Slavery isn’t something that exists only in dusty history books or racy novels, it’s a reality for people taken by force on the continent and made to work, often without pay and under appalling circumstances.
Then there are those lured under false pretences and forced into the sex industry.
Whatever the case, the ending is almost always bad. It’s difficult for these 21st-century slaves to escape the tyranny they find themselves in, far from home, penniless and without proper papers.
For one South African woman, though, there has been a happy ending. She was rescued in a multinational anti-crime operation that included our Hawks and Interpol, in Malaysia.
Princess Mahlangu had gone there under the pretext of becoming a model, taking part in beauty pageants and wining huge prizes, including cash. Instead she and 13 other women from as far afield as the US, Barbados, the Philippines and Thailand found themselves in Malaysia.
When she realised something was untoward, she immediately contacted a friend back home. The alarm was raised and she was snatched from the claws of human traffickers.
It’s a single success story in what is often a torrent of horror stories, all unfolding innocently in front of our eyes in the most unlikely of places - like Bloemfontein in this instance.
There were many reasons why Mahlangu didn’t end up lost and enslaved far from home, chief among them her foresight to do research and formulate a back-up plan should something go wrong. Far too many others simply don’t. They refuse to look a gift horse in the mouth, they are determined to ignore the old adage that if it sounds too good to be true, it usually is.
Our police also deserve praise for the alacrity in which they acted, in tandem with their international counterparts.
The only real solution is, as Police Minister Fikile Mbalula alluded, eternal vigilance. We need to root out the recruiters here at home, we need to clamp down on the traffickers and free the people who have been enslaved here.
There can never be a place for slavery of any sort in our country and neither should we ever tolerate it.
* This editorial was published in