Yesterday, 10 March 2024, social workers of the department of social development  arrived at OR Tambo International Airport with a two-year-old baby repatriated from a Dakar prison in Senegal.


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 department 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 last year February.


It is reported that within days of her incarceration, she 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.


The national department of social development then 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 foreign countries. 


The department is obligated by Section 7, subsection (1), (f), (ii), of the Children’s Act 38 of 2005 that a child needs to maintain a connection with their family, extended family, culture, or tradition and all decisions must be made in the best interest of the child. 


Social development minister, Ms Lindiwe Zulu said: “The department will always put the best interest 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.”



Since 2015, the department has repatriated 21 children in distress in foreign countries.


Repatriated children by country:


Brazil 3

Malawi 2

Mozambique 2

Zimbabwe 7

Ghana 1

UK 1

Peru 1

Mauritius 1

Canada 2

Senegal 1

Tanzania 2






Warm regards,


Internal Communication