Last Updated: Friday, 11 July 2014, 13:14 GMT

2011 Trafficking in Persons Report - South Africa

Publisher United States Department of State
Publication Date 27 June 2011
Cite as United States Department of State, 2011 Trafficking in Persons Report - South Africa, 27 June 2011, available at: http://www.refworld.org/docid/4e12ee493c.html [accessed 14 July 2014]
DisclaimerThis is not a UNHCR publication. UNHCR is not responsible for, nor does it necessarily endorse, its content. Any views expressed are solely those of the author or publisher and do not necessarily reflect those of UNHCR, the United Nations or its Member States.

South Africa (Tier 2)

South Africa is a source, transit, and destination country for men, women, and children subjected to forced labor and sex trafficking. Children are trafficked mainly within the country, from poor rural areas to urban centers such as Johannesburg, Cape Town, Durban, and Bloemfontein. Girls are subjected to sex trafficking and domestic servitude; boys are forced to work in street vending, food service, begging, criminal activities, and agriculture. The tradition of ukuthwala, the forced marriage of girls as young as 12 to adult men, is still practiced in some remote villages in the Eastern Cape and Western Cape, leaving these girls vulnerable to forced labor and prostitution. Local criminal rings and street gangs organize child prostitution in a number of South Africa's cities. To a lesser extent, syndicates recruit and transport South African women to Europe and the Middle East, where they are forced to labor in domestic service and forced into prostitution. Nigerian syndicates dominate the commercial sex trade within the country, and send South African women to the United States for exploitation in domestic servitude. South African men recruited by local employment agencies to drive taxis in Abu Dhabi are subjected to forced labor subsequent to their arrival in the United Arab Emirates. Traffickers control victims through intimidation and threats, use of force, confiscation of travel documents, demands to pay "debts," and forced use of drugs and alcohol. During the reporting period, South African trafficking victims were discovered in Macau. Women and girls from Thailand, Cambodia, the Congo, India, Russia, Ukraine, China, Taiwan, Mozambique, and Zimbabwe are recruited for legitimate work in South Africa then subjected to prostitution, domestic servitude, and forced labor in the service sector. Some of these women also are transported to Europe for forced prostitution.

Thai women are subjected to prostitution in South Africa's illegal brothels, while Eastern European organized crime units forced some women from Russia, Ukraine, and Bulgaria into debt-bonded prostitution in exclusive private men's clubs. Chinese traffickers bring victims from Lesotho, Mozambique, and Swaziland to Johannesburg or other cities for prostitution. Migrant men from China and Taiwan are forced to work in mobile sweatshop factories in Chinese urban enclaves in South Africa, which evade labor inspectors by moving in and out of Lesotho and Swaziland. Young men and boys from Mozambique, Malawi, and Zimbabwe voluntarily migrate to South Africa for farm work, sometimes laboring for months in South Africa with little or no pay and in conditions of involuntary servitude before unscrupulous employers have them arrested and deported as illegal immigrants. Taxi drivers or thugs at the border transport Zimbabwean migrants, including children, into South Africa and may subject them to sex or labor trafficking upon arrival.

The Government of South Africa does not fully comply with the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking; however, it is making significant efforts to do so. The government demonstrated increased efforts to address human trafficking, led by the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA), through the conviction and prosecution of an increased number of offenders and the formation of new task forces. The government's promised comprehensive anti-trafficking bill – first drafted in 2003 – remained under review, however, and was not passed or enacted. Although the number of new trafficking investigations and prosecutions under other legal provisions increased, few of these resulted in convictions and many cases remained pending from previous reporting periods. All those convicted received suspended sentences or fines, which are inadequate penalties to deter the commission of trafficking crimes. Despite its considerable resources, the government did not dedicate specific funding to combat human trafficking and instead relied on existing budgets for stakeholder departments and foreign donors for its efforts made. The government did not provide direct care or accommodation to trafficking victims, and funding given to NGOs for the care of trafficking victims remained insufficient. Although South Africa is a major migrant destination country in Africa, the government failed to identify and address forced labor among migrant workers, as well as foreign and South African children. Significant gaps remain in South Africa's overall victim protection process, specifically the lack of formal procedures for screening for and identifying trafficking victims amongst vulnerable groups, including illegal migrants and women in prostitution.

