Groundbreaking study on human trafficking in South Africa

Published Jun 28, 2023


Johannesburg - The Human Sciences Research Council (HSRC) was established in 1968 as South Africa’s statutory research agency and has grown to become the largest dedicated research institute in the social sciences and humanities on the African continent, doing cutting-edge public research in areas crucial to development.

It has recently published a new study on human trafficking in South Africa, which is now available nationwide.

According to the author, Professor Philip Frankel, the new book, “Human Trafficking in South Africa”, which will be launched on June 29, goes beyond anything ever written in its exploration of the various forms of trafficking.

“Chapters on sex, labour, and child trafficking are supplemented by material on child organ trafficking for muti-murder, illegal adoption, and ‘baby farming’ of children for exploitation by foster parents.

“The section on sex trafficking includes a discussion of current initiatives to decriminalise all forms of sex work, and labour trafficking is especially emphasised because it pervades complex, long, and vulnerable supply chains in all sectors of the economy, including mining, agriculture, industry and tourism.

“Successful prosecution of traffickers is minimal despite a possible 250 000 victims in South Africa alone.

“There is rampant corruption in the SAPS and other departments such as the Department of Home Affairs, some of whose senior personnel are complicit with perpetrators in sophisticated transnational cartels.”

Frankel added that public consciousness about trafficking is limited, so many gut-wrenching trafficking crimes go unreported and uncounted.

“Trafficking has increased in the wake of Covid-19 and load shedding to unprecedented levels, and, according to international barometers, our counter-trafficking initiatives are stalled or losing ground.

“Confronting the challenge at this point requires a multi-dimensional initiative that includes more training and accountability in the criminal justice system and widespread awareness training among key government and civil society stakeholders.

“This includes teachers, learners, social workers and psychologists, as well as corporate activity to monitor and report on supply chains particularly vulnerable to trafficked labour.

“Current initiatives by banks and financial services to curb money laundering by trafficking cartels should also be extended throughout the financial services sector,” said Frankel.

He has worked on trafficking issues for over a decade and also authored the only other book on the subject in South Africa, Long Walk to Nowhere: Human Trafficking in Post-Mandela South Africa, which came out in 2017.

Since 2017, a national policy framework (NFP) to implement South Africa’s comprehensive national law, the Prevention and Combating of Trafficking in Persons, has been established. Readers can expect unprecedented material on the mechanics of the NFP, especially the provincial structures set up to deal with trafficking at the provincial level.

Frankel says that the whole system is an “abject failure” because of a lack of finance, poor co-ordination, and selective participation by government departments and the SAPS. Many of these problems reflect similar dysfunctions in mitigating human trafficking in countries in the surrounding sub-continent.

The Star