Gauteng - As the case against two men suspected of being members of a human trafficking syndicate enters its final stretch, the pair have had to face the mother of one of the women they abducted and forced into prostitution.
Frank Amaku and Ilo Somadina were convicted of multiple human trafficking charges after abducting Helena Boswell* from Upington and keeping her at a home in Fourways, where she and three other women spent months servicing the pair's clients until they were rescued.
While the pair were convicted at the high court in Joburg, with Amaku convicted on another charge of raping Boswell, they have denied their level of involvement in human trafficking and have stated on multiple occasions they will appeal the conviction.
This week Amaku and Somadina continued their pre-sentencing proceedings, with their lawyer, Moleko Ratau, asking that the court be lenient with the pair as they were "relatively young" when the crimes took place, in 2016.
Amaku was 22, while Somadina was three years older. Beyond this the only other mitigating factor that Ratau could argue was that the pair had been in police custody since they were arrested in April 2016. He asked that the court provide lenient sentences and even suggested a R50000 fine as punishment.
However, it was prosecutor Lwazi Ngodwana who summoned Boswell’s mother to the stand, with her rage and sadness readily apparent. She told the court that her child was still in dire need of psychological counselling, because she had yet to fully recover from her ordeal and still required full-time care.
Amaku and Somadina appeared unfazed as the mother glared at them and asked: "What you did to my child, I hope one day you receive the same treatment." When asked by Ratau if she was willing to forgive his clients, she said that as a Christian it was her duty to forgive, but she would never forget the incident.
This week Ngodwana also summoned Marcel van der Watt, a human-trafficking specialist and Unisa lecturer in police practice to explain how the pair’s treatment of Boswell should be a major aggravating factor in the sentencing decision. Van der Watt identified five factors the court should consider as aggravating factors.
Firstly, based on the victim’s version of events, pre-meditiation was evident. The pair had been involved in organising the photographs that were used to advertise Boswell’s services online, as well as ensuring she was unable to leave the premises without accompaniment.
Secondly, human trafficking and the crimes associated with it, such as drug dealing, prostitution and fraud, meant it was definitively linked to organised crime and thus deserved a harsher sentence. Thirdly, the women were kidnapped specifically for financial gain, transforming them into sexual objects and dehumanising them, which was evident by Boswell’s testimony that she had been starved and forced to live in terrible conditions.
Fourthly, the pair had used drugs to push her into an even more vulnerable position, with her addiction used to maintain a psychological hold on her. They had also threatened her child and family’s lives. Lastly, the sexual acts Boswell was forced to endure by Amaku and the pair’s clients and the physical and verbal threats made to her were clear indications of the brutality and degradation she had to endure.
In a lengthy report Van der Watt submitted to the court, he wrote: "In the event of a successful conviction, the court has an important role to educate, create awareness and validate concerns that criminal activities of this nature will not be tolerated. The longer such crimes continue unabated, the greater the number of victims and the greater the overall level of harm to all spheres of society."
Ngodwana requested multiple life sentences for Amaku and Somadina, but the court will only reveal its decision in mid-August.
*Not her real name.