The Travesty of Human Trafficking in South Africa

Renowned South African human rights lawyer George Bizos was moved to tears by the abuses highlighted in an exhibition on human trafficking in South Africa, launched at Constitutional Hill, writes Jackie Bischof for
Looking at the photographs,  Bizos said he “wondered what happened to sections of the Constitution in relation to the girls [in the images].”  Bizos said he was shocked to see how the photographs displayed “practically every one of the sub-sections in Section 28 [being] evidently disregarded.” Section 28 in the South African Bill of Rights deals the protection of children.Bizos said he was confounded that human trafficking was still an issue in South Africa when other regions, such as parts of Europe, had virtually eradicated the  problem within ten years of tackling it. “We don’t have to shout from the rooftops [about trafficking],” said Bizos. “We have [the media] and other ways in which our voices can be heard. But let’s not be silent.” He added that the first step that needs to be taken is urgently pushing through human trafficking legislation currently before Parliament.

The exhibition will run through mid-December and is part of Media Monitoring Africa’s interrogation of the media’s coverage of human trafficking in the country before, during and after the 2010 World Cup.Situated in the old Women’s Gaol at Constitutional Hill in Johannesburg, which housed several female activists during the apartheid era, the exhibition features the photographs of Melanie Hamman, who has been visually documenting incidences of human trafficking around the world since 2007. The exhibition of her work in South Africa features pictures of three victims who had been lured away from their home with empty promises of work and financial gain and were struggling to escape their situation.

Human trafficking is something that the ordinary South African is totally oblivious to, says Hamman, and the incredible wealth in the country makes it even harder to understand how the trafficking of young children can be so rife.“SA is a wonderfully prosperous country, and there’s so much hope and so much has been achieved in the last ten years,” said Hamman. “But I see the wealth and the prosperity and I’ve stepped into the darkest, most impoverished parts of this nation as well. And something about that is just not right. How can a nation care? And why doesn’t a nation care?” asked Hamman. Pursuing a life that is even “basically happy” is an impossible obstacle for some of the children who are trafficked.With

Hamman’s photos flanking one wall, the other side of the room featured images chosen by MMA’s Child Media Monitors. Some of the images had been taken by Hamman while others were captured by amateur photographers from the Umuzi Photo Club in Soweto. Over a period of four months, MMA ran media workshops with around 60 ‘Child Media Monitors’ aged 9 to 13, looking at whether South African media coverage of children was fair and balanced. A portion of the children focussed on the issue of child trafficking. Photographs chosen by the children and their responses to the pictures appeared in the exhibition.The children’s participation in the exhibition allowed them to “communicate their pressing concerns relating to children’s rights; how these rights are upheld or denied in their own communities and the potential impact this may have,” said the MMA’s William Bird.Prior to the exhibition, Hamman and the children also discussed media coverage of child trafficking rumours over the World Cup period and debated whether sensational reporting such as figures of 100 000 girls being trafficked in for the World Cup, or children being kidnapped and sold for tens of thousands of rands helped the issue or contributed to media fatigue.Some of the rumours were way off the mark. “South African children aren’t that valuable,” said Hamman. “It can cost you R100 for a pimp to buy a South African child. The media is not really telling the right story.”The exhibition will run until the middle of December at the Women’s Gaol at Constitution Hill on Kotze Street, Johannesburg. For more information on the MMA, visit


SAAHTT Newsletter 2nd Edition goes live tomorrow. Here is a teaser!!

We launched our email newsletter two months back. The second edition will be posted tomorrow. Here is a teaser

SAAHTT Newsletter Edition 2 Teaser!

We hope you will enjoy reading this tomorrow. If you would like to receive our newsletter straight to your inbox, please subscribe on this blog. Your email will only be used for the purposes of receiving this email newsletter. If at any time you feel you you do not want to receive any more news, updates or newsletters from us you can immediately unsubscribe.

