Child trafficking in South Africa

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Wilson: South Africa's Malalane region - near the borders of Mozambique and Swaziland - is a way station for migrant children.

KaMaqhekeeza marketKaMaqhekeeza market

Wilson: The KaMaqhekeza market teams with kids. Boys hawk cell phone vouchers, girls sell boiled eggs. Just beyond, kids work in the fields and in private homes as domestic helpers. None go to school.

Many of these children have come here on their own - driven by desperate poverty in their own countries. But some have been recruited by others and forced to work for little or no wages.

Wilson: Carlos is 17, but his story begins when he was seven and living in an orphanage in Mozambique. His parents had recently died. A man who lived near the orphanage started to visit Carlos every day. They became close.

Carlos: "It's like maybe your best friend...."Carlos: "It's like maybe your best friend...."

Wilson: One day, the man took Carlos from the orphanage, and brought him to a van full of other children. He told Carlos he'd see him again in South Africa, where they'd live in a big new house.

Carlos: "I was just thinking about the good things that he told me: I would have a better life - and anything I need, I would just get it. "

Wilson: Carlos got into the van. He watched the driver bribe police to cross the border. They arrived at a sugar cane plantation that night. When the sun rose, everyone was told to start clearing a new field. Then Carlos realized everything that man had told him�

Carlos: "It was just a lie. So, we are not here for a nice life, but we are here in a bad life. You are not allowed to go out of that farm. Because they took you for that purpose."

Wilson: So Carlos began laboring in the fields. I asked him if he was scared.

Carlos: "Yeah, you are so scared! Because if you don't do your job, they hit you. "

Wilson: A year passed. Then one night, in the height of summer, Carlos ran away. He says he got the courage only because he didn't want to be hit anymore�

Carlos: "It was the stick that they were using that makes you being brave. It's not about your feelings and thoughts and everything, no. You can be brave by force. "

Wilson: Carlos took off through the sugar cane fields until he found a road and flagged down a car. The driver brought him to the Amazing Grace Children's Home in Malalane. Some of the thirty children who live here were trafficked. Founder Grace Mashaba says they're proof that slavery never went away.

Mashaba: "It never stopped - it was continuous - but it has another name. Trafficking!"

Grace MashabaGrace Mashaba

Wilson: Mashaba and her colleagues are Africa's new abolitionists. They say the lack of public awareness about child trafficking is one reason it continues. Police say they have a number of programs to try to curb it. But critics say it's not enough.

Ndukuya: "There's little or nothing at all that has been done."

Wilson: Vusi Ndukuya is a grassroots anti-trafficking activist. He concedes that - on paper - government efforts look good.

Ndukuya: "I mean, there've been lot of talks, a lot of workshops, a lot of, you know, partnership meetings - but on the ground, to have labor inspectors go into the field, they don't deal specifically with the problem. And kids continue to be exploited."

Wilson: Carlos is in high school now. He's one of the oldest boys at the children's home.

Carlos: "This is my room. And this is all what I've done."

Wilson: He's an artist now, and he shows me colored pencil drawings of waterfalls, sunsets, and his friends.

Carlos: "Everything that I'm thinking I just draw it down."

Carlos with a t-shirt he designedCarlos with a t-shirt he designed

Wilson: As the children sing before dinner, Carlos says he's proud of his work. But there's something else, too.

Carlos: "What makes me being proud of me, it's the way my life has been changed. I'm not a slave anymore."

Wilson: He says he wishes other children could be so lucky.

For The World, I'm Gretchen Wilson. Malalane, South Africa.