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Rise in human trafficking and kidnappings points to work of local and international syndicates

Kidnapping and human trafficking. Picture: PublicDomainPictures/Pixabay

Kidnapping and human trafficking. Picture: PublicDomainPictures/Pixabay

Published Oct 23, 2023


Human trafficking, as well as kidnappings, are said to be on the rise in Gauteng province, KZN and other provinces.

This comes after the Johannesburg Metro Police Department (JMPD) rescued 27 illegal immigrants who were kept in a house in Edenvale on Saturday.

The latest incident comes after the police, acting on a tip off, intercepted a house said to have been a hive of human trafficking activities on Beyers Naudé Drive in Roosevelt Park, Johannesburg, a week earlier.

During this operation, the police and members of the Directorate for Priority Crimes Investigation, known as the Hawks, uncovered that the house was used as a brothel where women from outside South Africa were being kept.

On Monday, JMPD spokesperson Xolani Fihla said members of the JMPD received information on Saturday about illegal immigrants being illegally kept in Edenvale.

Fihla indicated that when law enforcement officers and officials from home affairs arrived on the scene, they found at least 30 illegal immigrants, mostly from Ethiopia, were kept in the house on suspicion of human trafficking attempted to flee after being intercepted by law enforcement agencies.

“The officers proceeded to the location and found approximately 30 illegal male immigrants who were trafficked into the country. When officers were interviewing them, they started running out of the room in which they were kept, but officers managed to contain 27 victims.

He said JMPD managed to mobilise Edenvale police, Hawks and home affairs immigration officers, who were called to the scene to help with the operation.

Fihla said the victims were then taken to the Edenvale police station, where they were processed to be deported back to Ethiopia, adding that it was not clear for what purposes they were trafficked.

“Due to a communication breakdown, we could not ascertain or get an clear indication from them on what purposes they were trafficked here for,” Fihla told The Star.

According to a recent report by the Justice Desk Africa, forms of human trafficking found in South Africa include sex trafficking, child labour, domestic servitude, organ smuggling, child-brides (ukuthwala), illegal child adoptions, debt-bondage, forced surrogacy, and the use of body parts for muti.

The human rights organisations indicates that South Africa remains a primary source, destination, and transit country for human trafficking.

Human trafficking occurs internally between our provinces as well as externally across our South African borders.

It says internally, victims are targeted from economically poorer provinces such as the Eastern Cape, the Northern Cape, and the Free State and brought to cities such as Durban, Johannesburg and Cape Town, while externally, across borders, victims are targeted from countries with regions bedevilled by their own socio-economic and political problems. In Africa such countries include Nigeria, Malawi, Mozambique, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Namibia, Uganda, Zambia and Zimbabwe.

Meanwhile, CEO of Fidelity Services, Wahl Bartmann, indicates that the country continues to experience a rise in kidnappings.

Bartmann revealed that according to SAPS statistics, 3641cases of kidnapping were registered in South Africa in the first quarter of 2023/2024 (April to June 2023). While there are kidnappings in all nine provinces, Gauteng had the highest number of cases, followed by KwaZulu-Natal and Mpumalanga. The Northern Cape and Free State recorded the lowest number.

Criminal organisations, such as drug cartels, terrorist organisations and criminal gangs, target people they can gain financially from. There’s a political reason, or the deed will help them to exert control over a particular area. Political extremists may target government officials, diplomats or foreigners to advance their agendas or make demands.

“Kidnapping for ransom is simply criminals looking for financial gain by targeting wealthy individuals, businesspeople or tourists who are perceived to have the means to pay a significant ransom. In some cases, custody disputes can lead to the abduction of a child, and in rare cases, an individual with a psychological disorder can engage in kidnapping for reasons not easily explained,” Bartmann said.

According to Bartmann, when it comes to kidnappings, Gauteng’s top five hotspots are Vosloorus,Thembisa, Midrand, Protea and Orange Farm. In KZN, the top five high-risk areas for kidnappings are Umlazi, Inanda, Durban Central, Pinetown and Ntuzuma.

According to the Trafficking in Persons annual report, the number of people trapped in human trafficking more than doubled in the 2021-22 financial year in South Africa.

The report indicates that, from April 2021 to March 2022, 83 people were trafficked, compared with 16 people the year before.

Of the 83 people, 74 were referred for care, while an additional 24 children were trafficked but were found and referred to care by non-profit organisations and 62 potential victims were identified.

It is further reported that the National Human Trafficking Hotline received 2 146 calls in 2021, and as a result, 20 people were removed from exploitation.