Gilbert Makore

Ashton Kutcher to UN: Twitter, Facebook can be Great Weapons in Fight Against Human Trafficking

By Pam BristowHuffington Post

I was fortunate enough to be present at the United Nations Headquarters in New York on November 4 for the launch of the UN Voluntary Trust Fund for Victims of Trafficking in Persons. To be managed by the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC), the fund will provide humanitarian, legal, and financial aid to victims of human trafficking. The initiative is a central element of the new UN Global Plan of Action adopted by the UN General Assembly this past July.

Having worked on other UNODC projects, I can personally attest to how much weight this UN agency throws behind combating one of the great atrocities of our time. This meeting was no exception. Alongside UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon sat the meeting’s moderator — two time New York Times Pulitzer Prize winning author-journalist Nicholas Kristof — and actors Demi Moore and Ashton Kutcher whose humanitarian work in the arena of human trafficking was being highlighted. The couple’s organization, DNA, is working to abolish modern-day slavery in the United States and abroad. The meeting took an interesting turn when the conversation shifted to Kutcher’s mastery of social networking and how he was channeling his online prowess to serve his nonprofit’s mission.


Ashton Kutcher and Demi Moore

Ashton Kutcher and Demi Moore

After sobering opening remarks by the Secretary-General on the current scope of the 32 billion dollar international human trafficking trade, Kristof introduced Kutcher, humorously pointing out Kutcher ‘s 6 million Twitter followers versus the UN’s 140,000. In response, Kutcher offered new insight to Kristof’s leading question “Why the internet?”

The actor-activist argued that, while having fueled the sex trade with its built-in anonymity, speed, and ease of access, the internet has also given law enforcement and activist groups a strong weapon with which to combat trafficking and offer aid to victims. Kutcher pointed out that part of what makes dismantling and exposing trafficking networks so challenging is the industry’s global nature. For example, in just one transaction, several countries will likely be involved. The “broker” will be in Country A, the victim may be abducted from Country B, the transaction will take place in Country C, and the final customer will return home to Country D with his new acquisition. Additionally 76 percent of these child trafficking transactions happen on the internet. The internet, Kutcher argues, is a global solution to a global problem, allowing us to fight and expose human trafficking across borders.

Victim demographics play a factor as well. The average American age for forced entry into the sex trade is 13. While this is a devastating statistic, it plays in favor of using the internet as a tool to reach at-risk adolescents, many of whom are runaways. According to Kutcher many of these kids are still updating their social networking pages once they have left home. Kutcher and Moore have seized this opportunity by creating partnerships with a coalition of tech companies including Microsoft, Google, Facebook, and Twitter with the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children to develop technological solutions to the problem of child sex slavery. Initiatives include the implementation of online predator deterrants as well as PhotoDNA and geo-location technology to help protect children and find and rescue victims.

Kutcher said his Twitter presence has also given him a platform to affect male attitudes about the sex trade. “I can use Twitter to implore men around the world to understand that buying sex isn’t cool… when they find out that the average age of entry to the business is 13 and that most of these girls are held against their own will, suddenly it becomes a lot less sexy.”

At the peak of the legal slave trade in 1780, an estimated 80,000 slaves from Africa were brought to the New World in one year. Almost 250 years later, the UN estimates that there are approximately 2.5 million slaves in captivity worldwide at any time. As Kutcher pointed out, “we agreed to abandon slavery 62 years ago (with the Universal Declaration of Human Rights adopted by the General Assembly of the United Nations in 1948.) We are not asking for new laws. Let’s just enforce the ones we have.”

Those wishing to learn more or make a pledge to the UN Voluntary Trust Fund for Victims of Trafficking in Persons can visit the UNODC fund page.

