The Government of South Africa does not fully meet the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking; however, it is making significant efforts to do so. The government demonstrated increasing efforts compared to the previous reporting period; therefore, South Africa remained on Tier 2. The government demonstrated increasing efforts by identifying more than double the number of trafficking victims and referring all identified victims to care. The government convicted 11 traffickers, including its first under the Prevention and Combating of Trafficking in Persons Act (PACOTIP), and handed down stringent sentences in 10 cases. The government established a national anti-trafficking hotline in collaboration with a NGO, launched a program with another NGO to screen individuals for trafficking indicators prior to deportation at one international airport, and led awareness campaigns. However, the government did not meet the minimum standards in several key areas. The government severely under-budgeted the funds required to implement the anti-trafficking law and consequently could not fully implement the law. The government did not comprehensively monitor or investigate forced child labor or the labor trafficking of adults in the agricultural, mining, construction, and fishing sectors. The government did not prosecute or convict any officials allegedly complicit in trafficking offenses, despite allegations of complicity involving immigration and law enforcement officials. The South Africa police service (SAPS) was widely criticized for not identifying victims, even after NGOs conducted preliminary identification screenings. Officials across the government had difficulty identifying labor trafficking victims and differentiating between trafficking and smuggling crimes.


Fund and increase efforts to fully implement PACOTIP and related regulations; continue to train law enforcement and social service officials on these provisions; amend the anti-trafficking law to ensure penalties are sufficiently stringent and do not allow for fines in lieu of prison time; increase efforts to investigate, prosecute, and convict traffickers, including employers who use forced labor, under PACOTIP; investigate and prosecute officials suspected of complicity in trafficking crimes; ensure victims are issued the appropriate identification documents in order to receive protective services; train law enforcement and social service providers to use a victim-centered approach when interacting with potential victims and recognize initial consent is irrelevant; improve efforts to screen vulnerable groups, including potential deportees and women in prostitution, for trafficking indicators; replicate the coordinated anti-trafficking law enforcement and victim referral mechanisms of KwaZulu-Natal (KZN) and Western Cape in all provinces; extend the availability of drug rehabilitation services to trafficking victims; certify or establish additional shelters for male victims; provide anti-trafficking training for diplomatic personnel and troops deployed abroad; and institute formal procedures to compile national statistics on traffickers prosecuted and victims assisted.


The government maintained prosecution efforts, although official complicity in trafficking crimes remained a serious concern. The PACOTIP of 2013 criminalizes all forms of human trafficking. Articles 4-11 provide a range of penalties for trafficking in persons, ranging from fines, up to 100 million South African rand ($7.3 million), to life imprisonment, depending on the severity of the offense. The penalties are sufficiently stringent; however, by allowing for a fine in lieu of imprisonment, the prescribed punishment is not commensurate with those for other serious crimes, such as rape. The implementing regulations for PACOTIP's immigration provisions found in sections 15, 16, and 31(2)(b)(ii) have not been promulgated. The Sexual Offenses Act (SOA) also criminalizes the sex trafficking of children and adults and prescribes penalties of up to 20 years imprisonment, which are sufficiently stringent and commensurate with those prescribed for other serious offenses, such as rape. The Basic Conditions of Employment Act of 1997 (BCEA), amended in 2014, criminalizes forced labor and prescribes maximum penalties for forced labor for both children and adults from three to six years imprisonment. In addition, the Children's Amendment Act of 2005 prescribes penalties of 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. Where relevant, prosecutors sometimes relied on the Prevention of Organized Crime Act of 1998 in combination with SOA, which added additional charges such as money laundering, racketeering, and criminal gang activity and increased penalties of convicted defendants.

The government did not report the number of cases it investigated; it initiated prosecutions of six cases, involving 11 sex traffickers, and obtained convictions of 11 sex traffickers, compared five traffickers prosecuted and 11 convicted in 2015. Sentences ranged from suspended jail time to life imprisonment. In March 2017, the government convicted a Nigerian trafficker under PACOTIP to 20 years imprisonment for child sex trafficking of a girl made dependent on drugs as a means of coercion. In one case, the Durban regional court convicted and sentenced three defendants to 254, 304, and 315 years respectively; however, two will serve 25 years and the third 35 years. The government did not report action on the pending prosecutions of 19 alleged sex traffickers, some from previous years, which had remained ongoing at the end of the last reporting period. While the government obtained the conviction of one Nigerian trafficker, the government has made little progress in prosecution of traffickers connected to international syndicates involving Nigerian, Thai, Chinese, Russian, or Bulgarian traffickers, who dominate the commercial sex industry in several South African cities. During the reporting period, an NGO reported the government severely under-budgeted funding required to implement PACOTIP and consequently the act could not be fully implemented until additional funds were allocated to government entities responsible for its implementation. The Department of Priority Crime Investigation (DPCI) proactively investigated trafficking cases and collaborated closely with the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) to build cases. NGOs reported local police stations often declined to investigate trafficking cases, even when NGOs provided case information.

