(MENAFN- The Post) MASERU -A shadowy syndicate is allegedly registering Basotho children illegally in South Africa in an elaborate scheme to defraud that country''s social security grants, thepost heard this week.
A local Non-Governmental Organisation (NGO), Women and Law in Southern Africa (WLSA), is now investigating the case.
The WLSA said its paralegals came across the cases in the districts of Mafeteng and Mohale''s Hoek where they were conducting a study on gender-based violence.
Attorney Mohau Maapesa, the WLSA''s Programmes Manager, told thepost on Tuesday that at least five cases had been unearthed in Haremone village in Mafeteng.
''We have also reported this trend to the police to help with investigations,'' Attorney Maapesa said.
According to Attorney Maapesa, the syndicate is picking children from Lesotho and registering them in South Africa so that they could access the grants.
Once the children are registered, their parents or guardians get a share of the illegal proceeds while the other money is taken by the individuals who registered them in South Africa.
It is not yet clear how many children have been registered through this way.
It is also not clear how the syndicate managed to penetrate the South African social development system.
What is clear though is that the group has successfully manipulated the South African home affairs civil registration system to allow the authorities to issue legitimate documents.
Attorney Maapesa said since the children would have been registered in South Africa that means they are no longer Lesotho citizens.
''This is wrong from all fronts and amounts to abuse of the children,'' she said.
''Children are trafficked in a weird way.''
She said the WLSA paralegals were told by complaining parents and guardians that the South Africans who had registered the children had reneged on their promise to pay them.
The agreement was that the children would be fetched from Lesotho to South Africa to get their grants every month-end and the children would be paid a few maloti.
The arrangement worked for several months until it turned sour.
''The concern came when some parents complained that the South African residents only come to pick up the children and no longer honour the promise to pay them,'' Attorney Maapesa said.
She said they are not sure how much the parents get as part of the deal because ''we are not interested in the money but in the welfare of the children''.
''It is illegal to register children in South Africa,'' she said.
''We want this to come to a halt.''
She said the children have to be registered in Lesotho so that they know that they are citizens of Lesotho.
Attorney Maapesa said the Ministry of Social Development is ready to step in where children are in financial distress.
She said there would be no guarantee that the children will return home once they have left for South Africa.
''Human trafficking could easily be done and therefore this needs urgent intervention,'' she said.
Meanwhile, the Minister of Social Development ''Matebatso Doti said they have been on radio stations sensitising the public about the available grants to assist the poorest of the poor.
''The selection is not automatic, we make assessments,'' Doti said.
The minister said they have deployed social workers at councils so that they could reach out to the people and be able to identify those in dire need.
She said what is happening is not new citing the case of elderly Basotho citizens who would cross into South Africa in the past to claim old age pensions.
She said the Children''s Protection Act clearly indicates that the minister is the custodian of all needy children in Lesotho.
A councillor in the Haremone area, Seabata Kompi, said there are some elderly villagers who cross into South Africa to get pensions every month.
''If the elderly do it, it is obvious that the children could also do it,'' Kompi said.
MENAFN provides the information “as is” without warranty of any kind. We do not accept any responsibility or liability for the accuracy, content, images, videos, licenses, completeness, legality, or reliability of the information contained in this article. If you have any complaints or copyright issues related to this article, kindly contact the provider above.