Recommendations for South Africa: Enact and begin implementing the draft comprehensive anti-trafficking law; utilize the Children's Amendment Act of 2007 to prosecute and convict child trafficking offenders; continue to increase awareness among all levels of relevant government officials as to their responsibilities under the anti-trafficking provisions of the Sexual Offenses and Children's Amendment Acts; criminally prosecute employers who utilize forced labor, and ensure that labor trafficking victims are not charged for immigration violations by screening all deportees for victimization; ensure officials adequately screen for victimization amongst other vulnerable groups, including women in prostitution; develop a mechanism to refer all victims to protective services; establish facilities to provide for accommodation and medical and psychological services for victims or provide sufficient funding to NGOs to do so; ensure that translators are available to assist victims in obtaining care, cooperating with law enforcement, and testifying in court; continue to support prevention strategies developed by NGOs to address demand for commercial sex acts and protect children from commercial sexual exploitation; support the adoption of measures to protect children from sexual exploitation by tourists; investigate and prosecute officials complicit in trafficking; and institute formal procedures to compile on a regular basis national statistics on the number of trafficking cases prosecuted and victims assisted, as is done for other crimes.

Prosecution

The Government of South Africa increased law enforcement efforts to combat trafficking. Several cases from previous years remained pending trial or sentencing and the few convictions achieved during the reporting period resulted in inadequate prison sentences or fines. The government investigated and prosecuted additional trafficking cases, all but one of which involved sex trafficking. This reveals the imbalance in the government's anti-trafficking efforts, which largely ignored forced labor. South African law does not prohibit all forms of trafficking. Comprehensive anti-trafficking legislation, drafting of which began in 2003, remains pending in parliament for a third consecutive year. Throughout 2010, parliament's Justice Portfolio Committee, charged with deliberating the Prevention and Combating of Trafficking in Persons Bill, held public comment sessions and numerous hearings as review of the legislation continued. The lack of a comprehensive law that fully defines trafficking, empowers police and prosecutors, and outlines provisions and allocates funding for victim care is the greatest hindrance to anti-trafficking efforts in South Africa.

The Sexual Offenses Act (SOA) prohibits sex trafficking of children and adults and the Basic Conditions of Labor Act of 1997 prohibits forced labor. The SOA prescribes punishments of up to 20 years' imprisonment for sex trafficking offenses, penalties which are sufficiently stringent and commensurate with penalties prescribed for other serious offenses, such as rape. Penalties of up to three years' imprisonment for forced labor are not sufficiently stringent. The Prevention of Organized Crime Act (POCA) of 1998, however, was the law most often used to punish traffickers, partly due to its extensive list of charges, including money laundering, racketeering, and criminal gang activity. Signed into law in 2008, the Children's Amendment Act came into full force in 2011, allowing it to be used. The act prescribes penalties of between five years' to life imprisonment or fines for the use, procurement or offer of a child for slavery, commercial sexual exploitation, or to commit crimes; the act has not yet been used to charge a child trafficking offense.

