Johannesburg - A property viewing became violent last month when a group of several men allegedly assaulted members of an anti-trafficking organisation trying to shut down a “drug house” in Krugersdorp.
Cherlyn Tshabangu, chief exective of the NGO Asilweni Cleaning Streets, said she was viewing the house with two other members of the organisation on March 23 when they were attacked.
She claimed the property was home to drug-trafficking and prostitution, and the organisation was looking to buy it for its own use.
The alleged victims of the attack accused the local police of being unhelpful and even conspiring with criminals in the area.
“It has not been attended to because literally some of the police at the station are corrupt,” she claimed.
“That’s why we don’t trust working with some of them.”
Local police arrived on the scene of the alleged attack but made no arrests.
In the wake of the attack, she said, the police have not adequately followed up.
In an email to The Star on behalf of Constable Kabelo Shakung, who is investigating the case, Randfontein Police spokesperson Captain Appel Ernst said Shakung said he is having difficulty getting hold of the complainant (Tshabangu) and that she hasn’t been responding to his calls and visits.
Shakung is investigating charges of common assault.
Tshabangu said that she and the others encountered prostitutes and a man at the house, who locked them inside.
The property owner was not present.
Tshabangu said “about 20 Nigerian men” arrived and assaulted them for about three hours.
She said that she recognised them from the area.
She said the police called her about the case two days after the alleged attack to identify potential suspects, but she did not go.
She has since seen the men in Krugersdorp.
“I can’t just go in and point out these guys,” Tshabangu said. “Next day they are out again, and what will happen to us?”
Johann Labuschagne, project co-ordinator for Asilweni, said the assailants urged him to rape Tshabangu in front of them, which he refused to do. He said he sustained bruises on his chest and a swelling on his head.
“This assault was horrific,” he said.
Labuschagne said he believes the police have connections with the criminals. “The police are part and parcel of these things,” he claimed. “A serious investigation needs to be done into the police to see what’s going on there.”
Marcel van der Watt, a volunteer of the National Freedom Network, an association of anti-trafficking volunteers that is associated with Asilweni, said there were currently no effective systems of documenting cases of trafficking.
Van der Watt, who is also a lecturer at the University of South Africa, said drugs and human trafficking for sexual exploitation were “undeniably intertwined”.
“I would argue that the sex trade is often the front end of what appears to be an enormous drug problem in South Africa, and obviously in Krugersdorp,” he said.
“You cannot separate those two issues.”
However, he said, Krugersdorp was “not an anomaly”, and trafficking was a “permeating problem” in many places.
Tshabangu said the incident had left her hesitant to work with the police.
“One way or the other, we do come across these traffickers,” she said. “We need each and every stakeholder to come on board and assist if we need them.”
* Asilweni Cleaning Streets was established in 2012 and their mission is to help trafficked victims through rescuing, safe houses and rehabilitation.