The government did not prosecute or convict any officials allegedly complicit in trafficking offenses, despite allegations of complicity involving immigration and law enforcement officials. A police station near Pretoria allegedly notified traffickers to retrieve their victims when the victims sought help. Reports alleged that SAPS officers used an official vehicle to transport victims to a brothel, where they were exploited. SAPS officers allegedly accepted bribes not to investigate sex trafficking. NGOs reported some police officers solicited commercial sex acts from victims. There were allegations that officials within the Department of Home Affairs (DHA) produced fraudulent birth certificates, passports, and other identification documents that facilitated trafficking crimes. Immigration officials, private security companies, and airline officials may have been involved in facilitating trafficking operations at international airports.

While the majority of trafficking victims in South Africa are labor trafficking victims, the government did not prosecute or convict any labor traffickers in 2016. The government did not comprehensively monitor or investigate forced child labor or the labor trafficking of adults in the agricultural, mining, construction, and fishing sectors. Department of Labor (DOL) inspectors continued to use administrative provisions within the BCEA as their core enforcement mechanism and rarely referred cases for criminal investigation. The NPA, DHA, SAPS, Department of Social Development (DSD), Department of Health (DOH), and DOL continued to include anti-trafficking trainings developed by an international organization within their trainings for new staff.


The government increased protection efforts. The government identified and referred to care in government shelters 220 trafficking victims, compared to 103 victims identified in 2015. The government identified victims in eight provinces, mainly in Gauteng. In one potential forced labor case, in January, 2017, the SAPS and DPCI identified 72 potential victims from a factory in KZN province.

DSD continued oversight of and funding to 13 accredited NGO-run multipurpose shelters and continued to oversee 17 NGO-run safe houses designed to temporarily shelter victims before transfer to an accredited shelter, providing a stipend on a per person, per night basis to the safe houses. There was only one shelter, in Gauteng, available for male trafficking victims. The government identified four Filipino fishermen victims and referred them to an NGO-operated shelter in Cape Town. Serious concerns were raised that NGOs without training, expertise, or accreditation from the DSD failed to screen potential victims prior to placing them in shelters and created vulnerability within shelters housing legitimately screened trafficking victims; the DSD confirmed the high rate of new NGOs that ran unaccredited shelters housing trafficking victims. DSD ran a nine-week rehabilitation program to address the psycho-social well-being of victims and paid for victims to receive residential treatment at rehabilitation centers for overcoming drug addiction; however, not all provinces had such centers. The government operated a network of Thuthuzela Care Centers (TCCs) full service crisis centers to assist victims of rape and sexual violence, including potential trafficking victims; it reported the 53 TCCs assisted five victims of trafficking. Per a DSD policy, staff prevented both adults and children from leaving shelters unaccompanied, reportedly for security reasons. Rapid-response teams comprised of government agencies and NGOs in Gauteng, Mpumalanga, Western Cape, and KZN continued to coordinate protective services, including shelter, for victims. DSD, which is responsible for designating and certifying trafficking victim status, continued to accept victims from law enforcement and coordinate their placement in a registered shelter.

SAPS, DSD, NPA, DHA, and the Department of Justice (DOJ) had uniform formal procedures to identify and refer trafficking victims to care, in accordance with PACOTIP. Implementation of these procedures varied by department and province; not all officials were aware of referral procedures. SAPS was widely criticized for not identifying victims, even after NGOs had conducted preliminary identification screening. Officials in all departments had difficulty identifying labor trafficking victims and differentiating between trafficking and smuggling crimes. KZN and Western Cape provincial task teams used an interagency protocol to guide law enforcement interactions with women in prostitution. Law enforcement generally did not screen women and LGBTI persons in prostitution for trafficking indicators, and instead sometimes charged them with prostitution and other violations. Male labor trafficking victims remained largely unidentified and were frequently detained, deported, jailed or fined. In March 2017, immigration officials at the international airport in Johannesburg signed an agreement with an NGO to profile and identify potential trafficking victims prior to deportation. Through this initiative, the government and NGO partner conducted over 100 screenings and referred an unknown number of victims to care.

