The relevant stakeholder departments (including Justice, Home Affairs, Social Development but disappointingly not the Police) met to discuss the measures in place to deal with trafficking in persons during the 2010 FIFA World Cup. The Prevention and Combating of Trafficking in Persons Bill would not be processed in time for the World Cup. However, trafficking in persons could still be prosecuted by making use of existing legislation. The State had used the previous Sexual Offences Act of 1957 to prosecute these offences in the S v Sayed and Another case.
In the discussion, one of the problems identified was the lack of co-ordination and sharing of information. There was an urgent need to network with all stakeholders that had an interest in combating human trafficking so that there could be an easy flow of information. The National Prosecuting Authority reported that it was establishing task teams in the provinces to deal with trafficking investigations.
Members were concerned that this process of establishing provincial task teams was moving very slow. They also raised concerns about the capacity of the NPA’s Thuthuzela Care Centres, the Refugee section of Home Affairs and Social Development in assisting the victims of trafficking. When asked how long it would take to finalise World Cup related offences, the NPA officials explained that additional courts and personnel had been set up and budgeted for to resolve matters within the shortest period possible. Overall, the Committee was not happy with the state of readiness of meeting the challenge of human trafficking ahead of the World Cup. The Committee would table a report before the National assembly, as well as request the NCOP Chairperson to alert the Premiers of the provinces to pull their weight too.
Mr Deon Rudman, Deputy Director-General: Legislative Development, Department of Justice, said the meeting served as an opportunity for the departments to report back to the Committee on the issues which had been raised in previous meetings dealing with the Prevention and Combating of Trafficking in Persons Bill. He pointed out that in the State v Sayed and Another case the suspects were prosecuted for human trafficking by using existing legislation. The KwaZulu Natal Human Intersectoral Task Team on Trafficking, Prostitution, Pornography and Brothels Task Team (HPPB), a spin-off from the National Human Trafficking Task Team under the command of the National Prosecuting Authority’s Sexual Offences & Community Affairs Unit, had done very well in raising public awareness through numerous campaigns to alert the public about human trafficking. The SOCA Unit was also operating the Thuthuzela Care Centres (TTC) situated across the country. Although initially set up to deal with rape victims, the TCCs had been used to assist victims of human trafficking. The United Nations recently recognised TCCs as a “world best practice model” in the field of gender violence management. So far there were 20 centres operating as TCCs countrywide and there were plans to increase them.
The Witness Protection Programme of the NPA had been identified as a key component in the prosecution of gender violence crime. The office was liaising with relevant embassies to arrange for foreign victims of trafficking to return home after they had finished giving evidence in court. The State had used the programme in its prosecution of the Sayed case. There were no formal arrangements in place as yet to deal with foreign adult victims of trafficking. Chapter 8 of the Bill simply prohibited summary deportation of a victim of trafficking and the rest of the details were taken care of by a “gentlemen’s agreement” between the police and the immigration officials. On the issue of other services to adult victims, the Ministry of Social Development had given a decree that all organisations that render any service to the victims must apply for accreditation.
The Bill would also make provision for the compensation of victims, which currently was catered for under section 300 of the Criminal Procedure Act of 1977 and under section 30 of the Prevention of Organised Crime Act of 1998. The Ministry of Social Development was fully involved in the repatriation of child victims, with every effort made to consider what was in the child’s best interest. Chapter 9 of the Bill dealt with general provisions, such as, the suspension of parental rights and responsibilities especially where a child had been trafficked by its parent or guardian.
Ms Pat Moodley, Acting Chief Director: Department of Justice, said the general feeling her department had was that trafficking incidents were incredibly under-reported. The established task teams which had been planted in some provinces needed to be supported to be able to combat and raise awareness of trafficking. One of the challenges, as highlighted earlier by Mr Rudman, was that there had been no standard formal procedure (besides the gentlemen’s agreement) in dealing with adult foreign victims. Plans were in place to treat them in line with provisions in the Refuges Act in as far as the Act dealt with asylum seekers. There was less ambiguity with children as the laws were clear that they would be treated as per provisions in the Children’s’ Act.
One big challenge in dealing with trafficking cases which had been identified was information management concerns. There was an urgent need to network relevant stakeholders to ensure that all parties knew what to do and where to go when faced with matters that involved human trafficking. The budget constraints for the implementation of the Bill was identified as a major stumbling block in the fast-tracking of the programmes of the department. It was reported that R3 million from the budget allocation for the implementation of the Sexual Offences Act was used for activities associated with human trafficking.