Teaser: SAAHTT’s new e-Newsletter

The Southern African Anti Human Trafficking Trust (SAAHTT) is committed to developing various strategies to combat modern day slavery in the Southern African Development Community (SADC) region. This commitment is borne from the realisation that there is very limited knowledge and capacity to address human trafficking despite the increasing evidence pointing to the increase in incidences of trafficking. To this end we aim to increase awareness on the occurrence of human trafficking within the region through harnessing various media platforms including blogs, new social media tools and indeed traditional methods of raising awareness like encouraging word of mouth and developing visibility materials. We are therefore super excited to state that we will be launching a e-newsletter that will include projects by SAAHTT, anti human trafficking news from around SADC and any other relevant human trafficking  information. The newsletter will be sent out to subscribers every 2 months and we will be incorporating changes and new features in subsequent editions, taking into account feedback from you. The newsletter will be in HTML and or plain text and will allow you to share its contents on facebook, twitter and other platforms. Please subscribe to this blog in-order for us to put you on the mailing list.   You can subscribe by clicking the tab on the right pane of the blog-‘subscribe by e-mail’ or you could also send a blank e-mail to . We will not publicise your private e-mail and you will still have the option to unsubscribe at any moment you feel you want out. Here is a teaser:

SAAHTT e-newsletter

SAAHTT e-newsletter

Reflections on our application to the Echoing Green Fellowhsip

Late last year, we (SAAHTT) applied to the Echoing Green Fellowship. This is one of the best international fellowship programmes for social entrepreneurs. The program is for non profit and for profit interventions that are aimed at addressing the world’s social needs. It is a fellowship for ‘world changers’. It is also one of the most competitive fellowship programmes around. We applied to be part of the Echoing Green fellowship last year (2009). We were motivated by the opportunity because it would present us with relationships, mentorship and equally important seed capital. The money would have been a welcome boost for the organisation as it would have meant that we would be able to initiate and upscale projects to combat modern day slavery.

echoing green website

echoing green website

While the fellowship is open to both non profit and for-profit ventures it is often regarded as a purely social entrepreneurship programme. We still applied to the programme with full knowledge to this because while we are a non profit project, we believe in the ethos of social entrepreneurship and sustainability. We believe that every dollar SAAHTT gets should be optimally used to counter human trafficking in Southern Africa. We believe in efficiency and in being excellent in every activity we undertake. We believe in communicating well with all our stakeholders and we hate window dressing. These are things that are missing in non profits globally. We hope to buck the trend in our own little way. But that is just an aside.

The real story is we went on to put our all behind the application. The application is so taxing because it demands you to think through your project idea. Echoing Green fellows are people with projects still in the start up phase and often this means people who are still pivoting and developing their ideas. In addition, the application requires a certain level of brevity that is so demanding. Explaining everything in 500-1000 word limits is difficult. Want to know how that can be-imagine having to explain everything about your project in Twitter characters (140 characters). But we managed to go through the first round. We were one of only 350 projects that went through to the second phase, out of the initial 1100 that had applied. The invitation to complete the second phase application was a congratulatory email notifying SAAHTT that we constituted 30% of organisations that had passed the first phase. We were really overjoyed at the SAAHTT offices. This was validation of our project idea. It meant so much to us as the SAAHTT project idea implementation was only 2-3 months old.

We, however, remained tempered by the fact that the process was not complete and was even more difficult through the second phase. We managed to get through the second phase application and submitted. Then we……waited…….and……waited…….and ……..waited. The process itself was not as long as the last sentence seems to portray. It was just two months of waiting. But still, it was such a nail biting wait and a tad bit stressful. And then the dreaded results came in. The regret email was so crushing. Here at SAAHTT we do not take disappointment as easily as we would like. We were so disappointed and pretty much preferred not to talk about it. And then another e-mail came. It was the feedback to our application.

Now this e-mail is not to detail how disappointed we were by failing to get the fellowship. This post is instead an unashamed thumbs up to the Echoing Green programme and more importantly in our personal experience, the application process. The application process allowed us to introspect. To think about what exactly it is SAAHTT intends to do and why it is going about it in one way and not the other. It allowed us to think ahead and really envision the project. It allowed us to discover new insight into the problem of human trafficking in southern Africa. And to boot, we got an outsider’s view of SAAHTT. A professional evaluation of our ideas and strategies. You just do not get that kind of feedback from other programmes. Granted, fundraising is brutal. But we sure did enjoy the process of applying for the Echoing Green Fellowship despite the rollercoaster of emotions  🙂 So what happened since then. Well, we regrouped, doubled up and hunkered down. We continue to incrementally address no less one of the biggest and daunting challenges of our time-human trafficking/modern day slavery.

