Western Cape reporting the highest number of human trafficking cases, new research shows

File picture: Brendan Magaar/ANA

A new research report on modern slavery and human trafficking shows the Western Cape reports the highest number of cases of modern slavery and human trafficking in SA. File picture: Brendan Magaar/ANA

Published Mar 23, 2023


Cape Town - A new research report – compiled by the South African Anti-Money Laundering Integrated Task Force (Samlit) – on modern slavery and human trafficking titled Follow the Money shows the Western Cape reports the highest number of cases of modern slavery and human trafficking (MSHT).

The Western Cape is followed by Gauteng, Eastern Cape, KwaZulu-Natal and Free State provinces, and the report noted: “It is indicative that tourist destinations are the biggest hot spots for human trafficking, especially that related to sexual exploitation.”

The report, the brainchild of Standard Chartered Bank in South Africa, focuses on financial flows and key indicators in the detection of financial transactions and behaviours related to MSHT in South Africa, thereby helping the banking sector to assist in combating this crime.

The research found that human trafficking generates an estimated $150 billion (R2.76 trillion) worldwide each year, with a significant portion of these proceeds passing through legitimate financial services businesses.

The report said: “Based on interviews, we found that trafficking occurs predominantly in the larger South African cities such as Cape Town, Johannesburg and Durban, where victims are typically recruited from impoverished or less-resourced areas to these larger urban areas.

“We were also advised by the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) that trafficking does occur in smaller rural communities, especially in relation to forced labour.”

The report said that South Africa was currently a tier 2 watchlist country in terms of the US Department of State Trafficking in Persons report for 2021.

This means that the government does not fully meet the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking but is making significant efforts to do so.

In the reporting period for 2020/21, the Directorate for Priority Crime Investigations, Hawks, collaborated closely with the NPA to compile evidence and build cases.

For 2021, there were 79 ongoing prosecutions by the NPA, broken down as follows: 53 cases of sex trafficking, five cases of forced marriage, four labour cases and 17 cases listed as other forms of trafficking.

In the sex trafficking cases, the victims were 163 males, 226 females and 11 of unknown gender. Of these, 331 were adults, and 64 were children.

Regarding adult victims, the report said: “The most common recruitment methods for adults are false job advertisements or recruitment through family and friends. Of the cases prosecuted, all the women were South African, and the men were non-South African.”

It said in terms of child victims, most were trafficked for sexual exploitation and child marriage, child labour or domestic servitude and sports.

Also, most children were non-South African, between the ages of 12 and 17, and included male and female victims.

During a meeting last month of the Pan-African Parliament, ANC chief whip Pemmy Majodina said women and children were left worst off in the process of undocumented migration as they get “shafted around in human trafficking”.

Majodina said this was because the women were promised work by some unscrupulous criminals who took advantage of their desperation to find work to provide for their families.

[email protected]