The Government of South Africa does not fully meet the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking but is making significant efforts to do so. The government demonstrated overall increasing efforts compared to the previous reporting period; therefore South Africa was upgraded to Tier 2. These efforts included increased investigations, prosecutions, and convictions of traffickers, including within organized criminal syndicates that facilitated the crime. The government also increased training of national and provincial frontline responders. The government identified more trafficking victims and referred all to care, providing protective services in partnership with NGOs and international organizations, and increased protective services for victims who assisted ongoing law enforcement investigations. The government launched its national policy framework on trafficking, a strategic plan to improve capacity and coordination among government agencies, and it conducted increased awareness-raising activities throughout the country. It adopted the Southern African Development Community (SADC) regional data collection tool and launched a national baseline study. However, the government did not meet the minimum standards in several key areas. Corruption and official complicity among law enforcement and immigration officials remained a significant obstacle. The Department of Employment & Labor (DOEL) instituted mandatory trafficking training for all new labor inspectors, but 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. Poor understanding of trafficking hindered the government’s overall anti-trafficking efforts. Implementing regulations for the 2013 Prevention and Combating of Trafficking in Persons (PACOTIP) act’s immigration provisions were not promulgated for the seventh straight year.

Continue to increase efforts to investigate, prosecute, and convict officials complicit in trafficking crimes and traffickers within organized crime syndicates.Increase human trafficking training to South African Police Service (SAPS) officers throughout the country.Pass Department of Home Affairs (DHA) implementing regulations.Increase resources and training to identify trafficking victims, including by screening for trafficking indicators among vulnerable populations, such as women in commercial sex, migrants, and Cuban medical professionals.Promulgate the immigration provisions in Sections 15, 16, and 31(2)(b)(ii) of PACOTIP.Amend the anti-trafficking law to remove sentencing provisions that allow fines in lieu of imprisonment for sex trafficking crimes.Ensure victims are issued appropriate immigration identification documents in order to receive protective services.Extend the availability of drug rehabilitation services to trafficking victims.Accredit or establish additional trafficking-specific shelters for male and female victims.

The government increased prosecution efforts. PACOTIP criminalized sex trafficking and labor trafficking and prescribed penalties of up to life imprisonment, a fine of up to 100 million South African rand ($7.1 million), or both. The penalties were sufficiently stringent; however, with regard to sex trafficking, by allowing for a fine in lieu of imprisonment, the prescribed punishment was 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; therefore, critical sections of the act remained inactive. The Criminal Law (Sexual Offenses and related matters) Amendment Act of 2007 (CLAA) also criminalized the sex trafficking of children and adults and prescribed penalties of up to life in prison; these penalties were sufficiently stringent and, with respect to sex trafficking, commensurate with other serious crimes, such as rape. The Basic Conditions of Employment Act of 1997 (BCEA), amended in 2014, criminalized forced labor and prescribed maximum penalties of three to six years’ imprisonment. In addition, the Children’s Amendment Act of 2005 prescribed 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. Prosecutors sometimes relied on the Prevention of Organized Crime Act of 1998 in combination with CLAA, which added additional charges—such as money laundering, racketeering, or criminal gang activity—and increased penalties of convicted defendants.

South African law enforcement agencies increased efforts to investigate, prosecute, and convict traffickers, including within organized criminal syndicates that facilitated the crime. In operations across at least five of the country’s nine provinces, law enforcement officials engaged on anti-trafficking, coordinating and executing raids on more than a dozen brothels, factories, and syndicates that facilitated the creation and distribution of pornography. The Directorate of Priority Crime Investigation (the Hawks) reported that it investigated 24 potential trafficking cases, 13 for potential sex trafficking, six for potential labor trafficking and five determined later not to be trafficking cases, compared with 36 investigations of potential cases during the previous reporting period. The Hawks collaborated closely with the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) to compile evidence and build cases. One of the investigations was a joint operation by the DOEL and SAPS, in which authorities arrested seven Chinese nationals, four men and three women, for alleged forced labor of 91 Malawian nationals, 37 of whom were children. The government prosecuted 71 alleged traffickers, compared to 77 traffickers during the previous reporting period. Of those prosecuted, 44 were men and 27 were women; prosecutors tried 62 alleged traffickers under provisions in the anti-trafficking law, five under the Immigration Act of 2002, and four under other statutes. The government convicted eight traffickers, three men and five women, the same number as the previous year. Judges sentenced one trafficker to 19 life sentences, one to three life sentences plus 129 years, two to six life sentences, one to life imprisonment plus 10 years, one to life imprisonment, and one to 10 years’ imprisonment; one trafficker awaited sentencing at the close of the reporting period. In addition, judges utilized the solicitation of sex trafficking victims section of the anti-trafficking act and convicted 13 people for sexual exploitation, nine people for grooming for sexual exploitation, 10 for solicitation, and two for keeping a brothel. 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.