Most of all, congratulations to the folks who got in. We need you to change the world. Nothing less:)

How Namibia fares in the 2010 Trafficking in Persons Report

Some people have written to ask why SAAHTT as an organisation focuses on the whole SADC region. Addressing trafficking within the SADC bloc as a whole is indeed a very daunting task. In fact, human trafficking alone is big enough a problem without even going further to look at human trafficking within all the SADC states. However, for us this represents an innovative approach to the whole challenge of trafficking. While there is internal trafficking, it is commonly understood that human trafficking involves the crossing of national borders. It is essentially a transnational crime and therefore any effective attempt to address it should be focused on bordering countries.

We continue with our analysis of the US State Department Human Trafficking Report of 2010. So we have looked at Zimbabwe and Zambia and clearly Zambia is making significant efforts to address human trafficking. This is particularly in view of the enactment of its Anti-Human Trafficking Act. In this post we will go on to look at Namibia. The country is a Tier 2 country-it does not comply with the minimum standards of the addressing trafficking but is making significant efforts to comply or to address the crime. With regards to minimum standards, the benchmark is the Trafficking Victims Protection Act (TVPA). We will explain more on the TVPA in a later post suffice to state that it is a landmark legislative instrument in the United States that is used to combat trafficking.



Namibia is a source, transit and destination country for victims of trafficking. Children are trafficked and forced into child labour in agriculture, domestic servitude and charcoal production among other things. They are also transported by truck drivers to countries such as Angola and South Africa and are forced into prostitution.

We will use the same format we used to look at the Zambian country narrative, the same format in the Trafficking in Persons Report. We will look at the three P’s, which is, Prosecution, Protection and Prevention.

Prosecution: The National police and the Ministry of Justice did not handle any trafficking cases in 2009. The government, however, enacted the Prevention of Organised Crime Act which explicitly criminalises all forms of human trafficking. The penalties for traffickers are sufficiently deterrent as traffickers can be incarcerated for up to 50 years. Other pieces of legislation such as the Labour Act and the Draft Child Care and Protection Bill sufficiently or will sufficiently address forced labour and child rights issues. The police ran an anti trafficking hotline for suspected trafficking cases tip-offs.

Protection: Due to the lack of financial capacity to offer support to victims of trafficking, the Government of Namibia worked to ensure victims access services offered by non state actors. The government has no formal procedure of referring victims to organisations that can assist although the police have the responsibility of ensuring that victims access short term shelter and assistance. Over a 100 cases of child labour were handled by the Ministry of Labour and Social Welfare while the Ministry of Gender Equality and Child Welfare handled 3 trafficking cases. The MGECW also created a national database for gender based violence and this will also contain statistics on forced labour and trafficking. Government officials also began renovating 13 houses across the country to house victims of violence and trafficking although these safe houses will mainly cater for women. It is also important to note that there is still limited understanding of what constitutes trafficking thereby giving rise to concern that some victims of trafficking may have slipped through the system.

Prevention: The government launched a country wide media campaign to raise awareness on gender based violence and trafficking encouraging people to report suspected cases. The Ministry of Home Affairs worked with UNICEF and came to an agreement to have offices at hospitals and to deploy mobile units to provide birth certificates to newborns and identity documents to orphans and vulnerable children. Although there was training for some government officials, the numbers were fewer than the training provided in the year 2008.

While the country took the notable step of enacting anti trafficking legislation there is now clearly the need to build capacity to enforce this legislation. There is also a need to continue to conduct anti trafficking awareness raising campaigns. The government should also come up with formal procedures of referring victims to non government agencies especially as it currently does not the capacity to assist trafficking victims. For the full Namibia country narrative in the Trafficking in Persons report go here.

