Human trafficking is a silent pandemic where police have little success and few victims receive justice.
But this week the case of a Cape Town family allegedly involved in trafficking made it to the Western Cape High Court.
Edward Tambe Ayuk, his wife Leandre Williams and his brother Yannick Ayuk appeared in the High Court on Tuesday.
It is alleged that the two Ayuk brothers lured girls from Springbok, in the Northern Cape, under the pretence of employment in the city. Williams allegedly helped by befriending the victims, who were then held against their will in Brooklyn, where the two men resided.
The trafficking ring began in 2015; within two years, the trio had allegedly recruited seven victims, forcefully kept the girls against their will, drugged them and forced them into prostitution.
The girls were desperate for work. They had two things in common: They were all befriended, and they all came from impoverished backgrounds.
Patrick Solomons, director of Child Rights NGO Molo Songololo, said these two factors where the main drivers of trafficking rings.
He explained that children and even adults were quite vulnerable, especially because South Africa has a large poor population.
“These traffickers prey on such situations and our teens are particularly vulnerable to abuse and being exploited. [This is] because they are very easily manipulated with payments by those who want to make money out of them.
“There is also a very clear pattern of these victims being recruited by people who know them, especially those who they trust – who knows about their circumstances.
“It's the people who organise this so-called opportunity for them; it is more prevalent among our poor people, who are struggling to survive.”
Solomons said statistics showed that teens as young as 14 or 15 were having to provide for their younger siblings.
“These type of situations are bait for the traffickers. It is a money-making operation, whether for sexual or labour purposes and somewhere along the line they make money off our children.”
He said there was a dire need to increase awareness about human trafficking.
“This is like a domino effect: They prey on young girls who come from poor backgrounds, who aren't educated, who need to provide for their families and who don't necessarily know about the trade.
“Poverty is a major push factor and the lack of opportunities to earn income creates vulnerability and puts the kids at risk.
“I’ve seen this happening. They get lured for opportunities and then get held captive and drugged to a point where they are out of it.”
Solomons says some of the victims that his organisation worked with managed to escape, but later, unfortunately, fell back into the hands of their traffickers because of money.
“This is why it's very difficult to prove that these crimes are committed... victims don't want to press charges because of fear or shame and elements of threat that prevents them from going forward with the case.
“This is where we need to start having specialised units, even make changes to the law.
“Victims in this type of crimes need constant support, long afterwards.”
He said attention also needed to be focused on cybercrime.
"This is where we see over-border trafficking... because technology is growing and most parents aren't even aware of who their kids are in contact with."
Wade Seale, a spokesperson for Western Cape minister of community safety Albert Fritz, said human trafficking fell within the purview of the police, and as such they did not have any records of reported cases.
"At the same time, it is noteworthy that the number of reported cases is understated relative to the number of actual cases.
"Human trafficking is a very serious issue. Reports indicate that human trafficking is prevalent in South Africa, leading to the commercial and sexual exploitation of victims.
"Victims are often lured with promises of jobs and improvement in living conditions. It is, therefore, extremely important that everyone is cautious when applying for work.
"We call on the SAPS to increase efforts to investigate human trafficking cases, so that offenders can be prosecuted and convicted."