The government took action during the reporting period to hold complicit government officials accountable. Authorities prosecuted a former Johannesburg Metro Police Department superintendent and an accomplice in the high court for allegedly exploiting several children in sex trafficking; the case was ongoing at the close of the reporting period. Law enforcement officers arrested four police officers in Pretoria for human trafficking, kidnapping, and extortion related to 10 Bangladeshi nationals who were smuggled into South Africa. Despite these actions, NGOs continued to allege official complicity was common, including officials requesting sex acts or bribes in exchange for visas or residence permits, in order to not prosecute sex trafficking crimes, and to facilitate deportation of migrants so farm or factory managers would not have to pay their workers. NGOs reported that some police and border control officers received bribes from criminal syndicates; some police did not pursue traffickers out of fear of reprisals. Observers reported that some police accepted kickbacks from organized criminal syndicates, which often facilitated trafficking. During the reporting period, the government began to negotiate memoranda of understanding with four NGOs that outlined a procedure for the NGOs to submit sensitive information, including on corruption and official complicity, to ensure protection of civil society whistleblowers who were previously vulnerable to retaliation.

During the reporting period, SAPS conducted compliance assessments of 54 police stations to address non-compliance with government directives, including their responses to potential trafficking cases. The government conducted 43 trainings during the reporting period, reaching more than 2,000 front-line officials. The NPA, the national Department for Social Development (DSD) and all of its regional offices, the Department for International Relations and Cooperation (DIRCO), and SAPS led the majority of training for judges, prosecutors, law enforcement officers, social workers, medical professionals, and immigration officers. For law enforcement officers, trainings covered promising practices, including investigation, proactive identification of victims, victim-centered interview techniques, and evidence gathering. For prosecutors and judges, training focused on application of the anti-trafficking law and coordination with law enforcement. For social workers, medical professionals, and immigration officers, training focused on applying victim-centered approaches. In addition, the government led 24 interdisciplinary trainings that reached 359 front-line officials. In collaboration with NGOs and an international organization, the government conducted another 16 trainings, which reached at least 680 participants.

The government demonstrated mixed victim protection efforts. The government and non-government entities identified 377 victims, compared with 260 victims in 2018. Of the 377 victims identified, 238 were men, 79 were women, 26 were boys, and 34 were girls; 312 victims were foreign nationals and 65 were South African. Traffickers exploited 308 victims in forced labor and 112 in sex trafficking. The government referred 210 victims to shelters across seven provinces, provided protective services for 141 victims, and repatriated nine victims; 65 victims voluntarily returned to their countries or communities. The government reported that 20 victims chose to leave care facilities, some reportedly because the government failed to take law enforcement action against their traffickers.

Government procedures have been established for agencies, including SAPS, DSD, NPA, and the Department of Justice and Constitutional Development (DOJCD) to identify and refer trafficking victims to care, in accordance with PACOTIP. Implementation of these procedures varied by department and province with not all officials aware of the referral procedures, particularly regarding vulnerable groups. NGOs criticized SAPS for not identifying victims; some SAPS officers failed to follow referral guidelines. The DHA had no formal, written procedures to guide the handling of trafficking cases; draft regulations awaited approval by the DHA Minister at the close of the reporting period. Although a range of government and non-government entities identified victims, DSD was responsible for designating and certifying trafficking victim status and authorizing the provision of protective services. In addition, DSD was responsible for monitoring the provision of protective services, preparing victim-witnesses for court, and accompanying them through trial and repatriation, if applicable. NGOs reported that front-line officials responsible for receiving referrals were often unreachable, and that DSD and SAPS sometimes were not informed of their responsibilities to certify and refer victims, a necessary step before victims could receive care of any kind. NGOs reported that SAPS sometimes left victims at shelters without first contacting DSD, left limited contact details for the case officers, or failed to follow up on cases. Observers reported there was an insufficient number of shelters; some DSD shelters occasionally refused to accept trafficking victims due to security concerns or drug addiction. Police indicated they often did not have interpreters to acquire victim-witness statements within the two-day window during which charges must be filed, even if interpreters existed in the province.

