South Africa is a source, transit, and destination country for men, women, and children subjected to forced labor and sex trafficking. South African citizens and foreign nationals are subjected to human trafficking within the country. NGO and law enforcement officials indicate South Africans constitute the largest number of victims within South Africa. South African children are subjected to trafficking mainly within the country, recruited from poor rural areas and brought to and moved between urban centers such as Johannesburg, Cape Town, Durban, and Bloemfontein. Girls are subjected to sex trafficking and domestic servitude; boys are forced to work in street vending, food service, begging, criminal activities, and agriculture. Reports of forced begging increased in 2013; some forced begging involved children with disabilities. The tradition of ukuthwala, the forced marriage of girls as young as 12 to adult men, is still practiced in some remote villages in Eastern and Western Cape provinces, leaving these girls vulnerable to forced labor and sex slavery; South Africa prosecuted its first ukuthwala case in 2013. South African victims were identified and repatriated from Malawi and Venezuela in 2013. In March 2014, the Brazilian government released a South African woman previously convicted and imprisoned for drug smuggling upon recognition that she was a trafficking victim.
Nigerian syndicates dominate the commercial sex trade in Hillbrow and other areas, though local criminal rings and street gangs also organize child prostitution. Russian and Bulgarian crime syndicates operate in the Cape Town sex trade, and Chinese nationals coordinate the sex trafficking of Asian nationals. To a lesser extent, syndicates recruit and transport South African women to Europe and the Middle East, where some are forced into prostitution or domestic service. During the year, law enforcement reported increased coercion of sex trafficking victims via forced drug use, which compounded difficulties in rescuing victims.
In addition to South Africans, in 2013, the government identified victims from Russia, the Philippines, Taiwan, Thailand, Ghana, Somalia, Namibia, Zimbabwe, Zambia, and the United States. Officials acknowledged an increased presence of Chinese victims, but Thai women were the largest identified foreign victim group. Women and girls from China, Taiwan, Thailand, Cambodia, India, Russia, Ukraine, Moldova, Bulgaria, Brazil, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, the Republic of the Congo, Rwanda, Mozambique, Lesotho, Swaziland, and Zimbabwe are recruited for legitimate work in South Africa, but are sometimes subsequently subjected to forced prostitution, domestic servitude, or forced labor in the service sector or taken to Europe for forced prostitution. LGBT persons—both foreign and South African—were identified as sex trafficking victims by NGOs during the year. Taxi drivers or criminals at the border transport Zimbabwean migrants, including children, into South Africa and subject some to sex or labor trafficking upon arrival. Traffickers transport Asian and African victims through Lesotho into South African territory. Chinese and Taiwanese men are forced to work in mobile sweatshop factories in Chinese urban enclaves in South Africa. For the second consecutive year, men were identified as victims of forced labor aboard fishing vessels in South Africa’s territorial waters; the victims included 75 Indonesian men exploited without pay over a three- to four-year period on Taiwanese flagged ships. Young men and boys from Lesotho, Mozambique, Malawi, Swaziland, and Zimbabwe voluntarily migrate to South Africa for farm work, including cattle herding; some are subjected to forced labor and subsequently arrested and deported as illegal immigrants. Forced labor is reportedly used in fruit and vegetable farms across South Africa and vineyards in the Western Cape. NGOs report Pakistanis are subjected to bonded labor in businesses owned by Pakistani nationals.
The Government of South Africa does not fully comply with the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking; however, it is making significant efforts to do so. In May 2013, parliament passed the Prevention and Combatting of Trafficking in Persons Act (PACOTIP), which was signed by President Zuma in July 2013. However, at the close of the reporting period, the legislation was not yet in effect, as it awaited presidential promulgation upon finalization of implementing regulations; the lack of an appropriate legal framework impeded the government’s efforts to prosecute the crime in 2013. The Department of Justice Victim Support Directorate (DOJ/VSD) oversaw the development of these regulations by stakeholder departments. In anticipation of the promulgation of the legislation’s regulatory structure—which will serve to enact the legislation—the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA), coordinated trainings for prosecutors, magistrates, and investigative police in all nine provinces and, through its Inter-Sectoral Task Team (ISTT) and provincial task teams, supervised national law enforcement efforts. The government convicted only three traffickers during the year and began prosecution of 12 suspects for alleged sex trafficking violations. Two additional defendants awaited prosecution for their suspected involvement in the exploitation of children in domestic servitude—the first such case to reach the courts. These law enforcement efforts represent an increase from the previous reporting period, during which the government convicted one trafficker and initiated prosecutions involving seven suspects. The Department of Social Development (DSD) continued its oversight of victim shelters. Nonetheless, the government lacked formal procedures for properly screening and identifying trafficking victims among vulnerable groups, including illegal migrants and women in prostitution. As a result, some foreign victims were repatriated without being identified. The government failed to systematically address labor trafficking offenses or successfully prosecute cases against any major international syndicates responsible for much of the sex trafficking in the country. A serious lack of capacity and widespread corruption among the police force stymied progress in anti-trafficking law enforcement efforts.
