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

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

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.

Human Trafficking Research Gone Wrong?: The Case of South Africa’s Human Sciences Research Council (HSRC)

The Human Sciences Research Council (HSRC) won a tender by the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) to conduct research on human trafficking occurrence in South Africa. The research titled ‘Tsireledzani: understanding the dimensions of human trafficking in southern Africa’, came out some time back in March and I had the opportunity to read through it. However, this report, despite being a laudable attempt to investigate human trafficking, faced a lot of criticism from independent scholars who felt it fell short of the research rigour expected from an eminent research institution such as the HSRC. I quickly and quietly rubbished the criticism as an attempt to belittle the challenge of human trafficking in southern Africa and particularly South Africa.

Tsireledzani Report

Tsireledzani Report

That being said, on Wednesday, I stumbled upon a more concise rebuttal published by (not really sure, although one of the authors is employed by ISS) the Institute of Security Studies (ISS). The paper, titled ‘Of Nigerians, Albinos, Satanists and Anecdotes: A critical review of the HSRC report on human trafficking’ is a more robust critique of the HSRC report. It argues that the HSRC report did not address and or query the research terms of reference. It goes on to state that the report is weak as it fails to give new insight into the problem of human trafficking and reads just like previous research by other organisations such as IOM and Molo Songololo which are not backed by evidence and are therefore heavily anectodal. The report is argued as being sensationalistic and even alarmist having come to the conclusion that human trafficking is rife in South Africa and therefore needing to be addressed on all fronts yet failing to give research to back this claim. This, the ISS paper claims may lead to the use of state resources to address a problem whose full extent is not known, potentially diverting scarce but much needed resources from more pressing and proven social ills.

ISS paper

ISS paper

I read the Tsireledzani research report and I somewhat regrettably have to concur with the ISS paper as the HSRC report reads just like the other human trafficking reports before it and offers no new insight into the problem. It sights the exact same limitations to conducting human trafficking research but does not seem to have countered or gone around these limitations to give fresh impetus and insight into the challenge of modern day slavery. Frankly, the research does seem to fall short.

The dangers of half-baked human trafficking research reports are clearly apparent in this scenario. The main problem is that it leads not just to the refutation of the human trafficking research reports but indeed the objection or at least the insinuation of an objection of the occurrence of human trafficking. Poor research that sounds alarmist and sensationalistic just seems to bring out the human trafficking denial proponents thus presenting a great stumbling block to anti human trafficking work. Thus while the ISS paper does not state that there is no human trafficking in South Africa it does refute a report that states that there is human trafficking in South Africa and by extension the very occurrence of human trafficking in South Africa, until….. until proven otherwise by more credible and evidence based or backed research. The ISS paper’s authors have urged or rather demanded that the HSRC withdraw its human trafficking research report. What is perhaps also commedable about the ISS paper is the fact that it recommends or gives insight into how the research should have been done, for example, the need for strong caveats acknowledging time and methodological limitations in the research, use of the IOM database of 300 or so trafficking victims, contesting the terms of reference etc etc.

Now is this a case of human trafficking research gone bad? Or a case of those in denial coming out with their swords? The jury is clearly still out. Personally, this presents a challenge to all modern day abolitions to do more, to conduct more robust research, to go beyond scratching the surface of the problem. Because, believe you me, the problem is there-whether or not we appreciate its full extent is debatable.

Gilbert Makore

N.B: the views expressed in this blog are of the author in his own individual capacity and in no way reflect the views of SAAHTT

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

Zimbabwe Country Narrative : US State Department Trafficking in Persons Report 2010

As we highlighted in the previous post, the TIP 2010 Report by the US State Department is now out and we had promised that we would make subsequent posts on the report particularly focusing on SADC countries. SAAHTT is currently operating from Harare, Zimbabwe and so we begin with the Zimbabwean country narrative below.



