates that South Africa has the largest number of children on the move.

The department will also send its officials who work in the Directorate of Trafficking in Person and Victim Empowerment Programme to highlight and prevent any person from being trafficked.

The department is the custodian of the Trafficking in Persons Act and leads Pillar 4 of the Gender-Based Violence and Femicide National Strategic Plan. The Role of the Department of Social Development is the protection, care and support of victims of trafficking. Trafficking victims are accommodated soon after identification and receive psychosocial support with a focus on dealing with the trauma they experienced during exploitation by traffickers. 

 

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