The government maintained prosecution efforts, although official complicity in trafficking crimes remained a serious concern. The PACOTIP of 2013 criminalizes all forms of human trafficking. Articles 4-11 provide a range of penalties for trafficking in persons, ranging from fines, up to 100 million South African rand ($7.3 million), to life imprisonment, depending on the severity of the offense. The penalties are sufficiently stringent; however, by allowing for a fine in lieu of imprisonment, the prescribed punishment is not commensurate with those for other serious crimes, such as rape. The implementing regulations for PACOTIP’s immigration provisions found in sections 15, 16, and 31(2)(b)(ii) have not been promulgated. The Sexual Offenses Act (SOA) also criminalizes 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), amended in 2014, criminalizes forced labor and prescribes maximum penalties for forced labor for both children and adults from three to six years imprisonment. In addition, the Children’s Amendment Act of 2005 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. Where relevant, prosecutors sometimes relied on the Prevention of Organized Crime Act of 1998 in combination with SOA, which added additional charges—such as money laundering, racketeering, and criminal gang activity—and increased penalties of convicted defendants.
The government did not report the number of cases it investigated; it initiated prosecutions of six cases, involving 11 sex traffickers, and obtained convictions of 11 sex traffickers, compared five traffickers prosecuted and 11 convicted in 2015. Sentences ranged from suspended jail time to life imprisonment. In March 2017, the government convicted a Nigerian trafficker under PACOTIP to 20 years imprisonment for child sex trafficking of a girl made dependent on drugs as a means of coercion. In one case, the Durban regional court convicted and sentenced three defendants to 254, 304, and 315 years respectively; however, two will serve 25 years and the third 35 years. The government did not report action on the pending prosecutions of 19 alleged sex traffickers, some from previous years, which had remained ongoing at the end of the last reporting period. While the government obtained the conviction of one Nigerian trafficker, the government has made little progress in prosecution of traffickers connected to international syndicates involving Nigerian, Thai, Chinese, Russian, or Bulgarian traffickers, who dominate the commercial sex industry in several South African cities. During the reporting period, an NGO reported the government severely under-budgeted funding required to implement PACOTIP and consequently the act could not be fully implemented until additional funds were allocated to government entities responsible for its implementation. The Department of Priority Crime Investigation (DPCI) proactively investigated trafficking cases and collaborated closely with the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) to build cases. NGOs reported local police stations often declined to investigate trafficking cases, even when NGOs provided case information.
The government did not prosecute or convict any officials allegedly complicit in trafficking offenses, despite allegations of complicity involving immigration and law enforcement officials. A police station near Pretoria allegedly notified traffickers to retrieve their victims when the victims sought help. Reports alleged that SAPS officers used an official vehicle to transport victims to a brothel, where they were exploited. SAPS officers allegedly accepted bribes not to investigate sex trafficking. NGOs reported some police officers solicited commercial sex acts from victims. There were allegations that officials within the Department of Home Affairs (DHA) produced fraudulent birth certificates, passports, and other identification documents that facilitated trafficking crimes. Immigration officials, private security companies, and airline officials may have been involved in facilitating trafficking operations at international airports.
While the majority of trafficking victims in South Africa are labor trafficking victims, the government did not prosecute or convict any labor traffickers in 2016. 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. Department of Labor (DOL) inspectors continued to use administrative provisions within the BCEA as their core enforcement mechanism and rarely referred cases for criminal investigation. The NPA, DHA, SAPS, Department of Social Development (DSD), Department of Health (DOH), and DOL continued to include anti-trafficking trainings developed by an international organization within their trainings for new staff.