SOUTH AFRICA: Tier 2
South Africa is a source, transit, and destination country for men, women, and children subjected to forced labor and sex trafficking. South Africans constitute the largest number of victims within the country. South African children are recruited from poor rural areas to urban centers, such as Johannesburg, Cape Town, Durban, and Bloemfontein, where girls are subjected to sex trafficking and domestic servitude and boys are forced to work in street vending, food service, begging, criminal activities, and agriculture. Large numbers of children, including those with disabilities, are exploited in forced begging. The tradition of ukuthwala, the forced marriage of girls as young as 12 to adult men, is practiced in some remote villages in Eastern and Western Cape provinces, leaving these girls vulnerable to forced labor and sex slavery. Nigerian syndicates dominate the commercial sex trade in several provinces. In 2014, NGOs in Western Cape reported an increased number of Nigerian sex trafficking victims, many coerced through voodoo rituals. Local criminal rings organize child prostitution, Russian and Bulgarian crime syndicates operate in the Cape Town sex trade, and Chinese nationals coordinate the sex trafficking of Asian men and women. To a lesser extent, syndicates recruit South African women to Europe and Asia, where some are forced into prostitution, domestic service, or drug smuggling. Law enforcement reported continued coercion of sex trafficking victims via forced drug use, which compounded difficulties in rescuing victims.
Officials acknowledged an increased presence of Chinese victims, but Thai women remained the largest identified foreign victim group. Women and girls from Brazil; Eastern Europe; East, South and Southeast Asia; and neighboring African countries are recruited for legitimate work in South Africa, but sometimes subjected to forced prostitution, domestic servitude, or forced labor in the service sector or taken to Europe for similar purposes. Foreign and South African LGBT persons are subjected to sex trafficking. For the third consecutive year, foreign male forced labor victims were discovered aboard fishing vessels in South Africa’s territorial waters; in 2014, NGOs reported an increased number of victims—10 to 15 victims each month—disembarking in Cape Town. Young men and boys from neighboring countries migrate to South Africa for farm work; 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. Government and NGOs report an increase in Pakistanis and Bangladeshis subjected to bonded labor in businesses owned by their nationals. Official complicity—including amongst police—in trafficking crimes remained a serious concern. Some well-known brothels that were previously locations of sex trafficking operated with officials’ tacit support.
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. The government maintained modest anti-trafficking law enforcement efforts—convicting three and initiating prosecution of an additional 19 sex traffickers in 2014. The Department of Social Development (DSD) continued its oversight of victim shelters, which assisted 41 victims. For the second consecutive year, however, the Prevention and Combating of Trafficking in Persons Act (PACOTIP), signed in July 2013, was not in force because implementing regulations had not been finalized—leaving South Africa without adequate anti-trafficking prohibitions and impeding overall efforts to combat the crime. The Department of Justice Victim Support Directorate (DOJ/VSD) oversaw the development of regulations necessary to enact the legislation and coordinated trainings for prosecutors and investigative police in several provinces. The government lacked formal procedures for properly identifying trafficking victims among vulnerable groups, including illegal migrants and women in prostitution. The government failed to systematically address labor trafficking offenses or to successfully prosecute 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 to bring PACOTIP into effect; 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, especially among South African Police Service (SAPS) officials and Department of Labor (DOL) personnel; investigate and prosecute officials suspected of trafficking complicity; verify law enforcement and social service providers use a victim-centered approach when interacting with potential victims and recognize initial consent is irrelevant; prosecute employers who use forced labor; adequately screen for trafficking victimization among vulnerable groups, including potential deportees and 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 for trafficking victims to all high-risk areas; certify or establish additional shelters for the assistance of male victims; and institute formal procedures to compile national statistics on traffickers prosecuted and victims assisted.
