Human Trafficking in Mkhondo Addressed

human trafficing

On Thursday, 30 March, the SAPS office in Mkhondo, together with various national and local government departments, private organisations and NPO’s hosted a training session on human trafficking.

Even though the topic for the session was rather grim, it was encouraging to see the number of scholars who attended the function, and were thus informed on the seriousness of this crime. STOP (Stop Trafficking of Persons) started their presentation with practical examples
to help these students (some of who are still in primary school) understand exactly what human trafficking is.

STOP is a faith-based non-profitable organisation aimed at raising awareness for human trafficking and helping victims of this horrendous crime. The Prevention and Combating of Trafficking of Persons Bill was signed by President Jacob Zuma in July 2013, ensuring that
trafficking is seen as a separate crime from sexual or assault crimes. This leads to higher sentences than these crimes would normally receive. According to the South African National Human Trafficking Resource Line, human trafficking is defined as: “When someone is deceived
or taken against their will, bought, sold and exploited in forms of sexual exploitation, slaved labour, domestic servitude or forced marriage.” It is also seen as “modern-day slavery”.

The basic cycle of this process it that someone is deceived into believing that a life-changing opportunity is awaiting them. They are then transported to another location, trapped in some way and later sold.

Anyone can be part of a trafficking ring, e.g. taxi drivers, recruiters, farm owners, landlords, identity document forgers, people used to threaten families and even people buying services from victims. These criminals will target people who are desperate, as they make for easier victims. People who need to feed their families, but due to some reason are struggling to do so, a person in desperate need of a job, and those looking for a way to get out of a small town can easily become victims. These individuals are then offered employment or education opportunities designed in such a way that they cannot decline the offer.

Many times these individuals are asked to travel to other locations, all expenses paid. Upon arrival, there are many things that can happen to these victims. Any identification documents that these individuals have can be taken away from them, they can be abused, raped and forced to use drugs, or they can have fear instilled in them through threats made to their family. Hereafter the victims are forced into prostitution, used in sex rings, pornography or exploited for cheap labour.

The victims cannot break free from this environment, as they become stuck in a debt bondage. This entails that they are told to work off any travel and living costs, but as they do not receive payment for the work they are doing, they cannot save money on their own. If victims come close to the requirements set for their release, they are informed that they have been fined and that their debt has increased.

This ensures that the victim can never break free from captivity. In Africa, someone becomes a victim of human trafficking every 30 seconds. Currently there are 27 million people in bondage across the globe. An estimate of two million children are exploited into the sex
trade every year. 1-2% of traffickers are convicted. 99% of victims are never rescued.

Human trafficking is a global problem, and it can only be addressed if everyone realises that these things are happening in our province and in our community every day. Mkhondo’s close proximity to the border makes an ideal area for human trafficking, as it is easy to relocate
victims to another country.

It is encouraging to see organisations such as STOP take hands with the SAPS to address this problem. Officers need to be aware of certain details to determine when human trafficking is taking place. Hopefully this will be the first step in addressing this problem and
putting a stop to what is described as the worst crime that can be committed against humanity.

If any suspicious activity is seen, contact the South African National
Human Trafficking Resource Line at 0800 222 777, the Human
Trafficking Helpline at 0800 555 999, or the SAPS at 10111.