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By Faizel Patel

Senior Digital Journalist

WATCH: Two-year-old toddler repatriated back to SA from Senegal prison

The toddler was born in Senegal and has been in the care of the  mother who was arrested last year in that country for drug trafficking.

The Social Development Department has successfully repatriated a two-year-old toddler from a prison in Senegal.

Social workers from the department arrived with the todddler at OR Tambo International Airport on a flight from Dakar on Sunday.

The toddler was born in Senegal and has been in the care of the mother who was arrested last year in that country for drug trafficking.

Watch Social Development Minister Lindiwe Zulu speaking about the repatriation of the toddler from Senegal

Mother incarcerated

The Social Development Department said it was notified by the Department of International Relations and Cooperation (Dirco) through its International Social Services (ISS) Directorate in August 2023, that the biological mother of the child was arrested in February.

Social Development Department spokesperson Lumka Oliphant said it is reported that within days of the incarceration, the mother gave birth to the child. 

“Due to the mother’s incarceration, the child is considered to be in distress since a prison is not a conducive environment for the upbringing of the child.  The government of South Africa through DIRCO initiated the process of repatriating the child by first visiting the mother to ascertain her wishes about her child. 

“The mother nominated the grandmother of the child as the guardian in the country while she serves her sentence in Senegal,” Oliphant said.

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Oliphant added the department requested the Eastern Cape department of social development to investigate the circumstances of the nominated foster parent to assess suitability to care for the child.

“The child will be integrated with the  mother’s family in the Eastern Cape and the department will continue providing child protection services and provide support to the family.”

Since 2015, the department has repatriated 21 children who were distressed in several foreign countries  including Brazil, Malawi, Mozambique, Tanzania, Zimbabwe, Mauritius and the UK, among others.

Social development minister Lindiwe Zulu said the department will always put the best interests of the child first.

“However, we remain concerned about the issue of drugs and what it can do to children.  This was an unborn baby who ended up in distress in a foreign country because the mother was arrested for trafficking drugs. We cannot stress more the importance of young people to make the right decisions about their lives,” Zulu said.

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