Human trafficking within South Africa is increasing‚ according to a senior Hawks official and the deputy director of public prosecutions in Gauteng.
Lt-Col Parmanand Jagwa‚ the Hawks Gauteng co-ordinator of the illegal migration desk‚ and deputy director Rasigie Bhika were speaking on Friday at the Institute for Security Studies seminar in Johannesburg about human trafficking and its links to other crimes such as kidnapping and abduction.
Bhika said people assumed that trafficking meant somebody from Thailand or Russia was being brought to South Africa against their will.
“No. And we have cases in this country where somebody would be trafficked from Upington to Johannesburg‚ from Sebokeng to Rosettenvile‚” she said.
Jagwa added that domestic human trafficking was “a growing activity in SA. What we have found [in the past] is it was usually Eastern Europeans and Asians that were being trafficked for the purpose of sexual exploitation. But now it has changed.
He blamed it on West Africans in South Africa‚ saying they “go to our rural areas of the Eastern Cape and KwaZulu-Natal‚ take away our South African nationals‚ bring them over to Gauteng and push them to private residences. They are exploiting them on a sexual level; they are selling them as prostitutes.”
Kirsten Hornby‚ the global advocacy director of the NGO Love Justice International‚ said what made trafficking so prevalent in South Africa was that the country had high levels of inequality and unemployment.
“We see domestic trafficking happening with a lot of our vulnerable unemployed youth being willing to go economic hubs in search for jobs‚” Hornby said‚ adding that among the vulnerable to trafficking were migrants who had come to South Africa in search of work.
She said Love Justice International‚ which works in four ports of entry in SA‚ had intercepted 378 potential victims of trafficking since it started operating in the country in 2016.
“That is equivalent to an average of around 20 victims a month that we have been able to see‚” Hornby said.
“What we classify as an intercept is when there is sufficient evidence for the person’s course to be redirected‚ either they are going to be travelling abroad and they are kept from travelling‚ or the victim they themselves realise the situation they are in and opt out of their travel plans.”
The NGO identifies potential victims at the ports of entry‚ notifies and bring in law enforcement officers‚ interviews the potential victims‚ and then help them to go home.
“This is regarded as the most effective prevention strategy around the world‚” she said.
Bhika said the Prevention and Combating of Trafficking in Persons of 2013‚ which came into effect in 2015‚ was one of the most progressive pieces of legislation and took into account the changing trends in crime. It also gives South African courts extraterritorial jurisdiction and penalty.