Ms Tsholofelo Moloi, Director: Victim Empowerment Programme, Department of Social Development (DSD), said her department had developed a plan that looked at four main programmes: the programme for children, substance abuse, social crime prevention and the victim empowerment programme. The main objective was to ensure that all four programmes worked together to develop an integrated plan. The DSD had so far managed to set up 12 shelters in nine of the country’s provinces. A number of workshops had been conducted to equip the people who would be in charge of the shelters - especially during the duration of the Soccer World Cup.
The Chairperson asked Ms Moloi to tell the Committee whether there were enough social workers in all the shelters that had been identified.
Ms Moloi replied that her department had managed to establish provincial coordinators in each province and one of their tasks was to ensure that every resource needed, including a limited number of social workers, was available. There were plans underway to increase the capacity of social workers in the long run, and that was done through provision of scholarships to students who were interested in studying social work. Those students would then be asked to sign two year contracts to work for the department soon after they completed their studies.
Ms N Michael (DA) raised concerns about the statement made that some adult foreign victims would be treated in line with the provisions of the Refuges Act. She doubted if Home Affairs had the capacity to process the applications for asylum on time. During the oversight trip to Pretoria Home Affairs offices, members noticed thousands of refugees in queues for asylum documents. How then would Home Affairs manage to assist the victims of trafficking by granting them asylum when they were not capacitated to deal with current backlogs in processing asylum applications?
Adv Amanda Ledwaba, Director: Investigations, Department of Home Affairs, said there were problems at her department but she was pleased to announce that most of the challenges which her department had been experiencing, were being addressed through an ongoing process of integrating their systems. This would improve the functioning of the department and subsequently lead to reduced time frames for processing documents.
Ms Michael was concerned that more victims of trafficking would be sent to the Thuthuzela Care Centres while at the same time there was a rumour that while many of the TCC were over-flowing with rape victims, some were reported to be closing down. If those allegations were true, it would be interesting to find out what informed the decision and how feasible that was at a practical level.
Ms Nolwandle Qaba, Project Manager: National Prosecuting Authority, said as far as she was concerned, Thuthuzela Care Centres were fully operational and she was not aware of any that were closing down. There may be some capacity problems and challenges which were being investigated to find ways of addressing them.
Ms Michael warned that it seemed that a lot of emphasis was placed on cross border trafficking of human beings whereas the reality on the ground was that internal trafficking was equally a cause for concern just as much as cross-border trafficking. What kind of measures had been put in place to curb internal trafficking incidents?
Ms Qaba said there was no need to apply different measures for domestic trafficking as she viewed the challenges very similar to international trafficking.
Ms Michael said in her view domestic trafficking was much more complicated and difficult to detect compared to that which involved foreigners who were, for instance, of a particular race and who spoke a different language. When it came to domestic, one often dealt with people who could easily be camouflaged and easily transported from one place to another.
Ms D Schafer (DA) asked what measures were put in place to help the victims of trafficking who also had addiction problems.
Mr Moodley conceded that many of the victims of trafficking they had encountered had drug addiction problems. Many had been forced to take drugs by their handlers because that way it would be easy to control them. The Department of Social Development had a role to play and had resources to help those who might have been forced to take drugs.
Ms Schafer found it worrying that none of the members from the South African Police Service were present at such an important interaction. More often than not, police did not even understand, as the presentation from Mr Rudman had highlighted, that it was possible to prosecute trafficking related offences by using already existing legislation (for example, the Sexual Offences Amendment Act ) rather than waiting for the Bill to be processed.
Mr J Jeffery (ANC) asked whether the media had been targeted as a way of publicising the activities of the task teams. Perhaps one of the ways of improving publicity was to consider organising reader friendly pamphlets with all the necessary information distributed at all police stations throughout the country. He was also not impressed by the police delegation’s absence from the meeting, suggesting that perhaps that was an indication that they were not taking the matter very seriously.
The Chairperson asked the Chairperson of the Police Portfolio Committee to intervene or raise the matter with the Minister of Police in order to get the police to cooperate with the Justice Portfolio Committee.
Ms Moodley told the Committee that the police worked closely with the Department of Justice, especially the SOCA unit and that an invitation was sent to the National Police Commissioner’s Office to have a delegation from SAPS present at the meeting.
Ms S Chikunga (ANC), Chairperson of the Police Portfolio Committee, said she too could not understand why the police were not present in the meeting. However, she gave an assurance to the Committee that police were heavily involved and deeply committed to the programmes of the relevant task teams.
