We have been busy…and…the 2010 Trafficking in Persons Report is Out!

We have been a bit quiet over the last few weeks. The reason is that we have been so busy building SAAHTT into a thriving organisation that is able to confront the ills of modern day slavery in southern Africa. In the next coming months we hop we will have some big news to announce and you will see some major changes to the blog etc etc…

2010 TIP report

2010 TIP report

In the meanwhile, the 2010 Trafficking in Persons report that is produced by the U. S State Department is out. One major change this year is the fact that the United States puts itself to the test with regards to anti trafficking efforts. Previously, the report looked at trafficking and trafficking efforts by all the governments in the world except itself (U.S government). We have not yet gone through the report but we suspect the jury will remain out with regards to the veracity of the U.S section of the report as the country is essentially evaluating itself thereby bringing forth questions of objectivity and bias. But that is just an aside and should in no way cloud the fact that the TIP report has also been an important tool to establish the overall extent of trafficking and attendant governments’ efforts to fight it.

Indeed, it is the TIP report of 2009 that added to our conviction as SAAHTT founders that there is need for an organisation to fight all forms of human trafficking in Southern Africa. The 2009 report cleared any doubt we had in our minds as to the need for some action, any action. You can go read the report here. And there is also the important remarks by Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton and Ambassador Luis CdeBaca . However, we will pore over the report and provide information from the report in a format that you can consume much more easily as the report is too voluminous in its current form. So we will break down the TIP 2010 Report in a couple of posts to follow.

Go on. Tell someone about trafficking!

Raped by ‘omaguma-guma’

By Phyllis Kachere in MUSINA

IT took Ms Sukoluhle Ncube (not her real name) four months to prepare for her journey to South Africa. She sold the only cow her late husband Mgcini had bequeathed to her and their five children on his death.

For her, the journey to South Africa symbolised all she had dreamt of; a better lifestyle for herself and the children.
But the journey ended tragically last week for the Lupane widow after she was raped by the men, known as omaguma-guma, who had promised to assist her cross illegally into South Africa.
“We were only two women out of the nine people in our group who were trying to cross into South Africa through the Tuli illegal crossing point.
“Before I left home in Lupane, I had paid three goats and R600 to an illegal transport operator we call umalayitsha who promised to facilitate my travel to South Africa.
“He is the one who linked me with these men who later raped me soon after we crossed the Limpopo at Tuli.”
Ms Ncube said soon after the five omaguma-guma had assisted them cross the Limpopo River into South Africa, a group of about 10 men emerged from the bush and started demanding cellphones and cash.
“They teamed up with our five guides and started physically searching us for valuables,” she said.
“I did not have a cellphone. After the body searches they called the other woman and myself aside, and they immediately began raping us.”
Ms Ncube said she was not sure how many men raped her, but believes that all the 15 men did.
The sexual assault resulted in her getting genital lacerations for which she was receiving treatment from doctors at the Medecins sans Frontieres clinic, a short distance from her shelter.
Ms Ncube says she has not reported the matter to the police on either side of the border because she believes the culprits may never be apprehended.
“Besides, I do not want my children and relatives to know this happened to me,” she said.
“It is a shameful thing and I don’t want anyone to know about this. If I report to the police, it also means I will be arrested for illegally crossing into South Africa without travel documents and then be deported.
“I don’t want to go back now. I have to bring food and clothing for my children. I can’t go back before I have even arrived at my destination.”
Ms Ncube said she hoped to proceed to either Johannesburg or Cape Town, depending on how much she will be able to raise in the next two months as she did odd jobs in Musina.
Her story is almost similar to the sad tales of the other 35 women sheltered at the Old Catholic Building.
The women said they had crossed illegally into South Africa because they did not have valid travel documents, but at the same time wished to job-hunt in South Africa.
“I have my two children to feed plus another child from my late brother to feed and educate,” said another woman who said she was lucky to escape the rape but not the robbery.
“I am unemployed and I think if I go to South Africa, I can change my circumstances and be able to provide for my three dependants. I can’t afford the high passport fees.”
Matron at the Old Catholic Building Mrs Dorah Ncube said because of a lack of funding, they allow sexually abused women to stay at the centre for only three days.
“We don’t have enough funding, so we allow the Zimbabwean women to stay for only three days during which time they receive free meals and a roof over their heads,” she said.
“They also use this time to seek medical treatment.
“Most women who drop in report having been sexually abused by the hordes of omaguma-guma roaming the porous border between Zimbabwe and South Africa with the intention of robbing and raping border jumpers.
“Some of the women are treated for sexually transmitted infections by doctors at the Medecins san Frontieres clinic while others receive post-exposure prophylaxis for HIV.”
Some of the women said they did not want to report their sexual assault cases to the South African police because they are living illegally in that country.
“I can’t hand over myself to SAPS (South Africa Police Services) because I am here illegally,” said another woman who declined to be identified, but said she was 47 years old.
“Reporting the rape that occurred when I was crossing the Limpopo River means handing myself over. I can’t. I need to proceed.”
Officer commanding Beit-bridge Chief Superintendent Hosiah Muko-mbero said they would investigate and arrest any culprits if there are reports made.
“But it is difficult to investigate from one side of the border because these omaguma-guma are highly mobile,” he said.
“They could be on the other side of the border.”
Dr Giussepe Damola from the Medecins sans Frontieres clinic said since January, they had treated 15 sexually abused Zimbabwean women per month, but the numbers have since increased to 25.
“In March, we treated 35 sexually assaulted Zimbabwean women,” he said.
“We also provided some of them with post-exposure prophylaxis for those who presented their cases within 72 hours of the rape.”
Dr Damola said he believed the numbers of women who are sexually assaulted as they tried to illegally cross into South Africa was higher than those that presented themselves at the clinic.
“I believe the number (of sexually abused women) crossing into South Africa from Zimbabwe is higher than what we have recorded,” he said.
“Some of the women proceed to further destinations without coming to the clinic.”
Authorities on both sides of the border said they were beefing up security at the illegal crossing points, but warned that would fail to have an impact if the public did not co-operate.
“The women have to stop these illegal crossings,” said a South African senior police officer based at the border, who declined to be identified.
“Otherwise, they are just putting their lives in danger.
“They have to come forward and report for us to be able to investigate and arrest the culprits.”
While security officials figure out how to deal with the situation, omaguma-guma continue to rule the roost on the Zimbabwe-South Africa border.