The government continued oversight and partial funding of 13 accredited NGO-run multipurpose shelters and oversaw 88 semi-accredited shelters that provided temporary care to victims for three nights. The government provided NGOs a stipend on a per-person, per-night basis for the safe houses. However, NGOs reported they could not always access available funds with the urgency required after identifying victims. Only one shelter provided care exclusively for trafficking victims, and only one shelter provided care for male trafficking victims; no shelters provided care exclusively for male victims. LGBTI persons, particularly transgender persons, were especially at high risk for trafficking due to social stigmatization; there was one shelter dedicated solely for victims from the LGBTI community, in the Western Cape. Shelters accessible to persons with disabilities provided limited services; however, it is unclear if any victims received these services during the reporting period. The overall quality of victim care varied dramatically by province, gender, and circumstance. Gauteng, Kwa-Zulu Natal (KZN), and Western Cape provinces generally offered adequate standards of care in urban areas; trafficking victims in these provinces, even if identified in a rural area, were generally able to access care. Victim care in other provinces was sometimes inadequate; however, some victims were transferred from provinces offering low levels of care to provinces offering high levels of care. DSD ran a nine-week rehabilitation program to address the psycho-social well-being of victims and paid for victims to receive residential treatment at drug rehabilitation centers to overcome addiction, though not all provinces had such centers. The government operated a network of 55 Thuthuzela Care Centers (TCCs)—full service crisis centers to assist victims of rape and sexual violence, including potential trafficking victims; it is unknown if TCCs assisted any victims of trafficking during the reporting period. NGOs reported that government shelter staff sometimes failed to keep victims informed about their case status or to provide dependency counseling and adequate security. Victims could not seek employment while receiving initial assistance, but South African citizens, South African residents, and registered refugees could seek employment while a court case was pending; other foreign victims could not seek employment, even if they cooperated with law enforcement and their trials extended several years. The government acknowledged that police sometimes arrested trafficking victims during raids along with perpetrators due to a lack of training on victim identification; however, contrary to previous years, the government reported that no victims of trafficking were arrested or prosecuted for immigration offenses.

Officials encouraged victims to participate in the investigation and prosecution of traffickers and provided increased protective services to victim witnesses. During the reporting period, 219 adult and child victims assisted law enforcement officials in ongoing investigations of an unknown number of trafficking cases. Trained law enforcement took victim statements in confidential and safe environments. The government provided 86 victims with interpreters, 10 with specialized medical care, 164 with specialized psycho-social support, 42 adult victims with formal letters of recognition, and 24 with transportation. Law enforcement referred 164 victims to the Hawks at the provincial level to ensure officers trained in victim-centered investigations were assigned to potential trafficking cases and referred 23 to the NPA at the provincial level for victim-centered investigations by prosecutors trained on human trafficking. PACOTIP allowed for trafficking victims to receive relief from deportation; however, regulations to implement this provision were not promulgated and awaited approval by the Deputy Minister of the DHA at the close of the reporting period. As a result, if undocumented foreign national victims did not participate in law enforcement investigations, the government sometimes deported them. DHA often required foreign nationals to renew their immigration paperwork every two weeks, which placed an unnecessary financial and logistical burden on them and the NGOs providing their care.

The government increased efforts to prevent trafficking. The government approved its National Policy Framework, a strategic plan including a national action plan intended to improve capacity and coordination to combat trafficking among government agencies. The NPA and DOJ oversaw the National Intersectoral Committee on Trafficking in Persons (NICTIP) and six provincial task teams, which met quarterly to coordinate counter-trafficking efforts and worked to address challenges. Both the NICTIP and the provincial task teams often exhibited poor coordination and communication. Some of the provincial task teams ceased meeting or functioning. There was no accountability to require these groups to function; officials in positions of authority with the ability to facilitate change rarely attended meetings. The government continued to work towards implementation of the SADC regional data collection tool. The DOJ included, for the first time, an indicator on trafficking in its annual performance plan, the department’s strategic plan through which Parliament held it accountable.

