THE MISSING: Zimbabwe – She’d Never Leave Her Son Behind

By Matthew Cassel, NBC Left Field

[maHp/ACMS postdoctoral fellow Stanford Mahati is interviewed in this film documentary.]

Nomalanga Ndlovu was only 18 when she first left her village in southern Zimbabwe and crossed the border into South Africa in search of work. She wanted to support her family, who had recently lost much of their livestock to drought.

Zimbabweans have historically sought work opportunities in neighbouring South Africa, which is home to the continent’s strongest economy. But getting work visas is difficult, so many opt for irregular border crossings that can be deadly, including wading across the crocodile-infested waters of the Limpopo River separating the two countries. Women face additional risks on the trek, including physical and sexual abuse from smugglers, criminals, and other migrants traveling with them.

After Nomalanga became pregnant and gave birth to a baby boy, Siyabonga, she left the child with her parents to return to her job as a domestic worker in South Africa. But on this fateful trip across the border in 2012, she disappeared. Knowing she would never abandon her son, her family fears the worst.

In the Gwanda district of Zimbabwe, we meet Nomalanga’s mother, Margarine, who looks to get answers about her daughter from wherever she can.

[This video was originally sourced from NBC Left Field’s YouTube channel. Permission to reproduce the post was granted by the filmmaker Matthew Cassel.]

About Stanford Mahati

Stanford Mahati is a postdoctoral fellow at the African Centre for Migration & Society, University of the Witwatersrand. His current research is funded by the Wellcome Trust and is part of the Migration and Health Project (maHp).

A ZEIT-Stiftung Ebelin and Gerd Bucerius “Settling Into Motion” alumni he earned his PhD at the University of the Witwatersrand, Johannesburg. He specializes in issues of child migration, transnational migration families, child work, children’s sexualities, sociology of health, qualitative methods, rural livelihoods, designing and evaluating interventions targeting vulnerable children and their households.

In 2014-15, he was a postdoctoral fellow at the Centre for Social Science Research (CSSR), University of Cape Town. He conducted research on the “the functioning and consequences of transnational child raising arrangements in South and North: Angolan, Nigerian and Ghanaian migrant parents living in South Africa and the Netherlands (TCRA-SAN)”.

Stanford has worked as a researcher and consultant for a number of local and international agencies in South Africa and Zimbabwe.