The Space Between: Human trafficking in SA must be stopped
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Johannesburg - Incidents of human trafficking are cause for concern.
Crime patterns in our society seem to be taking a new trend following continued incidents of human trafficking that are being reported across the country. And we should all be concerned. To ignore it will be at our own peril.
Crime in this country continues to be our biggest headache as criminals seem to regularly find innovative ways to violate our people. Human trafficking is the worst human rights violation of all times reminiscent of the days of slavery. It calls for fierce public condemnation and for our law enforcement agencies to pull out all the stops to end this scourge. There should be consequences to all those who strip our citizens of the most basic rights.
So far, it would seem, the efforts to thwart this ugly crime, are not sufficient. However, credit should go to South Africa’s Directorate for Priority Crime Investigation (Hawks) for some arrests that were made in the fight against this scourge. One of the notable arrests is that of the leader of the Jesus Dominion International Church, Timothy Omotoso, who faces 48 charges including human trafficking, sexual assault and rape. Ediozi Odi was sentenced in the Gauteng High Court to six life sentences and 129 years’ imprisonment for human trafficking in 2019.
It is an open secret that South African is considered a source, transit and destination country for human trafficking. The sad reality is that victims are not only trafficked out of South Africa. Foreign victims are also brought into the country and some moved through South Africa. Despicable. This scourge is widespread across the country. Previous arrests indicate the involvement of foreign nationals who violate our people, and operate brothels in various cities in the country.
Sadly, this crime pattern also affects children. There have been reported cases of child trafficking in the country. In one of the joint operations, 91 Malawian nationals were found in a factory in Johannesburg, with 37 of them being children. Girls are more likely to be trafficked for sexual exploitation and domestic servitude. Boys are mostly trafficked for street vending, food service and agricultural purposes.
In a report released by Dr. Rebecca Walker last year, a research associate at the African Centre for Migration and Society at Wits University, it is stated that South Africa is considered to be on the “Tier 2 Watchlist” for human trafficking. The list represents countries whose governments do not fully comply with the minimum standards of the Trafficking Victims Protection Act (TVPA) but are making significant strides to tackle this crime pattern an ensure compliance. Most victims are of human trafficking are exploited for forced labour.
As South Africans, we should be wary of incidents of the human trafficking. There is indication of an upward trend. It requires the active involvement of authorities and the citizens. Trafficking hotspots should be identified and reported to the law enforcement agencies. Despite high levels of poverty and inequality our communities, including children, they should not be subjected to this barbaric exploitation.
South Africa is a signatory to the UN Protocol to Prevent, Suppress and Punish Trafficking in Persons especially Women and Children which is also known as the Palermo Protocol. It is, therefore, mandatory for us to address this emerging scourge in our country, enforce laws that punish offenders and assist the victims. We need to see increased investigation, prosecutions and convictions of those involved in such illegal activities. As a country we need to crack down on criminal syndicates that facilitate this crime.