South Africa must work on collecting accurate statistics on human trafficking

October 1st, 2018

By Kgomotso Ramotsho

Human Rights Officer at the United States Embassy in Pretoria, JJ Harder, said South Africa needed to conduct a study that will give accurate human trafficking statistics. He was speaking at the Trafficking in Persons seminar, held by the University of South Africa’s College of Law in association with Media Monitoring Africa on 21 August in Pretoria.

The University of South Africa’s College of Law in association with Media Monitoring Africa held a seminar themed ‘Trafficking in Persons (TIP) Talk: Dispelling the myths around trafficking in South Africa’ on 21 August in Pretoria. Human Rights Officer at the United States (US) Embassy in Pretoria, JJ Harder, said South Africa (SA) is still on a tier two ranking on the US department of State Trafficking in Persons Report watch list. This is as a result of not meeting the minimum standards of elimination of human trafficking, however, he said SA was now making significant efforts to meet those standards through the Department of Justice and Constitutional Development.

Mr Harder added that the South African Department of Home Affairs, should improve its human trafficking regulations and have efficient training for their officials who are going to conduct interviews for travellers, who might potentially be victims of trafficking. He said the South African government must also increase its human trafficking conviction rate. He pointed out that in 2017 there were only eight human trafficking convictions in the country. According to Mr Harder, there has never been one conviction in the Limpopo province, which he said is the home to the largest border crossing.

Mr Harder pointed out that another serious issue was that SA did not have accurate statistics on human trafficking. He said a comprehensive study was needed, which would provide accurate numbers on human trafficking. He added that SA needed to create more awareness on human trafficking, and noted that the US government was eager to work together with other countries, including SA to fight human trafficking. Mr Harder said sharing information and collaborating data was needed in the fight against human trafficking.

Legal frame work and position

Advocate Zelda Swanepoel said SA did not have an offence on human trafficking or slavery. However, she pointed out that SA has an offence on trafficking in persons. She added that the offence was created by the Prevention and Combating of Trafficking in Persons Act 7 of 2013 (the Act). She said the reason for the Act was to address the problem of human trafficking and deal with the criminalisation of trafficking in persons, prosecution of offenders in trafficking in persons, protection and assistance to the victims of trafficking and the return of victims of trafficking.

Advocate Zelda Swanepoel spoke at the Trafficking in Persons seminar at the University of South Africa in Pretoria.

Ms Swanepoel said the definition of ‘trafficking in persons’ has been assigned to s 4(1) states that:

‘Any person who delivers, recruits, transports, transfers, harbours, sells, exchanges, leases or receives another person within or across the borders of the Republic, by means of –

(a) a threat of harm;

(b) the threat or use of force or other forms of coercion;

(c) the abuse of vulnerability;

(d) fraud;

(e) deception;

(f) abduction;

(g) kidnapping;

(h) the abuse of power;

(i) the direct or indirect giving or receiving of payment or benefits to obtain the consent of a person having control or authority over another person; or

(j) the direct or indirect giving or receiving of payments, compensation, rewards, benefits or any other advantage, aimed at either the person or an immediate family member of that person or any other person in close relationship to that person, for the purpose of any form or manner of exploitation, is guilty of the offence of trafficking in persons.’

Ms Swanepoel said looking at the trafficking in persons definition is important, and one has to determine the three elements of trafficking, namely –

  • the act;
  • the means; and
  • the purpose for trafficking.

She added that trafficking was also committed in a process and some people refer to it as the different phases of the offence. She pointed out that prosecutors can prosecute a whole chain of people in the process of trafficking, if they considered the trafficking in persons definition.

Kgomotso Ramotsho Cert Journ (Boston) Cert Photography (Vega) is the news reporter at De Rebus.

This article was first published in De Rebus in 2018 (Oct) DR 17.