SA on alert for human trafficking in 2010

Chocolate has become a cure-all for forgotten birthdays, invented holidays, bad moods and apologies. But think twice before you pop that block of chocolate into your mouth. One of its key ingredients may have been slave labour.

About 40% of the world’s cocoa comes from the Ivory Coast. It is well known in the chocolate industry that human trafficking is rife in Ivorian cocoa farming, says Steve Chalke, founder of Stop the Traffik, a global organisation that aims to put an end to trafficking. By launching a ‘chocolate campaign”, Stop the Traffik challenged chocolate companies to source only cocoa that does not use trafficked labour.

After years of agitation, the campaign is beginning to pay off. Said Chalke: ‘Cadbury’s Dairy Milk in the UK and in other countries is now, from last month, traffic-free and fairly traded, which is a huge move and puts pressure on the chocolate industry.” He was one of the speakers at a symposium to help stop people trafficking, held in Pretoria last week.

Other speakers included Stop the Traffik’s patron, Cherie Blair, wife of former British prime minister Tony Blair, and Helen Taylor-Thompson, chairperson of the Thare Machi Education initiative, which develops learning modules on issues such as HIV/Aids and trafficking for use in rural areas.

The group was in South Africa to network and help spread awareness about trafficking in the run-up to next year’s World Cup.‘We’ve learned from the experience of the Athens Olympics and the World Cup in Germany that there’s a dark side to this as well. There’s an opportunity for the unscrupulous to make profits by exploiting people.”

But as a result of the clandestine nature of the trade, there are no firm statistics on the exact scale of global trafficking. ‘You will never have reliable figures,” said Mariam Khokhar, programme manager for irregular migration and counter-trafficking at the International Organisation for Migration (IOM).

Khokhar said in South Africa the IOM had figures only for people the organisation had assisted—a total of more than 300.

South Africa’s trafficking legislation has yet to be put before Parliament, which makes law enforcement difficult. One of the barriers to addressing trafficking is a lack of understanding of the concept.

Khokhar said many people confuse trafficking in people with smuggling of people. The victims of human trafficking are deceived or coerced into moving from one place to another so that their labour can be exploited. It is often contrasted with smuggling, which involves the illegal transportation of a willing subject across national boundaries.

Khokhar said many people assume willingness on the part of the trafficked person and fail to recognise the role of deception. ‘What [the victim] agreed to unknowingly were the lies that were told to her, the rosy picture that was painted for her — What is willingness, really? Is it voluntary if you were deceived?”

Khokhar believes enforcement agencies need to ‘look at those industries that feed the trade and follow the money”. About 80% of trafficked people work in the sex industry as prostitutes, exotic dancers or masseuses. But they also include domestic workers, farmworkers and miners.

Aida Girma, a Unicef representative in South Africa, said bilateral, regional and multilateral agreements should be explored to prevent trafficking across borders. ‘Any effort at prevention should also address the underlying causes that make women and children vulnerable to trafficking,” she said.

Girma called for better education and work prospects for the poor, and for support for Aids orphans, who are particularly vulnerable.

Faranaaz Parker

Faranaaz Parker

Faranaaz Parker is a reporter for the Mail & Guardian. She writes on everything from pop science to public health, and believes South Africa needs carbon taxes and more raging feminists. When she isn't instagramming pictures of her toddler or obsessively checking her Twitter, she plays third-person shooters on Xbox Live. Read more from Faranaaz Parker

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