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Keynote Address by the Deputy Minister of Justice and Constitutional Development, the Hon JH Jeffery, MP at a Workshop on the Trafficking in Persons Act, held at the Sheraton Hotel, Arcadia, 19 June 2017

Programme Director
First Counsellor of the EU Delegation to South Africa, Mr Manuel Iglesias Roa
Representatives of the European Union, the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime, the International Organization for Migrants and the United Nations Children’s Fund
Representatives from various civil society organisations
Representatives from government departments, SARS, SAPS and the National Prosecuting Authority
Ladies and gentlemen

Human beings are not for sale.

Yet, human trafficking happens the world over, affecting every country of the world – either as countries of origin, transit or destination or combination of them all.

The UNODC’s 2014 report found that victims of 152 different citizenships were identified in 124 countries across the world. In the report at least 510 different trafficking flows were detected. Some 49% of detected victims were adult women and 33% of detected victims were children.

Sub-Saharan Africa reported the highest share of child trafficking in the world, and girls and boys are more or less equally detected.

So what are we doing to combat and prevent these crimes?

The Prevention and Combatting of Trafficking in Persons Act came into operation in August 2015.

With this legislation we now have a comprehensive legal tool to combat trafficking in persons in all its forms.

Prior to the enactment of Act, trafficking in persons for sexual purposes was criminalised through other pieces of legislation such as the Sexual Offences Act and trafficking in children through the Children’s Act.  

In compliance with South Africa’s international obligations - particularly the Protocol to Prevent, Suppress and Punish Trafficking in Persons, Especially Women and Children, supplementing the United Nations Convention against Transnational Organized Crime (the Palermo Convention) - the current Trafficking in Persons Act was passed. 

The main objective of the Act is to prevent, protect and prosecute.

The Act created the offence of trafficking in persons which included labour trafficking and broadened the scope so that other offences subsidiary thereto could be adequately covered.  It also provides for the imposition of appropriate sentences.

The legislation further provides for various measures to protect and assist victims of trafficking in persons, with other departments such as Health and Social Development as well as civil society all playing a major role. It also allows us to partner with other countries in combating and prosecuting these crimes.

All the aims of the new legislation can be achieved through proper coordination, collaboration and partnership. 

The National Inter-sectoral Committee on the Prevention and Combating of Trafficking in Persons comprises of national representatives of all relevant stakeholders, including representatives of civil society, all playing a crucial role in trafficking in persons’ matters.   
International organisations such as the UNODC and the IOM have also been included for their expertise and support.

The structure is replicated in all nine provinces and called TIP Provincial Task Teams.

They comprise of provincial departmental representatives and is as inclusive as possible with representatives from CSOs, NGOs, faith based organisations, traditional leaders and so forth.

They provide all the necessary information on behalf of departments to facilitate proper coordination of responsibilities, duties and functions for effective implementation of the national policy framework and the Act. They also conduct public awareness campaigns, training and outreaches, as well as capacity building, community empowerment and reporting on progress for effective communication.

Each Provincial Task Team must have a Rapid Response Team which comprises of all relevant departments from the provincial team responsible for the operational trafficking matters e.g. the SAPS, the Department of Social Development, the Department of Home Affairs, our Department and the National Prosecuting Authority. 

The Rapid Response Team’s objectives include attending to operational matters relating to suspected complaints and pending cases of trafficking in persons and to ensure efficient monitoring of reported trafficking in persons cases.

They also provide support to the victims and implement a multi-disciplinary integrated response in addressing trafficking in persons cases.

In addition to the new legislation, our courts have also handed some significant sentences which will hopefully act a deterrent to crimes of trafficking:

  • In September last year a 65-year-old man and a 51-year-old woman were sentenced to life and five-year imprisonment by the Lady Frere Regional court for rape and sexually exploitation.

    A case of trafficking in persons was transferred to the Hawks after the woman was arrested for giving the man permission to have sex with her then 12-year-old daughter in exchange for an undisclosed amount of money. Her motive for selling off her child was allegedly to satisfy her alcohol addiction.
  • In November last year 3 men were convicted of human trafficking and running a brothel from a Durban Hotel with girls as young as 12 years old.

    The combined total prison sentence handed to the one offender for his 39 convictions was 315 years, the second one was sentenced to a total of 304 years for his 38 charges, and the third one’s total sentence amounted to 250 years.

    The total sentences of all three men thus amounted to 869 years. All three were convicted of racketeering, running a brothel, the sexual exploitation of a minor, living off the earnings of prostitution, human trafficking for sexual purposes and dealing in cocaine.
  • In March this year the High Court in Johannesburg sentenced a man convicted of trafficking a 15-year-old girl and forcing her into prostitution to an effective 20 years in prison.

