U.S. Department of State 2007 Trafficking in Persons Report - South Africa

South Africa (Tier 2 Watch List)

South Africa is a source, transit, and destination country for trafficked men, women, and children. South African girls are trafficked internally for the purposes of commercial sexual exploitation and domestic servitude. Women and girls from other African countries are trafficked to South Africa and, occasionally, onward to Europe for sexual exploitation. Thai, Chinese, and Eastern European women are trafficked to South Africa for debt-bonded commercial sexual exploitation. Mozambican and Malawian boys and young men are trafficked to South Africa for agricultural labor. Small numbers of Swazi girls are trafficked to South Africa's Mpumalanga Province for domestic servitude. Organized criminal groups and local gangs facilitate trafficking into and within South Africa, particularly for the purpose of commercial sexual exploitation.

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. South Africa is placed on Tier 2 Watch List for a third consecutive year for its failure to show increasing efforts to address trafficking over the last year. The government did not provide comprehensive data on trafficking crimes investigated or prosecuted or on resulting convictions or sentences during the year. To enhance its ability to combat trafficking, the government should fully implement the provisions of the Children's Bill against child trafficking and raise awareness among all levels of relevant government officials as to their responsibilities under these provisions; develop national procedures for victim protection, including the screening of undocumented immigrants for signs of victimization before deportation; and ensure that the Human Trafficking Inter-Sectoral Task Team is granted the proper authority to carry out fully its coordination role. The government should also regularly compile national statistics on the number of trafficking cases prosecuted and victims assisted, as it does for other crimes.


The government's anti-trafficking law enforcement efforts were increasingly visible during the year. South Africa does not have laws that prohibit trafficking in persons, though a variety of other criminal statutes are currently used to prosecute trafficking crimes. The lack of specific anti-trafficking statutes and explicit penalties for trafficking crimes continued to hamper South African law enforcement efforts, as many working level police, labor, and social welfare officials possessed little understanding of the crime or did not view it as part of their responsibilities. However, relevant bills continued to progress through the legislative process during the reporting period. In June 2006, President Mbeki signed the Children's Act, which specifically criminalizes child trafficking; this law cannot be enforced until the Department of Social Development releases the necessary implementing regulations. To raise awareness and elicit further feedback on its draft comprehensive anti-trafficking bill, the South African Law Reform Commission conducted six well-attended public workshops throughout the country for investigators, prosecutors, and civic organizations. In November 2006, the Sexual Offenses Bill, which prohibits the trafficking of women for sexual exploitation, was debated and released from parliamentary committee to the National Assembly for consideration. In August 2006, the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) sponsored a two-day seminar on prosecuting human trafficking cases in the South African context for provincial prosecutors, as well as chief prosecutors from other African countries. Based on an agreement produced by the seminar, the government formed a Rapid Response Team to identify priority cases for prosecution, though no priority cases have yet been identified.

A number of significant trafficking cases were investigated and prosecuted during the year. A woman convicted in early 2006 of forcing young girls into prostitution was sentenced in June to five years in prison. A prosecution is underway against the head of a large criminal organization alleged to have recruited women and girls under the guise of employment and subsequently forced them into prostitution using threats, physical violence, and forced drug usage. In December, members of the South African Police Service's (SAPS) Organized Crime Unit raided and successfully withdrew 26 Thai women in prostitution from a Durban night club and arrested their three suspected traffickers. Four women agreed to assist with the prosecution of the club's owners and were placed in witness protection. The remaining women repeatedly denied being trafficked; their prosecution on prostitution and illegal immigration charges is underway, after which they face deportation. At the request of an airport immigration officer, police arrested two Congolese men after a 12-year old girl was unable to explain why she was traveling with them. The case of a South African man who promised a Swazi woman a job in his clothing shop but instead allegedly used her as a sex slave was thrown out of court for lack of evidence. In February 2007, police arrested and charged two men with statutory rape for allegedly running brothels in Soweto and luring at least 10 girls as young as 10 years of age into prostitution.

Thirty-one members of the SAPS Organized Crime Unit in Gauteng Province received IOM training on the role of organized criminal groups in the trafficking of women and children. Some local law enforcement officials are believed to be connected with organized criminal elements that engage in human trafficking as a side business. Investigation into at least one suspected case proved difficult during the year as witnesses refused to reveal the names of corrupt officials.


Government protection for trafficking victims during the reporting period remained inadequate and no department dedicated financial or staff resources specifically for trafficking victims. While the government operated facilities that provide an array of social services to its citizens, including 10 "Thuthuzela" reception centers that offer medical and psychological care to victims of sexual violence, it remains unclear whether trafficking victims utilized any of these services in 2006. However, police referred an unknown number of trafficking victims to local NGO-run shelters during the reporting period; the government provided financing to some of these facilities to assist in the care of victims. Police requested IOM's participation in joint interviews of suspected foreign victims and referred a number of victims to the organization for short-term care and repatriation. The government actively encouraged victims' assistance in the investigation and prosecution of their traffickers; at least six trafficking victims were placed in South Africa's witness protection program during the year to enable their involvement. In December, however, photographs of four Thai women in witness protection appeared in a Durban newspaper, increasing threats against their lives and families in Thailand. One group of suspected foreign victims was detained in a jail cell with their alleged traffickers, seriously compromising their ability to assist in a prosecution. There are no legal alternatives to the removal of foreign trafficking victims to countries where they face hardship or retribution. While local law enforcement's ability to question migrants improved, the lack of national coordination and procedures for victim protection continued to lead to deportation of most foreign victims before they were able to give evidence in court. In addition, immigration officials did not attempt to identify trafficking victims among undocumented foreigners, notably Mozambicans, before deporting them.


While awareness of human trafficking has increased substantially within the country over the past year, government efforts in promoting awareness were minimal. The Sexual Offenses and Community Affairs Unit within the NPA remained responsible for coordination of the Human Trafficking Inter-Sectoral Task Team. This team's ability to function remained hampered by the lack of a specific mandate from the Department of Justice and poor coordination with other departments; it produced no substantial efforts during the year. Also due to the lack of a mandate, the preliminary National Plan of Action adopted in March 2006 was not implemented. In August, the Women's Parliament conducted a two-day meeting focusing on human trafficking.


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