Lebombo border, highway of crime for the whole of Africa

NELSPRUIT – The Lebombo border has came under the spotlight as the highway of crime in Africa. This transpired at a meeting on Tuesday morning by the international organisation, End Child Prostitution, Child Pornography and Trafficking of Children for Sexual Purposes (Ecpat).

Researcher Ms Joan van Niekerk organised the meeting and invited various stakeholders in the area, including members of Komatipoort SAPS, Childline and Child Welfare social workers, as well as members of the premier’s office and home affairs.

The purpose was to discover what was happening to children in regard to the sex-trade industry in tourist destinations.

Police members explained that they were dealing with approximately 30 cases a day.

“Old men are producing legal marriage certificates to child brides from Mozambique while we intervene,” said a policewoman who wanted to remain anonymous.

She also explained how the a nine-year-old bride threatened to kill herself if they arrested her husband.

“I did not take the child seriously and when I arrested the old man, we found that she had hanged herself.”

The police of Komatipoort said they all felt the area was critical when it came to trafficked children, sexual abuse and the drug trade.

“We arrest nearly 30 members of syndicates during one day at the border for kidnapping and rape. The next day there are 30 more to take their place.”

They also stated that the children who had been exposed to abuse were misusing or distributing pornography at schools. “We even had a case of a five-year-old who raped a two-year old.”

The police expressed concern about rumours of women who were having baby girls with Somalian immigrants, who would then vanish with the children. They urged the public to contact police in these cases, even if it were the neighbours as there were too many reports but no cases opened.

The social workers told the group about truck drivers using the N4 from Maputo to Nelspruit to transport girls for sexual purposes.

“They go willingly to these men as they come from poverty-stricken areas and they want to be in South Africa.”

The group confirmed that even when they had rescued children from their perpetrators and sent them back to their families, they returned to South Africa of their own accord.

“We are fighting a losing battle as a lot of children are being sold for money by their own families.”

According to the social workers, the increase in young children being raped, with even a four-month-old baby having been a victim, was because of the myth that having sex with a virgin could cure HIV/Aids.

Yet all agreed in the meeting that the worst-hit area for atrocities was Komatipoort due to the border being used as a criminal highway for the rest of Africa.

“We even see them bring women in from Cameroon.”

“Even the shopkeepers in the town are corrupt. Komatipoort is like hell on earth,” concluded a policeman.

Tereasa Ferrari

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