SOUTH African Police Services (Saps) yesterday said they had rescued six suspected Zimbabwean border jumpers, including three minors, and recovered two male bodies from the Limpopo River near the Beitbridge Border Post.

Saps Limpopo provincial police spokesman, Brigadier Motlafela Mojapelo said a combined team of the Saps Limpopo search and rescue unit and other emergency and response services in the province were behind the operation, which retrieved the bodies last week.

Those rescued are two women, a man and three children aged between six and 10 picked a few kilometres downstream of the border post, Saps said yesterday.

The remains of the two men were recovered at around the same area known to be frequented by border jumpers.

No link between the bodies and the rescued group has been established.

“On Thursday and Friday members of the unit together with the Air Wing rescued two women and three girls aged between six and 10 years trapped by the Limpopo River near Beit Bridge. It is suspected that they attempted to enter the country illegally when they got trapped by the rising river,” he said.

“After medical treatment, they were all handed over to Home Affairs for further investigation.”

Saps also recovered the bodies of two men around the same area, he said, saying the past week had been eventful for rescue units in the entire province.

“On Saturday, members were involved in the rescue of a man trapped in the Dennilton area east of Beit Bridge. The man was clinging onto a tree in the fast flowing river for a few hours, before he was successfully brought ashore by Saps members,” Mojapelo said.

The divers attached to the same unit further assisted with the recovery of bodies of three young boys, who drowned in ditches filled with water in the Giyani and Mankweng areas south of Beitbridge in South Africa, where torrential rains were reported last week.

Zimbabwe Republic Police officer commanding Beitbridge, Chief Superintendent Francis Phiri said he was yet to receive a report from his SA counterparts, but warned people against attempting to cross the Limpopo River.

“It is risky, people can drown, be attacked by crocodiles or hippos. Passports are easy to get in Zimbabwe and far cheaper than the risk,” he said.

Scores of Zimbabweans are trooping to South Africa in search for greener pastures.

Last year, two men and an 11-year-old boy were killed by a hippo in Beitbridge, when they attempted to sidestep the official crossing point. A few days later, a woman was mauled by a hippo near a water weir downstream of the border post.

Meanwhile, thousands of Zimbabweans, trekking to South Africa in search of employment, are reportedly being ripped off and abused by unscrupulous employers capitalising on their desperation to underpay them.

Migrant Workers’ Union of South Africa (Miwusa) secretary-general, Mandla Masuku, recently told NewsDay that most undocumented immigrants were facing various forms of abuse by their South African employers.

“The major issues affecting migrant workers, particularly Zimbabweans, are exploitation and most of them are working long hours, yet they do not receive fair compensation,” he said.

“We are also concerned that there is tension between migrants and locals and employers always want to capitalise on that and play divide and rule tactics.

“We have a bad scenario in Lephalale, Limpopo, where more than 240 farm workers were unfairly dismissed without pay and displaced. They had to seek shelter at a disaster management centre for almost six months being fed by well-wishers. They were reinstated in February 2016 after their employer was found guilty of unfair dismissal.”

About three million Zimbabweans are estimated to be living in South Africa.

“Most Zimbabwean workers are paid between R1 000 and R2 000 as the average salary, although the poverty datum line is above R4 000,” Masuku said.

“All migrants are equally vulnerable and they are exploited in the same way, although Zimbabweans constitute the largest number of migrant workers in South Africa. We are not satisfied with remuneration going towards migrants, who are being paid less than their local counterparts in almost all the sectors.”

He said his union had embarked on a massive awareness campaign to educate migrant workers on their labour rights.

Newsday


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