In the 2009 TIP report, Zimbabwe was in Tier 3 and it remains in Tier 3 in the 2010 report. Countries are placed in tiers, ranging from Tier 1-3. The Tier placements are explained as follows:

TIER 1 –Countries whose governments fully comply with the Trafficking Victims Protection Act’s (TVPA) minimum standards. TIER 2- Countries whose governments do not fully comply with the TVPA’s minimum standards, but are making significant efforts to bring themselves into compliance with those standards. TIER 2 WATCH LIST- Countries whose governments do not fully comply with the TVPA’s minimum standards, but are making significant efforts to bring themselves into compliance with those standards, AND: a) the absolute number of victims of severe forms of trafficking is very significant or is significantly increasing; b) there is a failure to provide evidence of increasing efforts to combat severe forms of trafficking in persons from the previous year; or, c) the determination that a country is making significant efforts to bring themselves into compliance with minimum standards was based on commitments by the country to take additional future steps over the next year. TIER 3 -Countries whose governments do not fully comply with the minimum standards and are not making significant efforts to do so

It is therefore very unfortunate that Zimbabwe continues to be classified as Tier 3 and this despite evidence of cases of trafficking. There is still perhaps a real sense of denial within government and indeed among other stakeholders with regards to the occurrence of trafficking. The Zimbabwe country narrative in this TIP report however, reports of cases in which Zimbabweans were trafficked to countries as far as China and also notes how trafficking around border towns has increased and how the country continues to be a route for traffickers. Perhaps, the only positive note is that there has been a bit of awareness raising that has been conducted by IOM albeit focusing more on safe migration. As a country, we therefore fail when it comes to the 3 Ps (Prosecution, Protection and Prevention). Part of the problem is that there is no anti-trafficking legislation thus cases of child abuse or prostitution are treated in a very narrow sense that fails to take into account the possibility of trafficking. There are a whole host of issues that need unpacking and we will do so in later posts. Below is the verbatim Zimbabwe country narrative from the TIP 2010 Report.


Zimbabwe is a country of origin, transit, and destination for men, women, and children subjected to trafficking in persons, specifically conditions of forced labor and forced prostitution. Zimbabwean women and girls from towns bordering South Africa and Zambia are forced into prostitution in brothels that cater to long-distance truck drivers. Some of these victims are subsequently moved across the border for continued exploitation. Zimbabwean men, women, and children from rural areas are subjected to forced agricultural labor and domestic servitude, or are trafficked into commercial sexual exploitation and subjected to involuntary domestic servitude in cities and towns. Young men and boys are forced by Zimbabwean government security forces to work in the diamond fields of Marange district. Zimbabwean young men and boys illegally migrate to South Africa, where some are forced to labor for months on farms or in mines and in construction without pay before their employers report them to authorities for deportation. Women and men are lured into exploitative labor situations in Angola, United Arab Emirates, Malaysia, and South Africa with false promises of jobs in construction, information technology, and hospitality. Some may end up victims of trafficking. Young women and girls are also lured to China, Egypt, the United Kingdom, and Canada under false pretenses, and then subjected to commercial sexual exploitation. Men, women, and children from Bangladesh, Somalia, India, Pakistan, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Malawi, Mozambique, and Zambia are trafficked through Zimbabwe en route to South Africa. Foreign women and children are trafficked for labor and commercial sexual exploitation from communities near the borders with the four surrounding countries. A small number of trafficked South African girls are exploited in Zimbabwe in involuntary domestic servitude.

The Government of Zimbabwe does not fully comply with the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking and is not making significant efforts to do so. While the government showed increased interest in trafficking issues and began to provide anti-trafficking training to some public servants, officials made no apparent efforts to proactively identify victims of trafficking. Members of government security services forced men and boys to perform hard labor in diamond mines.

Recommendations for Zimbabwe: Cease security forces’ use of local populations for forced diamond mining; prosecute, convict, and punish trafficking offenders; advance comprehensive anti-trafficking legislation; formalize procedures for interviewing victims and transferring them to the care of NGOs; incorporate trafficking crimes into police procedures for recording and reporting crime data; actively support the trafficking hotline; and launch a broad awareness-raising campaign that educates all levels of government officials, as well as the general public, on the nature of trafficking and the availability of assistance for victims.