Recommendations for South Africa:
Promulgate and implement anti-trafficking regulations; increase awareness among government officials of their responsibilities under the anti-trafficking bill and related provisions under the Sexual Offenses and Children’s Amendment Acts; verify that law enforcement and social service providers use a victim-centered approach when interacting with potential victims and recognize that initial consent is irrelevant; institutionalize anti-trafficking training for all South African Police Service (SAPS) officials; prosecute employers who use forced labor; adequately screen all potential deportees for trafficking victimization to ensure they are not inappropriately deported; verify that officials adequately screen for victims among vulnerable groups, including women in prostitution; replicate the coordinated anti-trafficking law enforcement and victim referral mechanisms of KwaZulu-Natal (KZN) and Western Cape in all provinces; provide interpreters to assist victims in obtaining care, cooperating with law enforcement, and testifying in court; extend the availability of drug rehabilitation services to all high-risk areas; investigate and prosecute officials suspected of being complicit in trafficking; certify or establish additional shelters for the assistance of male trafficking victims; and institute formal procedures to compile national statistics on trafficking cases prosecuted and victims assisted, as is done for other crimes.
The Government of South Africa increased efforts to investigate and prosecute trafficking crimes. While it convicted three trafficking offenders and initiated the first prosecution of suspects tied to the exploitation of children in domestic servitude, the government has not yet promulgated anti-trafficking regulations, and South Africa’s pre-existing laws do not prohibit all forms of trafficking. The Sexual Offenses Act (SOA) prohibits the sex trafficking of children and adults, and the Basic Conditions of Employment Act of 1997 (BCEA) prohibits forced labor. The SOA prescribes punishments of up to 20 years’ imprisonment for sex trafficking offenses, which is sufficiently stringent and commensurate with penalties prescribed for other serious offenses, such as rape. Maximum penalties under the BCEA of three years’ imprisonment for forced labor offenses are not sufficiently stringent. The Children’s Amendment Act prescribes penalties of five years’ to life imprisonment or fines for the use, procurement, or offer of a child for slavery, commercial sexual exploitation, or to commit crimes. The Prevention of Organized Crime Act of 1998 is sometimes used in combination with the SOA to add additional charges—including money laundering, racketeering, and criminal gang activity—and stiffer penalties against offenders. In May 2013, the parliament passed comprehensive anti-trafficking legislation, the Prevention and Combating of Trafficking in Persons Bill, which was published in the government gazette and signed by the president in July 2013. Once all departments complete their implementing regulations, the president will promulgate the legislation; at the close of the reporting period, the act was not yet in effect. SAPS, NPA, DSD, and DOJ/VSD finalized their regulations, but those for the Department of Home Affairs (DHA) and the Department of Labor (DOL) remained under review.
In 2013, the government convicted three traffickers and initiated prosecutions of 12 suspected sex traffickers and two suspected labor traffickers. In February 2014, the Western Cape High Court convicted a trafficker and sentenced him to 22 years’ imprisonment under both rape and trafficking charges for his purchase, exploitation, and abuse of a 14-year-old girl in servile marriage—a misuse of the ukuthwala tradition of arranged marriages. In November 2013, the Atlantis Magistrate’s Court convicted a defendant for the prostitution of two minors; sentencing in this case remained pending at the close of the reporting period. The Sabie Magistrate’s Court continued to try a February 2013 case involving a Mozambican woman and a South African businessman charged with the sex trafficking of five Mozambican girls. A known associate of these traffickers was sentenced in the North Gauteng High Court to 15 years’ imprisonment under trafficking provisions in the Children’s Act for the selling of a Mozambican child. The prosecution of five defendants in the 2011 “Point Durban” case remained ongoing. Several other sex trafficking trials remained ongoing from previous reporting periods.
In its efforts against sex trafficking, the government continued to prosecute sex trafficking cases involving one to three victims and similar numbers of defendants, all typically from South Africa or neighboring countries; it has not successfully prosecuted larger, international syndicates involving Nigerian, Russian, Bulgarian, Chinese, and Thai traffickers who dominate the sex trade in several South African cities. No cases against traffickers of Thai women have been initiated since 2007, despite the Thai embassy in Pretoria reporting having assisted and repatriated 180 Thai women it identified as trafficking victims during the year.