The government convicted nine offenders during the reporting period. All offenders convicted received suspended sentences or paid fines. These are inadequate punishments to deter the commission of trafficking crimes. The government used existing legislation to investigate, prosecute, and convict trafficking cases, though most prosecutions opened between 2006 and 2010 remained pending, including the trial of "Diana," a Mozambican woman charged in early 2008 with child trafficking and forced labor for allegedly exploiting three Mozambican girls in prostitution and domestic servitude. In the country's only successful prosecution under a trafficking statute to date, in which a court in Durban convicted a husband and wife in the previous reporting period on 17 counts under the POCA, the SOA, and Immigration Act, the offenders have yet to be sentenced. In 2010, the government charged three suspected offenders for the alleged labor trafficking of 106 Indian nationals; two await trial and the third pled guilty and was sentenced to five years' imprisonment, with three years suspended. In 2010, in two cases involving at least three Thai victims, the Durban Magistrate's Court charged six Thai offenders under the trafficking provisions of the SOA; all pled guilty and received fines of approximately $300 and suspended sentences. In 2010, the Welkom Magistrate's Court charged a mother and daughter under the trafficking provisions of the SOA for subjecting six South African women to forced prostitution; they reached a plea agreement, where one offender received house arrest and rehabilitation as part of a suspended sentence and another was sentenced to 16 years' imprisonment with 14 years suspended. In addition, as of March 2011, the NPA reported 22 human trafficking prosecutions initiated across five provinces, an increase from zero in 2009; five cases remain under investigation in three provinces, including a case of nine Nigerian men charged under the SOA in March 2010 in the Ermelo Magistrate's Court for subjecting 12 South African women to forced prostitution. Most cases prosecuted and convicted involved sex trafficking, showing a lack of attention to the forced labor problem in the country. However, the South African Police Service (SAPS) Directorate for Priority Crime Investigations, known as the Hawks, reported charging three South African nationals for labor trafficking in two cases involving 13 South African nationals in the Western Cape. Five additional labor trafficking cases remain under investigation in the Western Cape.

Some police officers received bribes from crime syndicates, failed to pursue criminals out of fear of reprisals, or preferred to deport victims, as a shortcut, instead of opening a trafficking investigation. Police report investigation plans were often leaked, thereby tipping off traffickers and giving them a chance to elude capture.

In 2010, the South African Police Service (SAPS), responsible for case investigation, identified nine provincial coordinators to monitor and track all leads and investigations, reporting to the national human trafficking coordinator on their anti-trafficking efforts. The NPA's Sexual Offenses and Community Affairs Unit (SOCA) launched three new provincial TIP task teams in Gauteng, the Eastern Cape, and the Western Cape; there are now task teams in six of the nine provinces. In preparation for the launch of each task team, NPA SOCA organized a variety of workshops to determine the roles of stakeholders, establish sub-structures of the task team, and develop the provincial strategies for prevention, response, and support. The NPA, in cooperation with international partners, developed an accredited trafficking training manual for use by all government departments. The NPA trained and accredited 249 trainers from SAPS, Department of Social Development (DSD), Department of Home Affairs (DHA), and Department of Justice to train in their respective offices on the definition of trafficking, victim identification, as well as case investigation and management. SAPS cooperated with the U.S. government on the rescue and repatriation of a potential South African victim of sex trafficking; the investigation concluded that the victim had not in fact been trafficked. In addition, during the reporting period, the government assisted in the rescue of potential trafficking victims from Lesotho and Swaziland.

Protection

The South African government sustained its efforts to ensure trafficking victims' access to protective services during the reporting period, but gaps remained in screening amongst vulnerable groups, leading to the arrest and summary deportation of potential victims. The government did not develop formal procedures for the identification of trafficking victims and their referral to appropriate care; however, the National Prosecuting Authority, DSD, and IOM developed training manuals for law enforcement and immigration officials, prosecutors, social workers, health care providers, and NGO representatives to recognize and address trafficking cases. In addition, the NPA reached an agreement with a local NGO trafficking hotline to refer cases to NPA's Sexual Offenses and Community Affairs and the provincial task teams. DSD and the SAPS notified each other of trafficking cases to enable rapid access to care and effective gathering of evidence and testimony. The government did not specifically dedicate funding to anti-trafficking activities, relying instead on the existing budgets of the affected departments. With some all-purpose funding from the DSD, NGOs, faith-based organizations, and community charities provided care to both identified and suspected trafficking victims in overtaxed, multi-purpose facilities that helped victims of domestic abuse, gender-based violence, rape, and sexual assault. Such funding is inadequate to support the anti-trafficking work of these organizations. The government failed to provide any direct care or accommodation for trafficking victims.