Human trafficking ring busted.

By Phyllis Kachere recently in Beitbridge.

FIVE South African nationals and three Zimbabwean accomplices were last week arrested after police in Beitbridge bust a network of criminals believed to have been behind a spate of robberies, kidnappings and human trafficking in the border town.

Officer Commanding police in Beitbridge District Chief Superintendent Hosiah Mukombero said law enforcement agents swooped on the suspects at a homestead in Makakabule, about 20km north of Beitbridge town. He said police also rescued five abductees who were being kept at the homestead ostensibly to be “sold off” in South Africa at a later stage.
South Africans Isaiah Khumalo, Padget Tshuma, Dumisani Ndlovu, Ronald Maphosa and Diamond Doubt Moyo are facing kidnapping and robbery charges. Their alleged accomplices are Vusumuzi Maphosa, Mushe Sibanda and Thabani Ngwenya. According to information to hand, the suspects would allegedly dupe Zimbabweans intending to travel to SA without documents into believing that they could assist them cross the border illegally. The “assistance” would be rendered at a fee. Upon receiving payment, the gang would take the unsuspecting border jumpers to Sibanda’s homestead in Makakabule where they would rob them before placing them under the guard of vicious touts.
“After being robbed, some of the abductees would be transported to South Africa, not before being informed that they owed the suspects fees for the facilitation,” said Chief Supt Mukombero.
“We believe they would force some of their victims to work for an unspecified period for little remuneration. It was more like being sold into slavery.” In April this year, Ngwenya, who operates as a tout and works for Khumalo, allegedly used his boss’s Toyota Hilux truck to “assist” five Zimbabwean border jumpers.
Khumalo is said to be an unlicensed transport operator (umalayitsha) who is essentially in the business of facilitating document-free travel.
“The five had their valuables, bank cards and cash forcibly taken away from them. Some money was also later withdrawn from their bank accounts,” reads part of a police charge sheet.
“The border jumpers were kidnapped and kept at Koro village (in Makakabule). They were told that they would be taken to South Africa for a fee.”
Tshuma, a South African malayitsha, is accused of conniving with Tawanda Mutonhori, who is still at large, to lure and kidnap one of the Zimbabweans. Maphosa of Gwanda is, on the other hand, accused of luring a seven-year-old boy from Lupane and keeping him at Koro village with the intention of taking him to South Africa.

Human Trafficking….Beyond 2010

There has been considerable press coverage and spotlight on the potential upsurge in human trafficking throughout southern Africa during the 2010 FIFA World Cup spectacle in South Africa which runs from 11 June to 11 July. This has led to numerous blog posts, news articles and other commendable action-oriented initiatives which have been aimed at addressing the scourge of human trafficking, in one way or the other. This represents a positive anti-trafficking wave which will no doubt be welcomed by all modern day abolitionists across the world. This spotlight will hopefully translate to increased awareness of the threat of human trafficking, particularly among women, children and other vulnerable communities. We hope that the focus on trafficking will also translate into an increase in the reporting of any suspected trafficking cases; and the apprehension, arrest and prosecution of traffickers.

However, there has been very little in the way of efforts to address human trafficking, in all its forms, beyond 2010 the FIFA World Cup. While the focus on trafficking is not to be taken lightly there remains a critical need to look at the long term strategies of addressing human trafficking within southern Africa. What we fear, a fear that is no doubt shared by other individuals and organisations, is the fact that the focus on human trafficking may wane and die down as the curtain closes down on the World Cup. There is a need to ensure that there are sustained efforts to address human trafficking stretching beyond the world’s biggest sporting event. As an organisation, we firmly believe that all anti trafficking advocacy, lobbying and awareness raising efforts should be steeped in the realisation that modern day slavery is not a once off occurrence. It (modern day slavery) is influenced by the organised crime industry and continuing complex migration flows.

Long term strategies in this context refer to strategies that recognize the need for reforms to the legal and policy framework and other issues such as integrating anti trafficking awareness raising within training of the security sector and amongst law enforcement agents. There is a need to address the root causes of trafficking. This may include proposing and testing out solutions that seek to redress issues such as porous borders, travel documentation, labour conditions, communities’ behavioural change and socio-economic vulnerabilities among a whole host of other issues. There is scope for instituting or formulating new laws and policies that will ensure enhanced protection of victims and increased prosecution of traffickers. Clearly, these are issues that cannot be addressed during the month long soccer fiesta in South Africa and are issues that require further rumination, if they are to be addressed successfully.

Hopefully, this post will not be read as a condemnation of current on-going efforts by various actors to address the potential upsurge of trafficking during the World Cup. In fact, SAAHTT salutes every individual and organisation that is involved, in one way or the other, in the fight against modern day slavery. More than anything, this post should be read as a reminder to be more forward looking in terms of establishing a permanent infrastructure that moves against an increase in trafficking in the region. We also hope this post will not dampen the unmistakeable excitement and euphoria that is sweeping across southern Africa (you can almost touch it) as a result of the World Cup. Let us all go out and watch some football and rally behind AFRICA!!!

gilbert makore