Despite strong legislation and structures to detect and prosecute perpetrators of trafficking, South Africa is regarded as a source, transit, and destination country for men, women, and children subjected to forced labour and sex trafficking.

Victim assistance programs and research show that trafficking in persons is still a prevalent and highly underreported crime.

The US State Department’s 2016 Trafficking in Persons report states that South Africans constitute the largest number of victims within the country.

We are told that South African children are recruited from poor rural areas to urban centres, 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.  Local criminal rings organize child sex trafficking.

We are told that crime syndicates recruit South African women to Europe and Asia, where some are forced into prostitution, domestic service, or drug smuggling. 

Law enforcement reported traffickers employ forced drug use to coerce sex trafficking victims.

NGOs in the Western Cape have reported an increased number of Nigerian sex trafficking victims and in domestic servitude. NGOs also reported a new trend of Central African women in forced labour. Foreign and South African LGBTI persons are also subjected to sex trafficking.

Foreign male forced labour victims were discovered aboard fishing vessels in South Africa’s territorial waters.  Young men and boys from neighbouring countries migrate to South Africa for farm work; some are subjected to forced labour and subsequently arrested and deported as illegal immigrants.

The National Freedom Network has also said that labour trafficking is grossly under-represented and probably a far greater problem here in South Africa than what we realise.

When we think of trafficking crimes we often think of large crime syndicates. But that is not always the case. Many of you may have heard of the so-called “bakkie brigades.”

According to Professor Philip Frankel of Wits –

“A great majority of human trafficking doesn’t involve syndicates at all. Most involve a bakkie brigade, where you have three or four guys going into the community, recruiting unemployed people and, once they get them to the city, they put them in the house, take away their identity documents or passports and sell them into forced labour.”

It is of great concern that, in spite of the examples I have given, the investigation and prosecution of persons responsible for human trafficking remains far behind estimated figures.  

We need to urgently examine the reasons why trafficking is underreported and what can be done to address this. 

During most of its recent meetings the committees established in terms of the Act have indicated the need for more training in the coordination and implementation of their roles and responsibilities. 

Under the auspices of the UNODC, South Africa recently launched a cooperation programme to combat trafficking in persons and smuggling of migrants.

Today’s workshop seeks to support the harmonisation of training programmes on combating TIP in order to ensure an effective and coordinated response to TIP by all stakeholders involved.

Training is one of the key interventions of the National Policy Framework on the Prevention and Combatting of Trafficking in Persons. The National Policy Framework goes on to say that training programmes must be periodically reviewed for possible amendments so as to ensure improved service delivery.

Extensive counter-TIP training, including training of trainers, has been taking place, however there is room for strengthening existing programmes in order to improve detection and prosecution of these crimes. 

It is against this backdrop that the envisaged workshop for criminal justice institutions involved with TIP training programmes will produce a report which –

  • maps existing resources,
  • identifies barriers to institutionalization,
  • articulates recommendations for harmonization of key messages and approaches around inter-sectoral coordination,
  • while also making sure that comprehensive and harmonized curricula and materials are introduced in all institutions in charge for training.

Trafficking is often a cross-border crime. Therefore no country can fight trafficking alone.

The assistance of international bodies such as the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime, the International Organization for Migrants and the United Nations Children’s Fund strengthens our hand in the fight against trafficking.

In this regard, GLO.ACT - the Global Action to Prevent and Address Trafficking in Persons and Smuggling of Migrants - is a four-year joint initiative by the European Union and the UNODC being implemented in partnership with the IOM and UNICEF. 

The programme aims to assist selected countries in developing and implementing comprehensive national counter-trafficking and counter-smuggling responses. It focuses on assistance to government authorities, civil society organizations, victims of trafficking and smuggled migrants. 

One of the six objectives of the project is for the UNODC to work with governmental authorities to enhance the capacity and knowledge of criminal justice role-players to combat trafficking in persons, smuggling of migrants and assisting and protecting victims as well as vulnerable migrants.

It is against this need for training and capacity building that today’s workshop has been organised and I want to thank and commend all involved.

Programme Director,

It is often said that human trafficking is modern day slavery.

Abolitionist William Wilberforce who led the anti-slave trade movement in 18th century Britain once said that - “You may choose to look the other way but you can never say that you did not know.”

We know human trafficking is happening.

We didn’t fight for freedom in our country to have people still enchained today.

Looking away is not an option – we must act, and act decisively, to end trafficking in persons.

I thank you