Last Updated: Thursday, 24 April 2014, 11:39 GMT

Zimbabwe: Children follow shoppers to South Africa

Publisher Integrated Regional Information Networks (IRIN)
Publication Date 31 July 2008
Cite as Integrated Regional Information Networks (IRIN), Zimbabwe: Children follow shoppers to South Africa, 31 July 2008, available at: http://www.refworld.org/docid/4896c46fc.html [accessed 25 April 2014]
DisclaimerThis is not a UNHCR publication. UNHCR is not responsible for, nor does it necessarily endorse, its content. Any views expressed are solely those of the author or publisher and do not necessarily reflect those of UNHCR, the United Nations or its Member States.

MUSINA, 31 July 2008 (IRIN) - Zimbabwean children are being drawn to South Africa to run errands and perform piecemeal jobs for shoppers from their own country - who are heading south because of the unavailability of basic goods in their own country.

The South African border town of Musina has become a shopper's paradise for Zimbabweans; these days there appear to be more vehicles with Zimbabwean registration plates than there are with South African ones. The town is also a regional trucking hub.

The collapse of Zimbabwe's economy, with annual inflation officially estimated at 2.2 million percent, has turned Musina into a boom town.

"Don't worry mkoma [brother] I will look after your car, your small boy is here," a boy shouts to the Zimbabwean driver who has parked his car outside the supermarket.

The 14-year-old Zimbabwean boy, who declined to be identified, told IRIN: "I do not charge a fixed amount - some give me R5 [US$0.65] per car, some give me food, and some just drive away."

Polite Mpofu, 15, who gathers with other children at a South African café frequented by truckers as night falls, earns money by loading and unloading goods from taxis and buses crossing the border. Barefoot and dressed in rags, he says travellers rely on his services.

Talent Dube, 13, from Zvishavane, told IRIN his main business was collecting discarded water bottles in South Africa and then selling them in Zimbabwe, where they are in huge demand.

"I make more money in South Africa, especially when I carry the 20 litres of fuel - I am paid R10 [US$1.30]. The Zimbabweans across the border pay in Zimbabwe dollars, which cannot buy anything," he said, waiting for a driver to leave the food promised to him.

A security guard at a truck stop told IRIN that there appeared to be more children coming to South Africa since the disputed elections in Zimbabwe in March and June.

"Some of the children come in from Zimbabwe in the morning and return in the evening. They go through the border and no one seems to do anything to stop them from crossing," said the guard, who declined to be identified. "I am worried about the little girls who enter the parking lot for the trucks, one wonders what happens in the dark, the girls can be raped."

Sally, 14, from Zimbabwe, earns money by running errands for street traders. She told IRIN that the South African police did not arrest or interrogate the younger children, although this was not the case with children in their late teens. "We actually sleep next to the police houses at night, we are safer there," she said.

A 2007 report by Save the Children (UK): Children on the move - Protecting unaccompanied migrant children in South Africa and the region, said the main pull factors for most of the unaccompanied migrant children living in South Africa stemmed from the belief that they had a better chance of finding work or other income-earning opportunities and going to school than if they remained in their home country.

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