Address by the Deputy Minister of Justice and Constitutional Development, the Hon JH Jeffery, MP, at the launch of the Wamama Chronicles, 8 December 2017
There are often certain misconceptions, generally speaking, about trafficking in persons, for example, trafficking does not necessarily mean the victims are smuggled from another country – victims can also be trafficked locally.
It’s also not always sex trafficking, there are also other forms of exploitation that are often regarded as trafficking, such as forced labour, bonded labour, debt bondage, child soldiers and involuntary domestic servitude.
Especially labour trafficking is thought to be grossly under-represented and probably a far greater problem than what we realise.
Also when we think of trafficking crimes we often think of large crime syndicates. But that is not always the case.
The research tells us a lot.
For example, the 2016 UNODC Global Report on Trafficking in Persons tells us that the majority of the detected victims in Sub-Saharan Africa are children.
Nearly two thirds of the approximately 5,500 victims detected in this region between 2012 and 2014 were underage.
African countries report more boys than girls among the detected trafficking victims.
It also tells us that the most frequently detected form of exploitation is forced labour (53%).
The gender profile of convicted offenders is 60% male and the share of national citizens among offenders is an astonishing 89%.
In other words, the vast majority of the traffickers in this region are citizens of the country where they were convicted.
With regards to trafficking flows, it is a significant region of origin for transregional trafficking.
Regarding the criminal justice process, on average, 36% of the persons investigated in the region were prosecuted, and out of these, 33% were convicted in the court of first instance.
Considering that much of the trafficking legislation in the region is fairly recent, it is not surprising that the number of convictions is low.
About 400 convictions were recorded in the region during the 2012-2014 period; mostly from countries in West Africa and only a few countries had more than ten convictions per year.
What we must remember is that very often trafficking in persons – like other crimes such as drug trafficking and migrant smuggling – are cross-border, or transnational crimes.
Global trends in transnational crime show that during the last 15 years the world has seen an exponential increase in these crimes because these crimes know no borders.
Various factors play a role, for example the fading of borders and/or the inadequate guarding thereof. Migration can play a role in trafficking and distribution networks.
Unanticipated new technological possibilities in traditional and electronic communication mean that organized crime groups are able to communicate covertly with relative ease and anonymity across jurisdictional boundaries. And cheaper and faster transportation further facilitate trafficking.
In other words while the international community derives substantial benefit from a borderless global world, it also has to deal with the negative impact of globalisation on trans-border or international crime.
Therefore countries have to ensure that there greater regional and international cooperation.
Furthermore, it is vital that countries take measures - domestically, regionally and internationally.
To give effect to South Africa’s obligation to the United Nations Protocol to Prevent, Suppress and Punish Trafficking in Persons, especially women and children, we promulgated the Prevention and Combating of Trafficking in Persons Act, 2013.
The Act deals comprehensively with human trafficking in all its various forms and in particular provides for the protection of and assistance to victims of trafficking.
Extra-territorial jurisdiction is an extremely important feature of the Act and South African courts will have jurisdiction in respect of acts committed outside South Africa if those acts would have been an offence under the Act had they been committed in South Africa.
We have also established a National Inter-sectoral Committee of Trafficking in Persons. It comprises of national departmental representatives from Justice and Constitutional Development; Health; Home Affairs; International Relations and Cooperation; Labour; Social Development; Women; South African Police Services; National Prosecuting Authority; Government Communication and Information System; South African Reserve Services, State Security Agency, Civil Society Organizations representatives i.e. National Freedom Network; Mercy House; the International Organization for Migration (IOM) and United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC).
The Department of Justice and Constitutional Development co-chairs monthly meetings with the National Prosecuting Authority and the Committee leads the implementation and administration of the Act at a national level.
Each department then has its own intra-departmental committee depending on their roles and responsibilities. An example is the NPA which will comprise of asset forfeiture, witness protection, intermediaries and prosecution who all play an important role in the TIP cases.
Partnership is vitally important, as is evident from our Tsireledzani Program. Tsireledzani means ‘Protect!’ in Tshivenda and is the name of the Government’s initiative to combat Trafficking in Persons.
The programme is headed by the National Prosecuting Authority and involves government departments, international organisations and civil society partners.
The overall objective is to ensure full compliance with the United Nations Convention Against Transnational Organized Crime and the Palermo Protocol.
As part of its ongoing support to the Government of South Africa with the means to become fully compliant with the Palermo Protocol through various initiatives, the International Organisation on Migration (IOM) is implementing the capacity-building and development component of Tsireledzani.
Partnership is also the foundation of the work of GLO.ACT.
As you know, the Global Action to Prevent and Address Trafficking in Persons and the Smuggling of Migrants is a four-year (2015-2019) joint initiative by the European Union and the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime being implemented in partnership with the International Organization for Migration and the United Nations Children's Fund.
The programme forms part of a joint response to trafficking in persons and the smuggling of migrants and it is expected to be delivered in up to 15 strategically selected countries across Africa, Asia, Eastern Europe and Latin America.
The focus is on assistance to governmental authorities, civil society organizations, victims of trafficking and smuggled migrants and the programme aims to assist selected countries in developing and implementing comprehensive national counter-trafficking and counter-smuggling responses.
Finally, and perhaps an area that we also need to highlight more, is the prosecution of TIP cases. Prosecutors in South Africa and the region often face daunting challenges in responding to complex crimes.
Collaboration between regional states in prosecutorial matters is vital in alleviating some of these challenges through providing forums for prosecutors to share resources and best practices in combating crimes.
The trans-boundary nature of trafficking and smuggling require responses that are not confined to national borders. International cooperation in the area of prosecutions is vital.
In short, if crime crosses borders, so must law enforcement.
Pope Francis remarked that –
“The human person ought never to be sold or bought as if he or she were a commodity. Whoever uses human persons in this way and exploits them, even if indirectly, becomes an accomplice of injustice.”
We must therefore deal decisively with trafficking in persons and we can only do so if we join forces and work together.