As the only body authorized by judicial authorities to refer crime victims to private shelters, the DSD was involved in referring each case. There were few facilities for men, however, and victims of forced labor on farms near the borders with Lesotho and Mozambique were routinely denied care and summarily deported. In 2010, the DSD reviewed its "shelter strategy," and identified 13 shelters in need of upgrades to accommodate trafficking victims. DSD received funding to begin the upgrades and begin training staff at these facilities. The DSD trained 270 social workers on identification of trafficking victims and the role of stakeholders in assisting victims. During the reporting period, DSD also developed a nine-week rehabilitation program for the psycho-social well-being of victims. The program will not be available to support victims until passage of the long-delayed draft anti-trafficking law.

The government did not offer long-term care to non-foreign trafficking victims assisting with investigations. During the reporting period, the government provided witness protection to at least four suspected trafficking victims. Officials encouraged victims to participate in the investigation and prosecution of trafficking offenders. Almost all foreign victims, though, preferred to return home without pressing charges. NGOs reported that the police's longstanding focus on deportation of undocumented migrants caused them to overlook potential foreign trafficking victims. The SOA stipulates that sex trafficking victims not be charged with crimes committed as a direct result of being trafficked, yet some victims were still arrested. Some organizations report that the screening of women in prostitution who were arrested following brothel raids may be done too hastily to assess accurately trafficking victimization. With the lack of a formal identification process, trafficking victims were most likely detained, jailed, or fined for unlawful acts committed as a result of being trafficked. The law did not provide all trafficking victims with legal alternatives to deportation to countries where they may face hardship or retribution.

Prevention

The government made efforts to prevent human trafficking. The NPA continued to chair the national Trafficking in Persons Inter-Sectoral Task Team (ISTT), which met quarterly to coordinate all government counter trafficking efforts. Prevention campaigns launched in early 2010, in advance of, during and immediately after the World Cup, by both government and NGOs were effective in raising awareness. The government jointly sponsored, with a foreign donor, the fifth annual Human Trafficking Awareness Week in October 2010, which spread awareness of trafficking and the appropriate responses to it. These activities were coordinated by the Department of Home Affairs, at the ports of entry, several police stations in Johannesburg, at nearby shopping centers, and by the Department of Social Development at its Pretoria headquarters. The KwaZulu-Natal Task Team also sponsored a coloring competition in IsiZulu and English for students from Grade 3 to Grade 7, with active participation from SAPS, the Department of Justice and Constitutional Development, the Department of Arts and Culture, as well as the Local Victim Empowerment Forums.

In cooperation with the NPA, members of the Kaizer Chiefs soccer team addressed their supporters and wore T-shirts encouraging the public to report suspected cases or find out more information about human trafficking. The NPA continued to lead the donor-funded Tsireledzani program, which developed a national action plan to combat trafficking in persons during the reporting period, now under review by the cabinet. During the reporting period, the NPA developed low cost high impact awareness tools, such as peer education worksheets and a radio drama, which targeted vulnerable groups and the general public. The Mpumalanga Task Team conducted public awareness activities with traditional leaders and the Gauteng Task Team handed out pamphlets and posters in Johannesburg's central business district. Members of the Durban Task Team rode aboard a float in the Durban Float Parade, bound and gagged to represent the concept of human trafficking. The Department of Justice and Constitutional Development visited the Eastern Cape to look into the practice of ukuthwala among certain communities. The NPA conducted "road shows" during the 16 Days of Activism for No Violence Against Women and Children, in which presenters educated communities about the ways in which ukuthwala violated children's rights and could be criminally prosecuted. The NPA also pursued investigations into cases of forced marriage, charging perpetrators with kidnapping and statutory rape.

The Department of Labor (DOL) has neither recognized nor acted to address the labor trafficking abuses occurring within the country. Suspected instances of labor trafficking involving foreigners have been deemed episodes of localized migrant abuse. Additionally, the DOL has never identified a case of forced child labor and investigated instances are determined to involve "children in need," not victims. Labor inspectors are not adequately trained to identify cases of trafficking, including those involving children. The government did not make efforts to reduce the demand for commercial sex. The government, through the South African National Defense Forces' Peace Mission Training Centre, provided anti-trafficking training to South African troops prior to their deployment abroad on international peacekeeping missions.

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