The 27-year-old woman from Jansenville, in the Eastern Cape, says she was recruited under false pretences, held hostage at a halfway house, and forced to work in a Pakistani shop.
The woman, who asked not to be named, told the Daily Voice that she was brought to Cape Town just over a week ago after she was recruited for work by a woman in Jansenville.
“I was picked up by a taxi and taken to Strandfontein (over 700km away). When I arrived at the house, a woman told me to sleep on a bed in the garage and there were two other girls there from the Northern Cape,” she says.
“The next day they sent me to work in a shop run by a Pakistani man. My phone broke and I asked the woman if I can contact my mother, but she refused. Something did not feel right.”
She says the shop owner was instructed to not let her contact her family.
She served customers but got a fright when the owner allegedly made sexual advances at her.
“The one day the owner told me to massage him because he was in pain, so I did,” she says.
“Then he put my hands under his clothes and asked me what sex was. I just took my hands away and told him ‘no’.
“I was alone with just men in that shop every day and they kept looking at me funny. I was very scared and convinced the owner to let me SMS my mother in secret.”
Her mother went to the Jansenville Police Station, where officers contacted Strandfontein SAPS.
Strandfontein Community Police Forum (CPF) chairperson, Sandy Schuter says a police case has not been opened as the woman was too distraught and “just wanted to get home”.
Mitchells Plain Cluster CPF spokesperson, Rafique Foflonker, confirmed the woman was put on a bus and returned home safely on Sunday.
“What they do is a form of debt bondage. When these girls arrive, they already owe money to the person at the halfway house who has an arrangement with the driver,” he explains.
“They end up working, but owe money for food, electricity and so on.
“We have seen in other cases that the women are recruited under false pretences and given bread and water to live on. They are restricted from contacting their families and this is a sort of slavery.”