While civil society experts indicate the majority of trafficking victims in South Africa are labor trafficking victims, the government failed to systematically investigate forced labor abuses. However, officials initiated the first prosecution of suspects tied to the exploitation of children in domestic servitude. In October 2013, Western Cape authorities charged a father and son with child abduction for their role in recruiting and transporting minors from the Northern Cape to Cape Town, where they were subjected to domestic servitude. In 2013, the government did not comprehensively monitor or investigate forced child labor or the labor trafficking of adults in the agricultural, mining, construction, and fishing sectors. Generally, the DOL and its inspectors continued to see the BCEA as their core enforcement mechanism and failed to consider the trafficking implications within this workload; for example, officials reported fining employers who failed to pay their 200 employees under the BCEA provision for non-payment of wages, without considering this as an indicator of forced labor and seeking criminal prosecution of the employers. DOL officials cited the lack of sufficient legislation as a key impediment to criminally charging employers in forced labor cases.
Official complicity in trafficking crimes was a serious concern. Well-known brothels, including some that have previously housed sex trafficking victims, continued to operate without police intervention, at times a result of official complicity. The government failed to prosecute any officials allegedly complicit in trafficking-related crimes. Many stakeholders report the failure of police to proactively identify sex trafficking victims or pursue investigations; police regularly removed alleged victims of sex trafficking from brothels without opening investigations against the perpetrators. NGOs report that police officers solicited commercial sex acts from trafficking victims. A South African diplomat suspected of engaging in forced labor remained under investigation by a foreign government.
The government increased training efforts in anticipation of the legislation’s impending promulgation. During the year, NPA trainers visited NPA offices in all nine provinces to train their staff on trafficking; 150 prosecutors received anti-trafficking training in 2013. NPA staff trained magistrates in each region and investigative police assigned to various “Hawks” units around the country; for example, 60 “Hawks” police were trained in Johannesburg in December 2013. DHA and DOL included IOM-developed trainings within their academy trainings for new staff. In partnership with the government, IOM led bi-annual trainings in 2013 for 70 South African diplomats en route to consular positions abroad. The Department of Social Development (DSD) held trainings in Gauteng, Western Cape, and KZN for social service professionals and provided funding to NGOs to facilitate trainings of hospital staff in Western Cape to ensure front-line responders could adequately identify and assist victims. The government cooperated with officials in Mozambique, Swaziland, and Lesotho to investigate trafficking cases.
The government continued efforts to protect trafficking victims, assisting at least 100 victims. DSD continued oversight of and funding to 13 accredited multipurpose shelters, which hosted 80 foreign and 13 South African adult trafficking victims in 2013—an increase from 87 victims in 2012 and 59 in 2011. It continued oversight of 17 NGO-run safe houses designed to temporarily shelter victims before they reach an accredited shelter. The DSD ran a nine-week rehabilitation program to address the psycho-social well-being of victims and paid for the stay of victims at rehabilitation centers for overcoming drug addiction. In lieu of this longer-term rehabilitation program, victims could choose a shorter-term program, including provision of counseling, accommodation, and reintegration services. There was only one shelter available for men in the entire country, located in Gauteng Province, which was difficult to access for men victimized in other parts of the country. The Thuthuzela Care Centers—a collaborative effort of multiple departments to provide crisis care to victims of sexual violence—provided assistance to an additional seven victims in 2013—the first year for which they were able to provide such data. The government assisted child trafficking victims in facilities for vulnerable children, without provision of specific services related to their trafficking victimization. NGOs reported referring at least 20 child trafficking victims to DSD for placement in these facilities during the reporting period and at least seven child victims were sheltered by DSD during the ongoing legal cases cited in this report; however, officials could not disaggregate child trafficking victims from the total number of children in shelters during the year. Both adults and children were prohibited from leaving shelters unaccompanied, allegedly for security reasons. DSD staff monitored victims’ well-being, prepared them for court, and accompanied them throughout the trial and repatriation processes. In 2013, the Mpumalanga task team established a rapid-response team comprised of government agencies and NGOs, and modeled after those in Gauteng, Western Cape, and KZN to coordinate protective services, including shelter, for victims. DSD continued to serve a key role in accepting victims from law enforcement and coordinating their placement in a registered shelter. The Cape Town Vice Squad rescued 34 trafficking victims during their operations in the city in 2013.
DSD drafted implementing regulations in preparation for the social services portions of the anti-trafficking bill and developed formal procedures for the identification of trafficking victims and their referral to appropriate care, though these have not yet been put into effect. First-line responders continued to use a guidebook to assist in the identification of trafficking victims and shelter intake forms to capture trafficking victim data. The KZN and Western Cape provincial Task Teams used an interagency protocol, with input from SAPS, DOJ, and DSD, to guide law enforcement’s interactions with women in prostitution.
