Human trafficking is real‚ hidden in plain sight and tearing at the social fabric of the nation as the demand for cheap labour and sexual services keeps growing‚ experts say.
Just recently‚ a 37-year-old victim was rescued from alleged sex slavery after being lured from Johannesburg to Cape Town.
Chizoba Uba‚ 36‚ appeared briefly in the Bellville Magistrate’s Court for allegedly trafficking the woman under false pretences.
When the woman arrived in Cape Town at the beginning of the year‚ she was received by the alleged suspect‚ kept against her will in Park Villas‚ Bellville‚ and forced into a life of drugs and prostitution.
Uba was refused bail and remains in custody pending his next appearance on July 2.
Captain Philani Nkwalase said police were currently investigating other cases in the Cape Town area.
Major Margaret Stafford‚ from the Salvation Army‚ said that as long as there was a market for sex slavery‚ the industry would continue.
“Unlike most items‚ you can resell a person over and over again. We are in too deep because South Africa is a source and destination country. We have slaves coming into the country from abroad while others are recruited from province to province‚” Stafford said.
She said it had proven difficult trying to get correct statistics on human trafficking as most of the cases went unreported and the organised and underworld nature of the industry made it hard to keep record.
According to the South African National Human Trafficking Resource Line (SANHTRL) the beauty and perception of economic prosperity lures people from all over Africa and Asia with the promise of “a better life”.
“We see many different forms of exploitation here‚ from forced labour on farms‚ fishing trawlers‚ and in domestic servitude to sexual exploitation on the streets and behind closed doors in illegal brothels.”
Maria Nikolovska from the International Organisation for Migration (IOM) said traffickers range from inexperienced individuals who get involved in trafficking on a once-off basis to highly experienced organised networks.
“When traffickers operate in large criminal groups‚ they have accomplices who facilitate the transportation and exploitation of a victim. Recruiters come from diverse backgrounds and belong to every age group. They are usually people who can be good at manipulating their peers‚ using false promises of a better life such as a job‚ education opportunity‚ or even marriage.
“The recruiters often come from the same dire social and economic background as their victims. There are also private employment agencies‚ who recruit job seekers to send them abroad with the purpose of exploiting them‚” said Nikolovska.
Trafficked persons were often victims of abuse such as rape‚ torture‚ debt bondage‚ unlawful confinement and threats against their family‚ as well as other forms of physical‚ sexual and psychological violence‚ she added.
In her 2017 dissertation “A critical understanding of the policing of trafficking in persons”‚ Irma Cornell Geldenhuys recommended that in order to win the battle against human trafficking in the Cape Town area‚ there should be intensified training of police officials and other role players in identification and policing of trafficking.
The dissertation was done through the University of South Africa.
“The police officials and other role players must know which evidence to collect at a crime scene. Police officials indicated the need to obtain the victim’s statement as evidence on how the victim was trafficked‚ exploited‚ the process of debt bondage and all the information to ensure prima facie evidence is available to prove the case in court.” Geldenhuys wrote.
She also mentioned that awareness campaigns would enable community members to identify domestic servitude‚ street begging‚ selling of drugs‚ sexual exploitation and work in the agriculture sector that might involve trafficking.
Kgaugelo Masweneng – TimesLIVE