Systemic hurdles inhibited progress in providing justice and protection for victims. A lack of language interpretation impeded the investigation of trafficking cases, prosecution of suspected offenders, and screening of victims. Officials encouraged victims to participate in the investigation and prosecution of traffickers and the government provided security and long-term care for an unknown number of victims who did so during the reporting period. PACOTIP provides trafficking victims relief from deportation; however, regulations to implement this provision have not been promulgated. Law enforcement may petition DHA on behalf of foreign victims to prevent their deportation; however, reports indicated foreign victims lacking appropriate documentation or residency status in South Africa were not allowed to study in any registered institution or work for the duration of an investigation or court proceeding, limiting foreign victims' willingness to testify in court. Foreign victims did not have the same access to health care as South African victims. DSD policy required evidence of force, fraud, or coercion immediately after victims' rescue and their classification as victims of trafficking to facilitate placement in facilities. Suspected criminals could only be held for 48 hours without evidence; because many traumatized victims were unable or unwilling to provide statements within that period, some suspected offenders were released.


The government increased efforts to prevent trafficking. The government finalized and began to implement its national action plan during the reporting period; however, civil society reported implementation was uneven. In August 2016, the government, in coordination with an NGO, launched a national anti-trafficking hotline; professionally-trained hotline specialists received calls 24-hours a day, seven days a week. In October, DPCI conducted a three-day awareness campaign on trafficking in Northern Cape. The campaign was intended to foster community support and participation in fighting trafficking in the area. The government conducted awareness campaigns via social and traditional media, including radio, and held awareness events at malls. The government provided consular and immigration officials basic anti-trafficking training in order to screen for trafficking indicators of visa applicants and individuals entering the country. NPA and DOJ oversaw six provincial task teams coordinated through the national task team, which met quarterly to discuss counter-trafficking efforts and worked collaboratively to address challenges.

The government did not make efforts to reduce the demand for commercial sex or forced labor. The government did not provide anti-trafficking training to its peacekeepers prior to their deployment abroad on international peacekeeping missions. In coordination with an international organization, the government provided anti-trafficking training for its diplomatic personnel.


As reported over the past five years, South Africa is a source, transit, and destination country for men, women, and children subjected to forced labor and sex trafficking. South African children are recruited from poor rural areas to urban centers, such as Johannesburg, Cape Town, Durban, and Bloemfontein, where girls are subjected to sex trafficking and domestic servitude and boys are forced to work in street vending, food service, begging, criminal activities, and agriculture. Many children, including those with disabilities, are exploited in forced begging. Non-consensual and illegal ukuthwala, the forced marriage of girls as young as 12 to adult men, is practiced in some remote villages in Eastern Cape Province; some of these girls are subjected to forced labor and sex slavery. Local criminal rings organize child sex trafficking, while Russian and Bulgarian crime syndicates facilitate trafficking within the Cape Town commercial sex industry, and Thai and Chinese nationals organize the sex trafficking of Asian men and women. Nigerian syndicates dominate the commercial sex industry in several provinces. To a lesser extent, syndicates recruit South African women to Europe and Asia, where some are forced into prostitution, domestic servitude, or drug smuggling. Law enforcement reported traffickers employ forced drug use to coerce sex trafficking victims.

Thai women remained the largest group of identified foreign victims, but officials reported an increased number of Chinese victims. Women and girls from Brazil, Eastern Europe, Asia, and neighboring African countries are recruited for work in South Africa, where some are subjected to sex trafficking, domestic servitude, or forced labor in the service sector, or transported to Europe for similar purposes. NGOs in Western Cape have reported an increased number of Nigerian sex trafficking victims, many coerced through voodoo rituals, and more Nigerians in domestic servitude. Central African women are reportedly subjected to forced labor in hair salons. Foreign and South African LGBTI persons are subjected to sex trafficking. Foreign male forced labor victims have been identified aboard fishing vessels in South Africa's territorial waters; NGOs estimated 10 to 15 victims of labor trafficking each month disembark in Cape Town. Young men and boys from neighboring countries migrate to South Africa for farm work; some are subjected to forced labor and subsequently arrested and deported as illegal immigrants. Forced labor is reportedly used in fruit and vegetable farms across South Africa and vineyards in Western Cape. The government and NGOs report an increase in Pakistanis and Bangladeshis subjected to bonded labor in businesses owned by their co-nationals. Official complicity including by police in trafficking crimes remained a serious concern. Some well-known brothels previously identified as locations of sex trafficking continued to operate with officials' tacit approval.


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