South African police rescued 57 Malawian children from the clutches of suspected human traffickers, government officials said Wednesday.
The boys and girls, who were between the ages of 11 and 21, were discovered on Sunday when police officers pulled over a speeding truck in the northern town of Rustenburg, the government's communications unit said in a statement.
The children had been squashed "like goods" into the windowless back of the truck, police spokesman Khomotso Phahlane said.
The 18 girls and 39 boys had been brought illegally from poverty-stricken parts of Malawi to South Africa, apparently with the promise of money or a job, Phahlane said.
The driver and two other adults, who were riding in the front of the vehicle, were arrested on trafficking charges. The children were handed over to social services.
The rescue comes just two weeks after police freed 16 trafficked girls from a house in Johannesburg, where they had apparently been forced into prostitution.