Law enforcement generally failed to screen women and LGBT persons in prostitution for trafficking indicators, treating them as criminals and often charging them with prostitution and other violations. During the year, at least one potential sex trafficking victim was jailed alongside her suspected trafficker and two additional foreign sex trafficking victims were deported without identification by authorities. The government failed to identify as trafficking victims 75 Indonesian seamen—unpaid and abandoned by their captains in the Port of Cape Town in late September 2013—despite their reported screening by Home Affairs officials. In addition, officials held the 75 fishermen in immigration detention for more than two months. In February 2014, the South African government paid for their return flights home and permitted them to bypass immigration when departing South Africa; thus, the victims’ passports do not reflect their departure as a deportation, allowing them to continue working as seamen in the future.
Systemic hurdles continued to inhibit progress in providing justice and protection for victims in South Africa. Lack of language interpretation for victims impeded the investigation of trafficking cases, prosecution of suspected offenders, and screening of victims. The government’s failure to provide adequate security for victims at places of safety inhibited some organizations from accepting victims. Drug treatment programs—necessary for trafficking victims made addicted to drugs as part of their coercion—were inadequate in South Africa; without publicly-funded facilities, private facilities were over-taxed in urban areas and non-existent in rural areas. Officials encouraged victims to participate in the investigation and prosecution of trafficking offenders and provided long-term care to foreign victims who did so; the three trafficking convictions reported during the year relied in part on victim testimony. At times, prosecutors experienced difficulty in pursuing cases because the DHA deported victims before they had been interviewed or able to participate in the trial; this was, in part, a result of the lack of legal alternatives available under current South African law for victims to avoid deportation to countries where they may face hardship or retribution. There appeared to be a systemic obstacle to recognizing the emotional trauma victims endured. For example, law enforcement reported being unable to place suspected victims in shelters if the victims failed to provide evidence of force, fraud, or coercion immediately after their rescue. Suspected criminals could only be held for 48 hours without evidence, and many traumatized victims were unable or unwilling to provide statements within that time frame, leading to the release of suspected offenders.
The government increased efforts to prevent human trafficking through awareness-raising campaigns in schools and efforts to coordinate national anti-trafficking policies and planning. The DOJ/VSD coordinated interdepartmental policy development—to ensure preparedness for the eventual implementation of anti-trafficking legislation—and provided funding for local awareness and training events. In May 2013 and February 2014, DOJ/VSD organized two week-long strategy sessions, where government stakeholders developed and reviewed implementing regulations and worked with civil society partners to develop an updated national action plan. The draft plan was released for interagency and NGO comment in February 2014. DOJ/VSD supported awareness-raising efforts, including events at malls and door-to-door campaigns in high-risk trafficking areas in Northwest and Mpumalanga provinces, which reached 13,000 residents. The government spent the equivalent of approximately $270,000 in trafficking awareness-raising and training initiatives during the 2012-2013 fiscal year. The NPA continued to serve as the government’s law enforcement lead, providing oversight of its six provincial task teams coordinated through the ISTT. Various task teams undertook awareness raising events; for example, in KZN, the provincial task team conducted 22 awareness-raising sessions for students, reaching over 1,700 primary school students. NPA, DOJ, SAPS, and Thuthuzela staff held 26 awareness-raising sessions at high schools about sexual offenses, children’s rights, victim identification, and how to report abuses; these sessions reached approximately 10,100 students.
During the year, President Zuma called for a ban on labor brokers and, in March 2014, parliament passed amendments to the 2012 Employment Services bill that awaited presidential assent at the end of the reporting period. Though the bill does not ban labor brokers, it requires the DOL to license and regulate private employment agencies and prohibits them from charging fees for their services unless explicitly authorized by the Minister of Labor. In addition, DOL officials began work with officials in Lesotho to regularize the process for Basotho in acquiring work permits and enforcing labor laws following reports of abuse. DOL fined labor brokers and shut down domestic worker recruitment agencies for placing workers with employers who frequently did not pay workers the required minimum wage. DOL also increased inspections of factories in the past year, and reported it has reduced the number of labor abuses by Chinese firms. For example, DOL and the KZN Task Team investigated a Chinese factory suspected of using forced labor; although the inspection did not uncover such abuses, it led to the government’s prosecution of employers for a number of other labor violations. In 2013, DOL amended the BCEA to include violations in the informal work sector, including domestic work. DOL developed non-binding guidelines on acceptable household chores.
During the year, DSD co-signed, with leaders from South Africa’s tourism and hospitality industry, a code of conduct for the protection of children from sexual exploitation. The government failed to reduce the overall demand for commercial sex, though the Cape Town Vice Squad arrested nine males for soliciting commercial sex acts from trafficking victims. The South African National Defense Forces’ Peace Mission Training Centre provided anti-trafficking training to South African troops prior to their deployment abroad on international peacekeeping missions; in addition, the South African military prosecuted troops who perpetrated sex crimes while serving on missions abroad. The government did not undertake efforts to reduce the demand for forced labor or commercial sex acts during the reporting period.