SA a human-trafficking hot spot, conference hears

South Africa is being used as a destination and transit point, as well as a source, for human trafficking, the International Association of Women Judges was told at a conference in Boksburg on Thursday.

Public prosecutions director advocate Thoko Majokweni, who was speaking on behalf of Minister of Justice and Constitutional Development Brigitte Mabandla, said: “Mozambique women are trafficked to the mines and sometimes to KwaZulu-Natal.

“Malawian women are sold by Nigerian syndicates ... to Germany, Italy and Belgium, and this all happens via South Africa.”

She said South Africans themselves were being trafficked to Hong Kong and Macau.

“Thai women are debt-bonded in brothels in Johannesburg, and a lot of them actually in KwaZulu Natal, especially in port areas,” she said.

Chinese traffickers were using Johannesburg as a transit point for Swaziland, Lesotho and Mozambique, Majokweni said.
Russian and Bulgarian women were exploited in private clubs and venues in Johannesburg.

Majokweni said reliable statistics on trafficking in Southern Africa were difficult to obtain because most countries in the region had not criminalised the trafficking of people.

Necessary legislative reforms were under way in South Africa to halt trafficking.

She said the South African Law Reform Commission prioritised finalising the Combating of Trafficking in Persons Bill in order to make human trafficking a criminal offence in the country.

One of the key issues in the Bill was the amendment to the definition of the action of trafficking itself.

In South Africa, the commission was adding to the definition of trafficking—which reads “recruitment, transportation, transfer and harbouring”—the words “sale, supply, capture and procurement” of people both within or across the border.

“It really needs to be transnational,” said Majokweni.

She also said the issue of illegal adoption across the country had been incorporated into the Bill.

Majokweni said—in the short term—other legislative measures, such as provisions of the Children’s Act, the Sexual Offences Bill and racketeering charges, were being used to prosecute those involved in trafficking.

However, she said these related laws had limitations.

For example, cases tried under the Sexual Offences Bill criminalised the act of trafficking in persons for sexual exploitation only.

She also said the sentences issued under these laws often did not correlate with the severity of the crime.

“The sentences did not measure and quite clearly were not conversant with the stripping of dignity of the person [who was a victim of trafficking].”

South Africans should remember human trafficking was new in terms of recognition but not in terms of existence.

“You look and see the life of Sarah Baartman, who was sold into slavery in France, paraded naked for men to pleasure themselves, and even in death didn’t get any dignity because she was torn into little parts,” Majokweni said.

“We do not see the chains, yet the bondage is there, we do not see the whips, yet the wounds are there.

“Death is in the soul and the spirit of our people. We need them to be released from the bondage of fear and the fear of bondage so that they themselves can live their lives,” she said.—Sapa

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