Human trafficking in South Africa is an alarming trend with grave consequences

Words: Fanie Heyns

CAPE TOWN. – Less than 1 % of South Africans who are victims of human trafficking, are ever rescued – a red-letter warning to people to be vigilant, pro-active and aware.

Sharna Fernandez, Western Cape Minister of Social Development, in a release about Human Trafficking Awareness Week that runs from 1st October to 8th October, warned that South Africa continues to be a source, transit and destination country for victims of trafficking. Criminal traffickers are increasingly morphing into organized crime syndicates, and use deceptive means to potentially abduct and traffic adults and children.

Given the complex and underground nature of trafficking, reliable statistics are difficult to come by, especially for children.

However, research conducted in the Trafficking in Persons in the SADC Region: Baseline Report: 2016 shows that poverty and unemployment are viewed as the primary push factors behind the trafficking of persons in South Africa.

Minister Fernandez said, “The rise of abductions, especially that of children over recent years is a serious cause for concern, and while it does happen in the blink of an eye, I am appealing to all our residents, especially parents, to be extra cautious in order to ensure the safety of our children and loved ones.”

According to the anti-human trafficking non-profit organisation A21, an estimated 155 000 people in South Africa is enslaved by human trafficking. The beauty and perception of economic prosperity lure people from all over Africa and Asia with the promise of a better life.

Researchers said they had seen many different forms of exploitation in South Africa, from forced labour on farms, fishing trawlers, and in domestic servitude to sexual exploitation on the streets and behind closed doors in illegal brothels. (Source: www.iol.co.za, 26th September 2020)/

Rene Hanekom, manager at SA National Human Trafficking Resource Line, told www.iol.co.za there was a high prevalence of human trafficking in the Western Cape.

Nozizwe Madlala-Routledge, founder of Embrace Dignity, said it did not help to play human trafficking down or to ignore the stories people told from their lived experience.

“The only people who benefit from playing the statistics down are organised crime bosses and the sex trade itself,” she told www.iol.co.za.

The United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime estimates 2.5 million victims worldwide. Since human trafficking is a hidden crime, statistics on identified trafficking victims only reveal a small part of the problem, and the actual number of victims can only be estimated through statistical techniques, said Madlala-Routledge to www.iol.co.za

Job interview scams around the country exacerbate the situations, as people desperate for jobs are lured into human trafficking dens. Many of these job scams are advertised on social media as modelling or acting opportunities.

Claudia Roodt, director of Designed to Connect, trauma workshop facilitator and associate of 1000 Women Trust, said human traffickers often approach young women by showering them with gits, acting as surrogate boyfriends before forcing them into a life of prostitution. Women who don’t have good relationships with their parents are often vulnerable to this “loving” approach by the human traffickers, she added.

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