Human trafficking in SA

2010-04-17 07:55
Ermelo - Police in this small town in eastern SA thought they had a problem with prostitutes they could solve in the usual way - arrest the women and get them off the streets.

Then Warrant Officer Magda Scholtz found herself doing something unusual. She talked to the women, curious about what had brought them to Ermelo. She found the problem was human traffickers.

At a heavily guarded hearing on Friday, seven suspects waived their right to bail in a case in which they are accused of recruiting women and at least one 16-year-old from across the country and bringing them to Ermelo, where they were treated like slaves and forced into prostitution.

Two other suspects asked for more time to appeal for a bail, and a new hearing was set for the end of the month.

The case comes as SA prepares to enact tough new legislation against human traffickers. The World Cup that opens in June also has focused attention on the crime, with questions about whether trafficking might increase because of the influx of partying fans.

Fear

The women in the case before the court spoke of being locked in their rooms when they weren't working and of being beaten by the suspects. Their identity documents were taken from them and they were forced to take drugs. All their earnings were taken from them, and they were given little to eat beyond rice and cheap meat.

"One girl was raped... because she refused to work," Scholtz said.

Four women who have agreed to testify against the suspects are in a witness protection programme. Scholtz said even she does not know where they are, but is confident they will appear when the time comes during trial.

Other women were afraid to testify, and the fear increased when a prostitute was found dead near the apartment complex where the women had been living. Scholtz said the dead woman, who had been strangled, had said she would testify, but refused to enter the protection programme.

Vanessa Barolsky, a sociologist at South Africa's Human Sciences Research Council, said police too often fail to listen to the women, children and migrants, who are the most common victims of traffickers.

"Often what happens is that people are just investigated for prostitution without anybody investigating further," she said. "There are a lot of cases that are probably lost."

Barolsky's government-supported think tank released a report in March that explored trafficking in SA. The report said victims included children brought from elsewhere in Africa or the South African countryside to work as street vendors, baby sitters and maids in South Africa's cities.

Life in prison

Some work in conditions very close to slavery, and those who leave at times fall into sex work out of desperation.

Women from Asia have been recruited to SA with promises of greater earnings here. Some come knowing the jobs are as prostitutes, while others fall for false promises of other work.

Trafficking is not specifically a crime, making statistics hard to compile. The Ermelo case is typical - the suspects are charged under provisions of the country's sexual offenses law.

A proposed South African law that has been years in the making creates a trafficking offense, punishable by life in prison. That's comparable to the possible sentencing under the racketeering and sex crimes laws that have been used in the past to prosecute traffickers.

In addition, the proposed law criminalises, under certain circumstances, using the services of a trafficked person, providing premises for traffickers, transporting victims, and failing to report suspected cases.

Provisions to guard against deporting victims, provide them shelter and other aid and help them get compensation from traffickers also are laid out.

Decent jobs

Malebo Khotu-Rammopo, the point person on human trafficking for South Africa's National Prosecuting Authority, said lawmakers, prosecutors and others were still discussing how to implement the proposals, and the new law may not go into effect late this year or early 2011.

In Ermelo, police spokesperson Captain Leonard Hlathi said the young women had been promised "decent jobs" in Mpumalanga, a province whose roads include trucking routes from the neighbouring countries of Swaziland and Mozambique.

"When they got to Mpumalanga, it was a different story," Hlathi said. "They were forced to work as prostitutes."

Hlathi said the lesson was clear: However desperate for work, don't set out with people making promises too good to be true. "You might not come home."
- AP

Read more on:    nelspruit  |  human trafficking
NEXT ON NEWS24X

EFF sees red over Hitler

2014-07-23 22:28

SHARE:

Read News24’s Comments Policy

 

Inside News24

 
/News
 
Traffic
Lottery
 
  • Wednesday Gordons Bay - 18:30 PM
    Road name: R44 Faure Marine Drive Both Ways
    ROAD CLOSED at Suikerbossie Drive due to roadworks until 5am - traffic diverted - expect delays
  • Wednesday Kuils River - 18:01 PM
    Road name: Polkadraai Road Eastbound
    ROADWORKS between the R102 Van Riebeeck Road and the R310 Baden Powell Drive exit - expect delays
 
More traffic reports...
 

Jobs in Cape Town [change area]

Property [change area]

Travel - Look, Book, Go!

Magical Massinga

Spend 5 nights at the gorgeous Massinga Beach Lodge in Mozambique and only pay for 4 from R13 220 per person sharing. Includes return flights, accommodation, transfers and romantic turndown. Book now!

Kalahari.com - shop online today

2 TV Series for R250

Get 2 TV Series box sets for R250 and save up to R148! Offer valid while stocks last. Shop now!

Pre-order the Xbox One

Get this all-in-one entertainment system with live TV, movies, social networking and gaming. Pre-order now!

Up to 50% off hair care products!

Save up to 50% on professional hair care products at kalahari.com. Offer valid while stocks last. Shop now!

30% off academic books

Score a mind blowing 30% off academic books! Offer valid while stocks last. Shop now!

Mind blowing deals on electronics!

Save up to 35% on electronics. Offer valid while stocks last. Shop now!

OLX Free Classifieds [change area]

Samsung Galaxy s4

Mobile, Cell Phones in South Africa, Western Cape, Cape Town. Date October 24

Best bargain in big bay

Real Estate, Houses - Apartments for Sale in South Africa, Western Cape, Cape Town. Date October 25

VW Golf 6, 1.6 Trendline (Excellent condition)

Vehicles, Cars in South Africa, Western Cape, Cape Town. Date October 25

BlackBerry Curve 9360

The BlackBerry Curve 9360 smartphone comes preloaded with Blackberry OS7...

From R1433.00

I'm shopping for:

Horoscopes
Aquarius
Aquarius

Your heart is big and you are sensitive to the needs of those around you. Your humanitarian side is emphasized today and you may...read more

There are new stories on the homepage. Click here to see them.
 
English
Afrikaans
isiZulu

Hello 

Create Profile

Creating your profile will enable you to submit photos and stories to get published on News24.


Please provide a username for your profile page:

This username must be unique, cannot be edited and will be used in the URL to your profile page across the entire 24.com network.

Settings

Location Settings

News24 allows you to edit the display of certain components based on a location. If you wish to personalise the page based on your preferences, please select a location for each component and click "Submit" in order for the changes to take affect.








Facebook Sign-In

Hi News addict,

Join the News24 Community to be involved in breaking the news.

Log in with Facebook to comment and personalise news, weather and listings.