Zimbabwean women rescued from “Slave trade” operation

22 April, 2010 02:45:00   

Story from Zimbabwe Mail

CAPE TOWN – South African police officers have rescued five teenage girls 
believed to be the victims of a suspected (slave trade), human trafficking 
ring operating from a small warehouse in Parow.
The squad, acting on a tip-off, entered the warehouse last night and found 
them huddled together in a corner, clutching their possessions. Old 
mattresses were scattered across a cement floor, bedclothes tossed over 

One of the young women told officers that she had had a miscarriage last 
week, but had not received any medical attention.

They said they had been lured to Cape Town from towns like Prieska in the 
Northern Cape after being offered good jobs and salaries.

Instead, they alleged, they had been forced to work in a woman’s house and 
her friends’ shops.

They claimed that they were fed only dry bread slices in the morning, with 
baked beans for supper.

Niel Arendse, spokesman for the city’s Specialised Law Enforcement Services, 
said an officer from his unit had been attending to a dispute in Clarendon 
Street, Parow, on Wednesday evening.

“The people who were fighting told her there were young girls locked in that 

In a matter of hours, the Vice Squad and police put the rescue operation in 
place. When they arrived, they spoke to the young women through the 
warehouse window.

The building’s owner, whose name is known to the Cape Argus and who lives in 
Parow, was called to open the warehouse on the corner of Market and 
Clarendon streets.

She said on Thursday morning that her employment agency found young women 
for domestic work. Until they found employment, the company provided them 
with food and accommodation in the warehouse.

“It is explained to these women on their arrival in Cape Town that they can 
leave the agency at any given time.”

She said the women were not held against their will and the property was 
locked at night for their own protection.

As soon as the warehouse door was opened last night, the teenagers rushed 
around the warehouse gathering their belongings. They were taken to a city 
shelter, a move that was organised by two NGOs.

The young women – four are 18 and one is 19 – said they had been promised a 
better life in the city. But, they said, they had been held captive, some of 
them since January.

“We either worked in her house or in shops. But she knows the people,” said 
one of them.

“Sometimes they tell us we made a mistake with the till in the shop and they 
take R70 or R200 off our money.

“Some of us have not seen money since we got here in January.”

The girls painted a bleak picture of their life in Cape Town. They said 
those who were lucky enough to work in the woman’s house would receive the 
occasional portion of rice and meat.

“She didn’t leave any food here (at the warehouse) for us. If we tried to 
tell her she mustn’t lock us in, she would scold us,” said one of the girls. 
“She also told us we must stay at the back (of the warehouse) and not go 
near the front.”

But they managed to alert a few residents to their situation and one told 
the officer.

“I don’t care about work any more, I just want to get home,” said one girl.

The girl, who said she had suffered a miscarriage last week, said she had 
been told by the warehouse owner that it was “not her problem”.

The unit’s officer said: “Now we need to make sure she gets to a doctor 

Aldred Charles, who heads the city’s Substance Abuse, Safety and Security 
Specialised Service Unit, said the woman could face charges of human 
trafficking and exploitation.

He said they had found documents showing that the operation centred on 
recruiting young women from rural areas.

Charles said human trafficking, for both labour and sex, was a growing 
problem in the city.

The Vice Squad had planned to crack down on a suspected sex trafficking ring 
last night, involving foreign women without residence permits, but the women 
had been moved before the squad could act.

Arendse said the squad had uncovered a similar operation in Table View last 
month. Here, women from Mozambique and Zimbabwe were allegedly being 


Zimbabwe’s Independence and Human Trafficking

Zimbabwe celebrated 30 years of independence from British colonial rule on 18 April 2010. Independence for the black majority in 1980 meant ‘freedom’. It meant that blacks could now participate in the mainstream economic, political and social spheres as key players. While it is arguable that this independence has failed to deliver on its initial promise there is no doubt that the founding or basic tenet of expanding ‘freedom’ to everyone is the right premise for any nation. Indeed, this is why the civil rights movement in the United States of America forms a rich part of American history and it is the reason why rights leaders like Nelson Mandela and Dr Martin Luther King are celebrated wordwide. These are people who did all they could to break the yoke of oppression and ensure freedom for all. But it must be said that not all citizens in Zimbabwe are free despite the freedom of independence. There are people who are being sold into sex slavery and into forced labour due to economic factors. There are people who are being way-laid, by conniving gangs of traffickers, across borders into unimaginable conditions. Yet this is the world that is supposedly free from the shackles of slavery. Kevin Bales (a modern bay abolitionist) states that slavery till exists in the modern world with the only difference being that human beings are being sold ever so cheaply. And this is the cause that has consumed us- The need to abolish modern day slavery. And just as the civil rights movement was inspired by Dr Martin Luther King’s moving speeches, we are also inspired and moved by his quotes.

