An Eastern Cape-based NGO has raised concern over the growing practice of child labour in the rural areas of Mbizana. Children as young as 10 years old are used as child labourers for illegal sand mining at Hlolweni village.
They carry digging spades and shovels to excavate river sand. Extreme hunger forces these children to drop-out of school. Their customers are sand traders that sell the sand to well established hardware stores in Mbizana.
These children are risking their lives on a daily basis. Hunger and unemployment in the area the main reasons their rights as children are being violated. Starvation and unemployment is a contributing factor to the violation of children’s rights.
A 14-year-old teenager told SABC News that they do what they do for their families.
“We are sifting sand from this river. We collect it and sell it to the people that are selling tons of sand to the well established businesses. There are trucks that come and but from us and with the little money we get, we are able to buy whatever we want.”
Another teenager, a 15-year-old miner, has been mining river sand since 2019 .
“The main reason why we are here , we need money, we want to buy clothes and uniform, that is the reason why we are digging the sand we need money, we want to buy things for ourselves.”
Although not under age Xoliswa Mthembu is one of many women miners in the area, she says life is not easy and they have to work to get food.
“We are suffering and it’s a must for us to do what we are doing. We are losing for our parents because they cannot do anything for themselves, we send our kids to school, we buy food, life goes on, we survive by mining sand.”
A Non-Governmental Organisation (NGO) says exploitation of children in this village must be addressed. Lucky Tshusha is the secretary for Sindiswa Elizabeth Foundation that advocates for children’s welfare.
He says: “Nine pupils that we found them working here, some were 11 year olds; they were all working in this area and now we have decided to engage with the traditional leaders and the local councillor of the area to try and assist them to make this thing legal or to be regulated in order for this area to follow those working procedures like the age and all those things to be done in this area.”
Local councilor, Buyisile Jalubane, says the increasing child labour practice in the area is concerning.
“Concerning the small children that are working on this site, we are uncomfortable as the government, so we will try by all means to assist, even if there are organizations, they must come and help these children. It’s very bad and we need to act now.”
Exploitation of children through any form of work that deprives them of their childhood is prohibited by legislation worldwide. However, poverty, lack of resources and parental attitudes toward education are common factors cited as reasons for the practice in most countries in Africa.
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