The government maintained efforts to investigate and prosecute trafficking crimes; however, it did not promulgate regulations for the PACOTIP Act, leaving South Africa with inadequate anti-trafficking prohibitions. The Sexual Offenses Act (SOA) prohibits the sex trafficking of children and adults and prescribes penalties of up to 20 years’ imprisonment, which are sufficiently stringent and commensurate with those prescribed for other serious offenses, such as rape. The Basic Conditions of Employment Act of 1997 (BCEA) prohibits forced labor; in 2014, the government amended it to extend prohibitions to the informal sector and doubled prescribed maximum penalties for forced labor for both children and adults from three to six years’ imprisonment. 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. Promulgation of the PACOTIP Act signed by the president in July 2013 remained pending. In 2014, the State Law Advisor approved implementing regulations finalized by SAPS, DSD, DOJ/VSD, and the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA); however, the Department of Home Affairs’ (DHA) draft regulations remained under review, preventing formal promulgation of the act during the reporting period. Government entities with implementing regulations made significant efforts to train staff on these regulations in 2014.
The government convicted three sex traffickers and initiated prosecutions of 19 additional suspected sex traffickers—a slight increase compared with the conviction of three offenders and prosecution of 12 suspected sex traffickers in 2013. In November 2014, the Graskop Magistrate’s Court convicted a prominent businessman for the sex trafficking of five Mozambican girls under the SOA and Children’s Act and sentenced him to eight life terms—the most severe sentence for a trafficking crime handed down in South Africa. In March 2015, the High Court upheld the trafficking and rape convictions of an offender found guilty in the previous reporting period. Prosecution of 17 alleged sex traffickers remained ongoing from previous reporting periods, including the 2011 “Point Durban” case. Officials investigated cases involving Nigerian, Thai, and Chinese traffickers, but the government has never successfully prosecuted larger, international syndicates involving these or Russian or Bulgarian traffickers who dominate the sex trade in several South African cities. In a slight improvement, the government initiated prosecution of one Thai and three Nigerian suspected traffickers.
While the majority of trafficking victims in South Africa are labor trafficking victims, the government did not initiate prosecution or obtain convictions of any labor traffickers in 2014. 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. DOL inspectors continued to use the BCEA as their core enforcement mechanism and mostly failed to consider trafficking crimes within this workload. The first prosecution of a domestic servitude case, initiated in October 2013 against a father and son in Western Cape, remained pending prosecution.
The government failed to prosecute or convict any officials allegedly complicit in trafficking offenses. In one case, SAPS pledged to investigate and reassigned a SAPS officer after he allegedly compromised the safety of a victim. Stakeholders reported the failure of police to proactively identify sex trafficking victims or pursue investigations and noted prosecutors were often unwilling to take difficult cases. NGOs reported police officers solicited commercial sex acts from victims. The government did not report efforts to investigate a South African diplomat suspected of engaging in forced labor abroad in the previous reporting period; however, government regulations do not allow the Department of International Relations and Cooperation to discipline its diplomatic personnel for misconduct outside of their principle job duties.
In anticipation of the PACOTIP Act’s eventual promulgation, the government increased training efforts, which focused on the pending implementing regulations. The South Africa Judicial Education Institute held eight four-day training sessions, which reached 275 sitting magistrates; DOJ led trainings in each province for inter-departmental staff. NPA staff trained over 240 prosecutors and 90 investigative police assigned to various “Hawks” units around the country. SAPS trained 80 officials in several provinces. DHA and DOL included trainings developed by an international organization within their academy trainings for new staff. DSD held anti-trafficking trainings on DSD’s implementing regulations for nearly 350 staff across the country.
The government continued efforts to protect victims. DSD continued oversight of and funding to 13 accredited multipurpose shelters, which hosted 41 victims—a significant decrease compared with 93 victims in 2013; officials speculated shelter staff’s inconsistent reporting was to blame for the reported decrease. DSD 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. There was only one shelter available for male trafficking victims in the country, located in Gauteng, which was difficult to access for men victimized in other parts of the country. The Thuthuzela Care Centers provided crisis care to victims of sexual violence, including potential trafficking victims. The government assisted child trafficking victims in facilities for vulnerable children, without provision of specific services related to their trafficking victimization. Staff prevented both adults and children from leaving shelters unaccompanied, reportedly for security reasons. DSD staff monitored victims’ well-being, prepared them for court, and accompanied them throughout the trial and repatriation processes. Rapid-response teams comprised of government agencies and NGOs in Gauteng, Western Cape, and KZN continued to coordinate protective services, including shelter, for victims. DSD, which is responsible for designating and certifying trafficking victim status, continued to accept victims from law enforcement and coordinate their placement in a registered shelter; however, not all officials are aware of their responsibility to refer victims to DSD in practice.