The Government of Zimbabwe did not record or release information on the number of trafficking investigations, prosecutions, or convictions it pursued in the last year. Zimbabwean law does not prohibit all forms of trafficking in persons, though existing statutes outlaw forced labor and numerous forms of sexual exploitation. Forced labor offenses are punishable by a fine or two years’ imprisonment, or both; these penalties are not sufficiently stringent. Because trafficking is not a crime according to Zimbabwean law, police do not note whether related crimes such as child prostitution involve elements of trafficking. There have been no reports of prosecutions or convictions for forced labor or forced prostitution offenses during the reporting period. Resource constraints in the Zimbabwe Republic Police (ZRP) and the judiciary continued to hinder anti-trafficking law enforcement activity. Police lack human, financial, and other resources to conduct proper investigations. Significant delays in the court system often led to detainees remaining in custody for several years before their cases were tried in court. Police and other officials forged partnerships with counterparts in South Africa in order to investigate and prosecute transnational trafficking cases. In summer 2009, seven Zimbabwean men were recruited in Zimbabwe by a Chinese national for jobs with a Chinese-owned construction company in Angola. On arrival, their passports were confiscated and they were subjected to forced labor. Some of the victims returned to Zimbabwe and filed civil complaints against the Chinese recruiter for financial restitution. Law enforcement sources report that the case is progressing slowly in the Zimbabwean labor courts. Police and anti-corruption commission officials have interviewed the victims, but have not filed charges. Human rights organizations, international organization sources, and diamond industry experts continued to report that the Government of Zimbabwe condoned and participated in labor trafficking crimes in the Marange district, where military personnel forced local men and boys to work in the diamond mines. In 2009, the Zimbabwe Republic Police Training Department actively worked with IOM on all of its 2010 counter-trafficking training programs for law enforcement.

The Zimbabwean government provided trafficking victims with some protection and continued to ensure victims’ access to shelter and care services provided by NGOs and international organizations. Although the government has a formal process for referring some victims to international organizations and NGOs for services, the government continued to depend on these organizations to identify trafficking victims and alert the authorities. Its primary partner in addressing human trafficking was IOM, which trained social service providers and NGOs in providing trafficking victims safe shelter, psycho-social support, family tracing, and reunification. The Department of Social Welfare lacked funds to adequately assist victims; it routinely referred internal and transnational trafficking victims to shelters run by local and international NGOs offering specialized services within their existing programs. The government did not keep records about trafficking-related incidents, and could not provide data on how many trafficking victims officials had referred to these facilities. IOM reported it provided assistance to at least 11 trafficking victims in 2009. Trained Department of Social Welfare staff referred identified victims to safe houses where short, medium, and long-term assistance could be provided. The Department of Immigration required all deportees from South Africa and Botswana to attend an IOM briefing on safe migration, which includes a discussion of trafficking. In the past, the government encouraged victims to assist in the prosecution of traffickers, but was believed to have not prosecuted any traffickers during the reporting period. The government did not inappropriately incarcerate or otherwise penalize identified victims for unlawful acts committed as a direct result of being trafficked. The law provides foreign victims with relief from removal to countries where they may face hardship or retribution, although not all trafficking victims who wished to stay in Zimbabwe were routinely provided such relief. In July 2009, 27 Indian men believed to be victims of traffickers were held in Harare Central police station for two weeks for immigration violations before they were deported. Victims may file civil suits against trafficking offenders under the Criminal Procedure and Evidence Act, which provides for victim restitution and compensation. In order to file a civil suit, however, victims must stay in Zimbabwe and overcome serious administrative hurdles in the overcrowded court system. With the exception of deportees from South Africa and Botswana, the government’s law enforcement, immigration, and social services did not have a formal system for proactively identifying trafficking victims among vulnerable populations.

The government demonstrated some efforts to prevent trafficking. An inter-ministerial task force on trafficking made up of senior government officials that was established in 2006 still lacks a national plan of action and an operational working group. The group met during the reporting period, but it has not implemented any significant plans to date. Government officials attended and led portions of 15 sector-specific training workshops in partnership with IOM. The Ministry of Labor and Social Welfare and UNICEF have agreements with 21 NGOs to advance the National Action Plan for Orphans and Vulnerable Children, designed to ensure their access to education, food, health services, and birth registrations as a means of protecting them from abuse and exploitation. Orphans without birth certificates are particularly vulnerable to exploitation in forced labor and prostitution. The government did not directly fund any trafficking awareness programs, but the state-run media continued to print and air messages about the dangers of illegal migration, false employment scams, underage and forced marriages, prostitution, and exploitative labor conditions. Information regarding measures adopted by the government to ensure its nationals deployed to peacekeeping missions did not facilitate or engage in trafficking was unavailable. Zimbabwe is not a party to the 2000 UN TIP Protocol.