The government conducted national awareness-raising activities during the reporting period. The NPA, DOJ, SAPS, and the Department of Education conducted six awareness-raising activities for students throughout the country. The DSD hosted an awareness-raising talk on best practices in responding to child trafficking, which was attended by 200 delegates from across the country and supported by NPA and several provincial task teams. The NPA, Department of Health, local government, NGOs, the fire department, and religious leaders raised awareness of community members and distributed leaflets and brochures on the role of TCCs as related to trafficking. The government spoke about trafficking on live radio broadcasts. The Western Cape Department of Education partnered with an NGO to incorporate content from the NGO’s curriculum called “Bodies Are Not Commodities” into the province’s life orientation classes in grades nine and 10. The Western Cape provincial government also developed an outreach program taking social services from NGOs and government agencies to rural communities and vulnerable groups. At a transport hub in Johannesburg, various government departments partnered with a national anti-trafficking network to raise awareness amongst commuters.

The Labor Relations Act provided protection to all workers in South Africa, without regard to citizenship, immigration status, or the possession of a valid work visa. The act limited temporary employment to three months, after which employees were considered permanent and entitled to full labor protections and benefits. This provision was intended to protect vulnerable temporary workers, but many of the most vulnerable workers were in the informal sector, which falls beyond protections under the Labor Relations Act. In July 2018, South Africa’s Constitutional Court clarified the act, holding that temporary workers were deemed to be employees of the clients of the labor brokers and entitled to working conditions no less favorable than those under which regular employees of the company worked. NGOs raised concerns about draft amendments to the birth registration process DHA proposed during the reporting period. DHA operated a hotline that could receive reports of potential trafficking cases; however, it is unknown how many calls the hotline received or whether any victims were identified as a result of calls to the hotline. An NGO operated a National Human Trafficking Resource Line, which received 2,543 calls that led to the identification of 22 victims from South Africa, Eswatini, Ghana, and Malawi. The hotline often received calls from community members who were unable to get help from police stations on trafficking cases, as front-line officials did not know how to assist. Moreover, the hotline received calls from victims who were turned away from police stations when asking for assistance. The government did not make efforts to reduce demand for commercial sex or forced labor. The government did not provide anti-trafficking training to its peacekeepers prior to their deployment abroad on international peacekeeping missions. In coordination with an international organization, the government provided anti-trafficking training for its diplomatic personnel.

As reported over the past five years, human traffickers exploit domestic and foreign victims in South Africa, and traffickers exploit victims from South Africa abroad. Traffickers recruit victims from poor countries and poor and/or rural areas within South Africa to urban centers, such as Johannesburg, Cape Town, Durban, and Bloemfontein, where traffickers force victims into sex trafficking and forced labor in domestic service, criminal activities, and agriculture. Syndicates, often dominated by Nigerians, facilitate trafficking in the commercial sex industry. To a lesser extent, syndicates recruit South African women to Europe and Asia, where traffickers force some into commercial sex, domestic service, or drug smuggling. Traffickers sometimes employ forced drug use to coerce sex trafficking victims. Traffickers increasingly hail from Nigeria, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, and Cameroon. Mozambican crime syndicates facilitate trafficking from the eastern border of the Kruger National Park, using the same route to facilitate other illicit crimes.

Traffickers force women from Lesotho into sex trafficking in South Africa. Traffickers coerce victims through traditional spiritual practices. Traffickers force foreign and South African LGBTI persons to engage in commercial sex acts. Traffickers exploit foreign male victims aboard fishing vessels in South Africa’s territorial waters; NGOs estimated 10 to 15 victims of labor trafficking disembark each month in Cape Town. Traffickers exploit young men from neighboring countries who migrate to South Africa for farm work; some are subsequently arrested and deported as undocumented immigrants. Forced labor is reportedly used in some fruit and vegetable farms across South Africa. Traffickers subject Pakistanis and Bangladeshis to forced labor through debt-based coercion in businesses owned by their co-nationals. Official complicity, especially by police, in trafficking crimes remains a serious concern. Some well-known brothels previously identified as locations of sex trafficking continue to operate with officials’ tacit approval. Cubans working in South Africa may have been forced to work by the Cuban government.

U.S. Department of State

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