The controversy surrounding the discovery of 75 Malawian children and young adults aboard a truck in Rustenburg – which sparked suspicion that the children were victims of human trafficking – came on the brink of World Day against Trafficking in Persons, which will be commemorated today.
Monique Emser, an expert on human trafficking in South Africa, said that eradicating the crime of human trafficking required the commitment of multiple stakeholders such as governments, businesses and civil society. According to the Trafficking in Persons Report July 2015, human trafficking or modern slavery are umbrella terms for the act of recruiting, harbouring, transporting, providing or obtaining a person for compelled labour or commercial sex acts through the use of force, fraud, or coercion.
It is estimated that there are about 21 million people worldwide who are victims of forced labour. Emser said men, women and children were often lured by false promises of jobs by human traffickers, forcing them into labour in different sectors and for sexual exploitation.
Factors such as conflict, political instability and poverty had made millions of people vulnerable to this exploitation.
In reaction to the Rustenburg incident, the department of home affairs reiterated the complexities around trafficking, smuggling and “stowaways”.
“The expression ‘Malawian stowaways’ is perhaps premature at this stage,” said Mayihlome Tshwete, spokesperson for the minister and the department in a letter. “What we do know at the moment is that the people involved did not present themselves to home affairs officials,” Tshwete said.
“A simplistic understanding of procedures at ports of entry could lead one to believe home affairs functions with complete control … when in reality our efforts are subject to collaboration with other departments and agencies.”
Tshwete said in a media statement following the incident that the department was trying to find a lasting solution to human trafficking.
“In the past it was possible for people to travel into the country with trafficked children and be processed into the country by our officials. As far as trafficking is concerned, we now require consent from legal guardians for a child to move across borders.”
Tshwete said the solution would be a “one-stop” integrated border authority, comprising relevant departments in collaboration with neighbouring countries.
– Citizen reporter