Martin Luther King

Martin Luther King

Almost always, the creative dedicated minority has made the world better’;

An individual has not started living until he can rise above the narrow confines of his individualistic concerns to the broader concerns of all humanity’;

Change does not roll in on the wheels of inevitability, but comes through continuous struggle. And so we must straighten our backs and work for our freedom. A man can’t ride you unless your back is bent’

‘Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere

Tell someone about human trafficking!

gilbert makore

flight attendants as first line of defense against trafficking

American Airlines

American Airlines

This article by Elizabeth Lee on  on how some flight attendants form American Airlines are doing all the can to spot human trafficking and go on to call an anti trafficking hotline is really great. Human trafficking involves movement of people in some way and therefore it is so important to get carriers (buses, airlines) on board the fight against modern day slavery. And as the article clearly shows, all it takes is one person empowered with the right knowledge and tools to do something about human trafficking-to save a life. The challenge or the opportunity clearly lies in expanding such a programme to other carriers like cross border buses and indeed other airlines and airports. Carriers are complicit in trafficking, whether knowingly or unknowingly and therefore are a critical cog if actions are to be taken to buck the trend. Artcile after the jump:

Flight Attendants Are First Line of Defense Against Human Trafficking

Elizabeth Lee 05 April 2010

Flight attendants at a large U.S. airline are training other flight attendants  to recognize signs of human trafficking on international and domestic flights. The flight attendant leading the program says it’s  possible to catch traffickers in the act, saving the lives of women and children trapped in the net.

For a moment in time, strangers from around the world come together as travelers.

It’s also a moment when American Airlines flight attendant Sandra Fiorini can save a life. “We had an 18-year-old boy and he had a brand new day-old baby, umbilical cord everything was still there, day-old baby. He’s going on a six hour flight, no wife. He has two diapers stuck in his pockets and one bottle,” she describes.

Fiorini sees scenrios like that on a regular basis when she is on one of her international flights.  She says after 39 years on the job, it’s not difficult to recognize a suspected case of human trafficking. “Most of us are parents. When you see an instance that’s not right and a red flag is raised, especially when there is children involved, you’re more in tune with what’s happening,” she said.

Fiorini had tried to report suspicious activity to the police but they never responded.  Two years ago, it all changed when Fiorini met Deborah Sigmund, founder of the organization Innocents At Risk.

“It’s enslavement. We’re talking about modern day slavery,” Sigmund said.

Innocents At Risk provided Fiorini with brochures detailing the signs of human trafficking. There’s also a phone number to report a suspected case.

“Before you couldn’t call anyone,” Fiorini said. “The local authorities would not respond to you. So now when you do call this hotline number, someone does respond.”

Law enforcement will be waiting at the gate if a flight attendant reports something suspicious.  Innocents At Risk created a video showing why it’s important for law enforcement to respond.  The organization says women, girls and even boys are being sold into sexual slavery.

“This is happening everywhere in the world, every country in the world,” Sigmund said. “And it’s happening here in the United States.  Its a multi-billion dollar industry.”

Meanwhile, Fiorini educates flight attendants around the world, using brochures and bracelets that contain the human trafficking hotline number. “I show my brochure, I tell them what I’m doing, and then I ask them to put the hotline number in the cell phone,” she said. “Please pass the brochure onto another flight attendent.”

Fiorini and Innocents At Risk have also been mobilizing lawmakers on Capitol Hill.

“We are working with Congress, with Human Rights Commission, and I think that something will come out of that and I’m very optimistic,” Sigmund said.

The hope is that brochures like these will eventually end up in the seat back pockets of all flights so passengers will notify the flight attendants if they spot something suspicious.

Fiorini hopes once passengers know what to look for, they won’t turn the other way.

why we think 1000 fans on our facebook page is worth a Shout!

A key cornerstone of successful advocacy efforts is awareness raising and public education. This also applies to anti-trafficking efforts. People are more likely to act when they have information. Get the information out into public domain and engage as many people as possible into conversations on human trafficking in southern Africa and you will start to get traction in terms of anti-trafficking actions. This is not to advocate for the crazy strategy of throwing stuff at a wall and hoping some sticks. No. But a concerted effort to build an online and offline community and engage that same community on what trafficking is, its manifestations, the causes; and more importantly what each individual can do to stop human trafficking…..is a strategy that we believe symbolises a giant step in anti trafficking efforts. We believe in the power of ONE. When the facebook page and blog went up; indeed, when we set up SAAHTT as an organisation, our goal was, and still is, to abolish modern slavery in southern Africa. But we remained alive to the fact that if our efforts resulted in saving a young girl from commercial sexual exploitation or two boys from forced labour, we would achieved a great deal. Now, if anti-trafficking fans on the SAAHTT page were to tell at least 50 people each, in their friendship network, about human trafficking, that easily translates to 50 000 people getting knowledgeable about this heinous crime. If the fans could tell at least 100 people each, that translates to a 100 000 people armed with knowledge about human trafficking and therefore capable of noticing it and more importantly capable of taking action about it. The questions we grapple with at SAAHTT are ‘how to we actually get people talking about human trafficking or modern day slavery?’  and ‘ how do we get people to take action against trafficking’. We aim to tool modern day abolitionists with information and resources about trafficking. We aim to provide data about human trafficking and engage people in conversations on the issue.  Hitting the 1000 fan mark has spurred us on and given us a reason to celebrate. W00000TTTTT!!!!! Thanks for supporting a great cause. Tell someone about human trafficking.

SAAHTT facebook page

Update: We are now on 1006 fans  🙂