- Police responses and the need to create more awareness
By Annalise Kempen
In January 2018, the Eastern Cape Trafficking in Persons Task Team, which is part of the Hawks, reunited a 22-year old woman with her family in King William's Town after they managed to rescue her at the O R Tambo International Airport, moments before she boarded a flight to a foreign African country. The woman, who is a qualified beauty therapist, responded to an online advertisement which sought to employ a beauty therapist in a foreign country. Upon application, she was told to travel immediately from East London to Gauteng, where she was advised that she will be travelling to an African country. Her mother's sixth sense about the trip resulted in her making contact with the Hawks, who contacted Interpol to establish the legitimacy of the beauty parlour ... which was found to be a restaurant. Had it not been for her mother and the excellent work done by the Hawks, South Africa would have lost another victim to human trafficking - one of many, it is estimated. This case made us wonder whether the human trafficking situation in South Africa is really as bad as many people claim.
Can we believe the statistics?
The media often reports that human trafficking is one of the worst crimes committed against humanity and one of the top organised crimes in the world, along with drug trafficking and trafficking in illegal small arms. These same media sources, together with non-governmental organisations, are also quick to cite shocking statistics to substantiate their claims. But, during the International Biennial Conference of the Criminological and Victimological Society of Southern Africa (Crimsa) held in Johannesburg in August 2017, Prof Christiaan Bezuidenhout from the University of Pretoria's Department of Social Work and Criminology questioned these statistics. He wanted to know whether real evidence exists to substantiate these high statistics. Prof Bezuidenhout used the example of the warnings that were issued prior to the 2010 FIFA World Cup, which was hosted in South Africa, stating that thousands of children were going to be trafficked for sexual exploitation, but where only 14 cases were reported.
According to the 2017 Global Estimates of Modern Slavery report, "at any given time in 2016, an estimated 40.3 million people are in modern slavery, including 24.9 in forced labour and 15.4 million in forced marriage. It means there are 5.4 victims of modern slavery for every 1000 people in the world. One in four victims of modern slavery is a child. Out of the 24.9 million people trapped in forced labour, 16 million people are exploited in the private sector such as domestic work, construction or agriculture; 4.8 million persons in forced sexual exploitation, and four million persons in forced labour imposed by state authorities. Women and girls are disproportionately affected by forced labour, accounting for 99% of victims in the commercial sex industry, and 58% in other sectors."
Local perspective on human trafficking
To get a local perspective on human trafficking, Servamus knocked on the door of the Directorate of Priority Crime Investigations (DPCI), commonly referred to as the Hawks. Col Angelina Matlabe, the Section Commander of Organised Illegal Immigration, and her colleagues have to deal with human trafficking, human smuggling and related cases. It is worth remembering that the mandate of the DPCI focuses on serious, organised and transnational crime.
Col Matlabe noted that it is almost impossible to sketch an accurate picture of human trafficking, despite many non-governmental organisations citing shocking numbers. When they are asked to substantiate their claims with reported criminal cases, these organisations are often unable to do so. According to Col Matlabe, her section has dealt with 29 human trafficking cases between April 2016 and March 2017 and 53 cases between April and December 2017. Of these, 49 were sexual exploitation cases and 15 were labour exploitation cases - those are the combined numbers for the two report periods. These cases are separate from cases dealt with by other police divisions such as Detective Services and Visible Policing; as well as the Department of Justice and Constitutional Development and the Department of Social Development. Col Matlabe also informed us that it is envisaged that a national consultative forum, headed by the Department of Justice and Constitutional Development (DoJCD), will in future be able to provide more credible statistics. One of the proposed projects will allow each role-player to feed its own statistics into a database, which DoJCD will collate to sketch a more accurate picture of local human trafficking cases.