Cablegate: Alleged Child Trafficking From Mozambique to South

This record is a partial extract of the original cable. The full text of the original cable is not available.


E.O. 12958: N/A

1. (SBU) SUMMARY: A South African NGO, Amazing Grace
Children's Center, based in the town of Malelane near the
border with Mozambique, is sheltering half a dozen children
that appear to have been trafficked from Mozambique into
South Africa. This Center says it has been working with
trafficking victims - mainly children - for several years,
and seems quite active in a campaign to combat trafficking.
Emboff visited the Center on May 4 and gained preliminary
information about its work and the dimensions of the child
trafficking problem. Police in South Africa, particularly
the Child Protection Unit in the nearby provincial capital of
Nelspruit, are supportive of the Center and eager to assist.
Working in close coordination with Embassy Pretoria, we would
like to follow this initial visit with further contact to
learn more and see what steps can be taken on both sides of
the border to start to address the problem of child
trafficking. END SUMMARY.

2. (U) Emboff visited Amazing Grace Children's Center in
Malelane, Mpumalanga Province, South Africa on May 4 to
investigate reports of child trafficking from Mozambique to
South Africa. He met with the Center's director, Grace
Mashaba, and toured the few buildings on the premises. In
making the visit emboff was following up on some leads
provided by Justina Cumbe, the Mozambican director of a local
NGO in Maputo, FECIV, active in women's and children's rights
issues. This visit was coordinated in advance with Embassy

Amazing Grace Children's Center
3. (U) Mashaba, a Malawian by birth and formerly a child farm
worker in the area, started the Center more than a decade ago
as a haven for street children. She told emboff that in the
past several years the Center has taken in child trafficking
victims, most of them from Mozambique but some from other
neighboring countries. The Center staff try to locate their
families and arrange their return. In the interim, the
children are given shelter, food, and rudimentary schooling
(though much of the schooling is provided by the local school
system). The Center receives support from the South African
government of 22 Rand (roughly three and a half dollars) per
child per day. This is welcome but inadequate, and the
Center relies on supplementary outside donations to get by.

4. (U) The Center's location is on Factory Street (exact
number not given) in the small town of Malelane, telephone
27-13-790-0423, fax 27-13-790-1789. Ms. Grace Mashaba's
cell phone is 27-82-494-9709. The email address for the
Center is There is a Johannesburg branch
office, also known as the Amazing Grace Children's Center.
The telephone number for this branch is 011-9488-920; its
street address was not given.

5. (U) At the time of emboff's visit, Mashaba said, there
were seven Mozambican children at the Center, all of them,
evidently, the victims of trafficking. Five were away
attending school in the town but emboff saw one of the other

Peace Corps Helping Out
6. (U) While at the Center, emboff met a U.S. Peace Corps
volunteer working there. She will be leaving in September.
Her predecessor, according to Mashaba, after leaving the
Center in 2003 went to work on child trafficking issues in

Children on Farms
7. (SBU) Mashaba claimed that "hundreds" of Mozambican
children were working in surrounding farms in the area, some
of them trafficking victims. (Note: According to Mashaba,
under South African law one must be 18 years of age to work
as a laborer on a farm. End note.). The odd child, who for
some reason was not wanted on a farm, occasionally arrived at
her Center, after being found abandoned in the area and
brought in by local authorities. Mashaba said that local
police were helpful in this regard, mainly because they did
not want loose kids wandering the streets. She was not
popular with farmers, however. She added that that afternoon
she was going to "help bury" a Mozambican woman who had died
on a farm earlier, and then would be making arrangements with
the farmer for the children. She added that she planned in
the near future to approach labor unions working among the
farm laborers about the problem of trafficked children there.

8. (SBU) In the midst of talking with Ms. Mashaba, emboff had
an opportunity to speak by telephone with Inspector Shabangu
of the Nelspruit Child Protection Unit, an ally of Mashaba's
working in the nearby provincial capital of Nelspruit. He
agreed that many Mozambican children were working for farmers
in the area, many of them as "garden boys," and that child
trafficking was a serious problem. Asked why local people
did not often report incidences of child trafficking, he
replied that many were relatively simple and uneducated, and
accepted that others were "taking care" of the children. He
welcomed contact with the US Embassy in Maputo, noting that
there were instances of children from his area who went
missing across the border in Mozambique. He hoped the
Embassy could facilitate his making contacts with local
Mozambican police in such circumstances. Inspector Shabangu
can be reached by telephone at 27(0)83-688-1287.

Raising Awareness
9. (U) The Amazing Grace Children's Center has initiated
several activities to counter child trafficking in the past
year, according to one of its brochures. In March 2004, in
coordination with other local NGOs in the area and some from
neighboring Mozambique, the Center organized a two-day
conference on child trafficking in Hectorspruit, a farming
community a dozen miles from Malelane. Emboff was given a
copy of an article on the conference carried by the local
paper, The Voice of Nkomazi. According to the article,
"people are trafficked for a variety of purposes, such as
sexual exploitation, forced labour or slavery, forced
marriages, adoption or the removal of organs or other body
parts." In January 2005 the Center organized a soccer
tournament around the trafficking issue at the black township
of Naas, near the main Mozambique/South Africa border
crossing point of Ressano Garcia/Komatipoort. Inspector
Shabangu attended and addressed the crowd. In April 2005
Mashaba organized a radio talk show on the subject of child

Through Swaziland
10. (SBU) According to Mashaba, most traffickers brought
their victims into South Africa from Mozambique via
Swaziland. She said that Swazi border controls were
particularly weak.

Transiting South Africa
11. (SBU) Mashaba added that many trafficking victims from
the region were flown out of Johannesburg and Cape Town
airport to other countries. Many immigration and customs
officials were corrupt and so allowed this. She told emboff
that recently two Zairian girls were brought in to her center
when South African border police became suspicious. The
girls were to have been sent overseas via Cape Town. They
have since been returned to their family in Zaire.

On the Mozambican Side
12. (U) Mashaba told emboff that the Center has used its own
resources to repatriate seven children to Mozambique over the
past several years. On May 17 emboff spoke with Lea
Boaventura, regional coordinator of the Campaign Against
Child Trafficking and deputy director of the Maputo branch of
Terre des Hommes (a German NGO). According to her, in the
past several months a Mozambican judge, Marcia Pinto, has
taken responsibility for crimes against children and has
traveled to meet her counterparts in South Africa on the
problem of trafficked children. Ms. Boaventura is hopeful
that she will be more attentive to helping reunite trafficked
children with their families. She added that recently a
woman police superintendent of Maputo's First Squad has begun
several training workshops for other police officers on child
trafficking, and that this should motivate the police to
provide assistance in instances of child trafficking.

13. (SBU) We would like to remain in contact with Amazing
Grace Children's Center and Ms. Mashaba to learn more about
the scope of the child trafficking problem and what can be
done about it. We will coordinate our efforts closely with
Embassy Pretoria. We will be meeting with FECIV, Terre des
Hommes and other NGOs and officials on this end in our
efforts to encourage more action by the GRM.

14. (U) Embassy Pretoria has cleared on this report, but has
reservations about whether the Mozambican children mentioned
were indeed trafficked. In its opinion, further information
is needed in order to reach this conclusion.

© Scoop Media

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