Following concerns raised by the Hawks over Gauteng fast becoming a human trafficking hub, crime and security experts comment that solving the crisis is far from easy as in some instances trafficked persons wanted to be trafficked.
The alarm bells were rung by the Directorate for Priority Crime Investigation, the Hawks, after roughly over 12 suspected undocumented foreign nationals were discovered in a gated community in Centurion last week.
The provincial head of the Hawks in Gauteng, Major-General Ebrahim Kadwa, during an interview with eNCA following the discovery at Centurion, said the Hawks were looking closely at the criminal enterprises that were orchestrating the smuggling of migrants and involved in human trafficking.
The Hawks said they were well aware of these operations and had even established a task team to intercept those responsible.
Calvin Rafadi, a forensic investigator, said, however, that resolving the issue of human trafficking in South Africa was something that would prove difficult for law enforcement agencies to manage overnight.
Rafadi said this was because although police were able to conduct successful raids, often they were left in a precarious position as those found in the houses or rooms did not want to give statements or the details of the landlords or those holding them captive.
This, he said, was due to the fact that in some instances the trafficked persons had in fact given consent to be trafficked, especially into developing countries such as South Africa.
“It comes as no surprise that Gauteng is regarded as the human trafficking hub because it has numerous hotspots all because it is regarded as the City of Gold and the economic hub in the country. Trafficked people whether they are Bangladesh, or Somalians are brought into the country in large groups, kept in these places mostly near areas close to airports to await their documents so that when they leave they are able to go out and open informal businesses, particularly in townships.
“Prosecution is also challenging and rather difficult because the trafficked persons gave consent to be trafficked in the hopes of a better life and they are actually part of the system. At the end they either pretend not to know the language or to understand what is going on,” he said.
Rafadi stressed that his biggest concern, however, was child trafficking and in particular the trafficking of young girl children in South Africa.
According to the forensic investigator, young girls were in most cases trafficked without consent and taken to nightclubs and strip clubs where they were then drugged and manipulated into the network.
“In some cases you find that young girls who are either into modelling or looking for job opportunities are lured by these syndicates, only to be left stranded and without a way to reach out for their families for help. Afterwards these people take in the girls on the premise of helping them only to force them into paying some debt or drug dependence.”
Rafadi said he experienced this first-hand most recently in Cape Town, after a young graduate was lured away from her home under the pretext of working at a hotel.
Upon her arrival, he said the youngster’s phone was taken and they were left stranded, only for the syndicates to offer to assist them. However, they were kept in a house and given drugs so that numerous businessmen could book them.
Only after R250 000 was forked out was the girl released, as Rafadi explained that the people holding her hostage had insisted that they had rescued her from being stranded and needed to be reimbursed.
“Now can you imagine what would have happened if the family couldn’t come up with that money? This is why I want to urge our sisters, especially those looking for work opportunities or into modelling, not to fall into the trap of human trafficking and remain vigilant at all times.”
The All Citizens Party (ACP) also raised concerns about human trafficking in the province, as they highlighted how as it stood the January 2023 research report of Human Trafficking in South Africa by the US Agency for International Development had highlighted that young South African girls were the most vulnerable.