Worry over child trafficking in SA

September 10, 2015, 4:46am

Victims of trafficking in this country are likely to be South African women, but cases against children are falling through the gaps in official watch-lists. Photo by Jay Directo

By Louise Flanagan for IOL News

Johannesburg - Victims of trafficking in this country are likely to be South African women, but cases against children are falling through the gaps in official watch-lists.

Even when the cases are reported to the police, many perpetrators are getting away with it. However, those who are convicted are getting hefty sentences.

This emerges from replies to questions in Parliament by the DA to three different departments. This week, the Ministry of Police listed the number of cases of human trafficking reported to the SAPS for the five years 2010/11 to 2014/15, the number of victims and their nationalities.

Also this week, the Ministry of Justice and Correctional Services listed the number of human trafficking cases prosecuted by the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) during those five years, the number of convictions and the victims’ nationalities.

In June, the Ministry of Home Affairs listed the number of child trafficking cases from 2012/13, plus brief details on some cases logged at border posts.

While there’s little beyond statistics in the replies, it’s clear that some cases are falling between the cracks.

The gap seems to be in the cases of child trafficking. At least some of the Home Affairs cases don’t appear to be on the SAPS lists. The Home Affairs list included: in 2013/14, a group of 16 Zimbabwean children trafficked via Beitbridge border in Limpopo, with half later held in Limpopo and half in Joburg.

In 2013/14, two children from Mozambique and China found in Mpumalanga; and in 2014/15, a Mozambican child found in KZN. None of these cases are on the SAPS lists. Home Affairs also said that during 2013/14, a total of 11 suspects were arrested in Joburg and the cases were pending in court, and one suspect was arrested in Limpopo and released on bail. None of these cases appear to be on the NPA list of current prosecutions.

The SAPS statistics record 92 cases of human trafficking over the five years, including 39 in the Western Cape, 15 in Gauteng, 12 in KwaZulu-Natal and seven in the Eastern Cape.

Those cases recorded 296 victims, with about half of them (151 people) South Africans. They also included 53 Malawians, 22 Chinese and 20 Ethiopians, with others from Cambodia, Bangladesh, Nigeria, Mozambique, Thailand, Pakistan, Cameroon, Lesotho and Russia. At least 183 of them were women.

The cases reported to the SAPS included 53 Malawians rescued in Limpopo in 2014/15 and a separate case of 19 Ethiopian women rescued in the same province in the same year.

There were also 20 South African women found in KZN during 2011/12. The NPA opened prosecutions in only 25 cases, with 19 of those opened in 2014/15, but said “several cases” were still under investigation. Those 25 cases resulted in 13 convictions, with seven convictions in 2014/15. Ten cases are either partly heard or due to start soon and another two are processing bail applications.

“The NPA is only aware of two additional prosecutions on trafficking which resulted in an acquittal, both in the Western Cape. In the one matter, the accused was convicted on minor charges and in the other case, the complainant refused to testify,” said the Ministry of Justice.