A look at Zambia: The US State Department 2010 TIP report

In the previous TIP feature post we blogged on Zimbabwe. In this, the second feature on SADC countries and how they fare in the latest TIP report, we focus on Zambia. But unlike the Zimbabwe feature, we will not paste the actual word for word transcript of the Zambian country narrative in the TIP 2010 report. Instead, we will just feature, key takeaways or main points from the report. This change has been largely necessitated by the feedback we have gotten from the first post on Zimbabwe to the effect that the post was too long and therefore people found it onerous to read. So you have spoke and we have listened :).  We will just pick up the main points and link to the full Zambian narrative in the TIP report.

Zambia is ranked as a Tier 2 country-this means that Zambia does not comply with the Trafficking Victims Protection Act’s ( TVPA’s) minimum standards (minimum standards to eliminate trafficking) but is making significant efforts to do so. So this is quite commendable. Although there is still a lot the country can do to address trafficking. It remains a source, transit and destination country for people who are then forced into commercial sexual exploitation and or forced labour. Most of the trafficking that occurred in the period under review was internal trafficking or trafficking within the borders of Zambia. In some rural areas in Zambia it is considered a status symbol to have children in the urban areas and thus families sometimes send their children to urban areas where they fall prey to traffickers or are forced into forced domestic servitude. There were also reports and suspicion of trafficking in the Copperbelt mining areas as Chinese and Indian migrants are forced to work the mines in inhospitable conditions and living in totally secluded living quarters. Trafficking to South Africa through Zambia was also reported as the country has porous borders.



So what is the country doing to eliminate all forms of human trafficking? Here’s what:

Prosecution– there was a noted increase in anti-trafficking law enforcement efforts (Zambia has a comprehensive Anti-Human Trafficking Act which was passed in 2008). Two men were prosecuted under the new act which carries a sentence of up to 25 years. There are nine new trafficking prosecutions that are pending. In terms of capacity building, the government in partnership with IOM distributed simplified copies of the new anti-trafficking law at border towns or areas in Zambia. A total of 120 police offices with specific anti trafficking training graduated from the local police training academy. Local NGOs involved in anti-trafficking also trained the police, police prosecutors, local court justices and magistrates in the skills necessary for investigating and prosecuting child trafficking cases. In addition, the Zambian Police’s Victim Support Unit (VSU) forged a partnership with an NGO to revise its data collection on trafficking to improve monitoring and reporting.

Protection– The government of Zambia has not developed or implemented systematic procedures for the identification of trafficking victims and there is no formal mechanism for referring victims to NGOs for protective services. Other projects for victim protection such as is mandated by its anti trafficking law, e.g. setting up of shelters for victims, have not funded. However, officials informally referred 33 victims to IOM for protection services. In addition, the government did not penalise victims for unlawful acts committed as a direct result of being trafficked. Kudos!

Prevention-The Cabinet approved a National Plan of Action on human trafficking and established an inter-ministerial anti trafficking secretariat. The government was also part of IOM’s ‘Break the Chain of Human Trafficking Campaign’. To counter the high incidences of internal trafficking, 50 traditional leaders or chiefs were engaged and trained on anti human trafficking. This is in recognition of the family unit in rural areas and the respect, authority and responsibility the traditional chiefs command. The Police’s VSU featured trafficking on its weekly ‘Police and You’ radio campaign. The government also supported various efforts by partners by high level attendance, participation, issuing public statements and seconding speakers.

It is evident that the country still has a long way to go in terms eliminating human trafficking in all its forms. While there is a law in place there is still a need to build capacity to enforce this law, there is still a need to integrate this law into other legislative instrument like the immigration law. There is still a need to raise awareness among the local populace and build capacity to address human trafficking among law enforcement agencies and government officials. However, Zambia is one of the few countries in southern Africa that is taking significant strides to counter human trafficking and the government of Zambia, NGOs and other stakeholders/partners in the country should be lauded for this

Would really appreciate your comments.

Gilbert Makore