President Peter Mutharika says he has ordered the Foreign Affairs ministry to make arrangements to repatriate 57 young Malawians who were intercepted as they were being trafficked to South Africa.
Mutharika said he was briefed on the matter soon after the chidren were rescued.
“My government is working with the government of South Africa on this matter. Our South African High Commission is on the ground. The children will be flown in the country as soon as all arrangements are made,” said Mutharika.
Nyasa Times reported on Wednesday that the Malawian children, aged 11 to 21, were intercepted in South Africa after patrol police became suspicious of a speeding cargo van without windows.
The police arrested the three Malawians in front of the van including the driver and put the children in a safe house in Ratensburg.
South African media say the suspected traffickers have been charged with human trafficking offences.
Foreign affairs minister Francis Katsaira said he was not handling the matter and referred the reporter to Home Affairs ministry.
Principal secretary for the ministry Beston Chitsamire said the government was waiting a detailed report from their counterparts in South Africa and referred the reporter to Chief Immigtation officer Masauko Medi for more details.
However Medi said he was not involved in the issue.
The story was followed up on Thursday by the Malawi daily papers hitting front pages.
The Nation reported that the trafficked number is 82 with a headline: “ 82 Malawians cornered in SA”.
The paper quoted Malawi Consular General Fraser Nihorya who said: ““Yes, there are 82 Malawians intercepted as they were being trafficked to undisclosed destination within South Africa. Fifty-seven  of them are in Rustenburg and there are 18 women. Their ages range from 11 to 21 and they are from Chilipa in Mangochi.”
And the Daily Times led with a headline: “Malawian children interceptred in SA’.
The paper also reported South Africa has intercepted 82 Malawians, including an 11- year-old boy, travelling from Mangochi.
South African television channel, ENCA, reported that three people suspected of having a hand in the mission briefly appeared in the Rustenburg regional magistrate’s court on Tuesday. They were charged with 57 counts of human trafficking, according to the report.
The case has been adjourned to September 13 2016, said the report.
According to South African acting national police commissioner Khomotso Phahlane, the victims were were being transported “as if they were goats.”Follow and Subscribe Nyasa TV :