Cape Town - South Africa has been declared as a Human Trafficking Hub by the US Department of State.
This as two brothers, Carlos Bernardo Guambe and Gariele Bernardo Guambe, are facing charges of human trafficking after 39 victims were rescued from a farm in Belfast, Mpumalanga. The youngest are nine children under the ages of 5.
The Western Cape’s Department of Social Development confirmed that between 2021/2022, 13 victims of human trafficking were brought to their shelters.
Colonel Katlego Mogale of the Hawks said information received at the scene was that the victims were brought into South Africa by taxi from Mozambique to Lyndenburg, where the son of the farm owner and one trafficker allegedly met the taxi driver and paid him. The victims were brought to the farm for labour, she said.
Joshua Chigome, spokesperson for the MEC of Social Development, Sharna Fernandez, said World Day Against Trafficking in Persons would be observed on July 30 and 13 victims had been rescued between 2021 and 2022.
“The Western Cape Department of Social Development, through its Victim Empowerment Programme, is responsible for providing support services for victims of human trafficking that includes safe and secure accommodation, psycho-social support and empowerment of victims of crime and violence.”
Two sisters, aged 15 and 17, came out publicly a year ago about how they were human trafficked by their own mother. They were forced to beg for food or clothes when they were age 8, and were placed the vehicles of unknown men who would pay as little as R10 for sexual favours.
They were rescued more than seven years ago and placed in the care of Aziza Nolan, a child psychologist who converted her home into a safe house called Peace Home.
The court case against the children’s mother collapsed at the Wynberg Regional Court and she was found not guilty in October 2017 due to a lack of evidence.
Nolan, who spoke on behalf of the children, said many victims were unaware that they were victims.
“They never saw it as being human trafficking, their mom taking money and beer or cigarettes from a man and then taking them into a room.
“We need to focus on education, if they knew at that time what was happening to them … They never had the knowledge that it was wrong, it was the norm for them. If they knew, they could have escaped. The government should bring more education into the schools, even the churches and mosques, on what human trafficking is.”
Another victim, who asked not to be identified, was married to a prominent member of the 27s prison gang and was tasked with hiding drugs from police.
The woman has since been rehabilitated and turned her life around, while the man was murdered a few years ago.
“My lifestyle was a roller-coaster with him, I was involved with the gangster lifestyle, I had to hide drugs, I had to wear bulletproof vests, I had to look over my shoulder, he was part of the 27s gang.
“I had to hide money also and when there were gang wars, I had to wear the bullet-proof vest, my life would be at risk all of the time. There were times when I would be sitting outside and he would tell me to run and then I knew. I had to dodge bullets.”
In a statement, the US State Department said South African could not be excluded from trafficking and that poor efforts were made by law enforcement in curbing it and monitoring it during the Covid-19 pandemic, which saw an increase in cases, but that convictions were successful.
“The government of South Africa does not fully meet the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking but is making significant efforts to do so. Law enforcement was notably less engaged in trafficking during the reporting period, and multiple observers reported agencies did not investigate some reported trafficking cases, even when they had the resources and co-operative survivors to help build cases.”
Bianca van Aswegen of Missing Children SA has begun a national petition against human trafficking and said they believed many of their unsolved cases were possibly victims.
“Due to so many unsolved cases, some of these cases could be human-trafficking related, but due to these persons not being found we cannot yet determine if they are trafficking victims or not until they are found, or the investigation leads to a determination that they have been taken for trafficking purposes.
Leon Rossouw of Consulting Detectives, who specialises in human trafficking cases, said more awareness had to be created.
“It’s so important to create awareness about human trafficking in the media and social media, because it is a multibillion-dollar criminal industry that denies freedom to 24.9 million people around the world.”