DSD developed formal procedures to identify and refer trafficking victims to care, though these were not put into effect. The KZN and Western Cape provincial Task Teams used an interagency protocol to guide law enforcement interactions with women in prostitution. Nonetheless, law enforcement generally failed to screen women and LGBT persons in prostitution for trafficking indicators, often charging them with prostitution and other violations. The government’s longstanding focus on implementing immigration law tended to overshadow victim identification. The government did not identify trafficking victims among seamen docked in the Port of Cape Town. Male labor trafficking victims remained largely unidentified and were more likely to be detained, deported, jailed or fined.
Systemic hurdles inhibited progress in providing justice and protection for victims. A lack of language interpretation 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; however, in 2014, DSD began construction of its first detoxification facility, part of its plan to build one in each province by 2017. Officials encouraged victims to participate in the investigation and prosecution of traffickers and, at times, provided security and long-term care to foreign victims who did so. The government granted temporary residency to five child victims in 2014, but current South African law does not provide legal alternatives for victims to avoid deportation to countries where they may face hardship or retribution. Law enforcement reported being unable to place suspected victims in shelters if victims failed to provide evidence of force, fraud, or coercion immediately after their rescue, leaving DSD unable to immediately classify persons as victims of trafficking. This is a systemic obstacle to recognizing the emotional trauma that victims have endured—and, at times, there was significant delay in a victim’s placement at facilities. 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 trafficking. The DOJ/VSD coordinated efforts to prepare for the eventual implementation of the PACOTIP and continued provision of essential funding for local awareness and training events. DOJ/VSD organized two nationwide coordination meetings and worked with interdepartmental stakeholders and civil society partners to assess progress on implementation of the updated national action plan. However, inter-ministerial and operational cooperation was ineffective, hindering the completion of regulations and, at times, stymieing prosecutions. The government remained without a formal mechanism to monitor the effectiveness of its anti-trafficking efforts; once activated, the PACOTIP will require annual reports from implementing departments. DOJ/VSD supported awareness-raising efforts, including an information kiosk at O.R. Tambo International Airport for passengers and airport staff on identifying trafficking victims. The government allocated 2.7 million rand ($270,000) to anti-trafficking training and awareness-raising during the 2013-2014 fiscal years. The NPA continued to serve as the government’s law enforcement lead, providing oversight of six provincial task teams coordinated through its Inter-Sectoral Task Team (ISTT) and provincial task teams. Various task teams undertook awareness-raising; for example, in KZN, the provincial task team conducted 18 awareness-raising sessions for students, reaching over 1,200 primary school students. NPA, DOJ, SAPS, and Thuthuzela staff held 20 awareness-raising sessions at high schools.
In March 2014, Parliament passed amendments to the 2012 Employment Services bill, which was awaiting presidential assent at the end of the reporting period. Though the bill does not ban labor brokers, it requires DOL to license and regulate private employment agencies and prohibits those agencies from charging fees for their services unless explicitly authorized by the labor minister. DOL conducted inspections of farms in the Limpopo region in 2014 to ensure workers were not victims of forced labor or other violations; as a result, the government fined 10 farmers for underpaying workers, but failed to investigate such abuses as potential forced labor crimes. The government began prosecution of at least four clients of a sex trafficking victim, but did not take any other known action to reduce the demand for commercial sex or make efforts to minimize the demand for forced labor. The government did not provide anti-trafficking training to its peacekeepers prior to their deployment abroad on international peacekeeping missions. In partnership with an international organization, in 2014 the government provided anti-trafficking training for 70 diplomatic personnel.