Ms Schafer suggested that information about victims of trafficking and shelters be placed on the police website so that the police knew where to take the victims soon after discovering them. She also had a concern about the whereabouts of the provincial task team in the Western Cape.
Mr Jeffery asked what the capacity of each shelter was and whether or not they were already full.
Mr S Swart (ACDP) asked how many shelters there were in total and whether the police were made aware that there were shelters which could accommodate victims. He said he was taken aback after reading in the newspaper that some victims of trafficking were kept at Pollmoor Prison.
Ms Moodley said there were 97 shelters in total, however those were shelters meant for different kinds of abuse victims. The department had since tried to have at least one shelter in every province dedicated to catering for trafficking victims. So far there were 12 shelters reserved for assisting trafficking victims situated across the country.
The ten of the 12 shelters set aside for human trafficking victims had the capacity to accommodate at least 20 victims each. The other two shelters could accommodate 56 and 140 respectively.
Ms Schaffer urged the department to do something about the accessibility of their offices that dealt with human trafficking. She had tried on numerous occasions to report suspected trafficking activities which had been brought to her attention. However, all the numbers she had could not go through or where she did manage to get through to an individual, she kept being pushed from pillar to post.
Mr Jeffery asked who was part of the National Human Trafficking task team and how often it met. The indication from the presentation was that initially the task teams were set to meet every month but that had been changed to a meeting once every two months. Considering that the World Cup was drawing closer and closer, was the frequency of the meetings adequate? Further, why was it that other provinces did not have established Provincial Task Teams present?
Ms Qaba responded to Mr Jeffery’s concerns by stating that the frequency of the meetings was hampered by capacity shortages and other commitments of members. That however did not have a huge impact in the activities related to trafficking as everyone involved knew what to do and work on trafficking issues was done on a daily basis despite their absence from meetings.
The reasons behind the setting up of task teams in certain provinces ahead of others were attributed to a combination of many factors. Provinces which were port of entries were prioritised for obvious reasons and similarly provinces that had host cities were set to be next in line. The absence of the Provincial Task Team in Gauteng Province was largely due to the fact that the National Task Team was based in Gauteng hence the decision to prioritise other provinces.
Mr G Ndabandaba (ANC) suggested that the Department of Justice should consider networking with universities across the country, especially those that had established criminology departments. Such a move would ensure an easy access to new and innovative ideas at low or no costs at all.
The Chairperson commended Mr Ndabandaba for the idea saying indeed a partnership with universities would alleviate budget and capacity constraints of the Justice Department tremendously.
Ms S Sithole (ANC) said it was a cause for concern to her that there was no budget allocation for the processing of the Trafficking Bill. A further worry was that the budget allocated for the implementation of another piece of legislation was used to cushion the processing of the Bill. What impact would the R3 million taken from the Sexual Offences Act have on the implementation of that Act?
Mr J Sibanyoni (ANC) recalled a case of three Nigerian men who had been arrested for trafficking in Mpumalanga. He wanted to know how the case had unfolded and whether the suspects were successfully prosecuted.
Ms Qaba said the case in Ermelo in Mpumalanga involving Nigerian men charged with trafficking related offences was still ongoing. The suspects were presently involved in the bail application process which the NPA was opposing. A number of challenges had been encountered, especially with witnesses who were being treated for drug dependent illnesses. Since the case was still ongoing, there was not much she could share with the Committee but promised to provide a full report prepared by the prosecutors once the trial was finalised.
Mr Jeffery said the problems around trafficking went deep and signs were that those problems would escalate during the FIFA World Cup competition. He suggested that the Committee compile a report to the National Assembly stating its concerns so that the challenges were tackled with a great deal of urgency and with more resources.
Mr Swart said he was disturbed about the granting of visas and temporary work permits by Home Affairs to exotic dancers. In his view, exotic dancers served as a catalyst for trafficking incidents and Home Affairs needed to revise their policy on exotic dancers.
Ms Ledwaba said her department would look into the granting of visas to exotic dancers but for such an action to take place there needed to be a formal request from the Portfolio Committees of Home Affairs or Justice requesting such action to be taken.
Ms Michael said it would be unfair to consider putting a moratorium on the granting of visas to exotic dancers. There was no evidence yet to suggest that exotic dancers had any connection with human trafficking. In as much as some people were offended by the activity, there were others who did not find it offending and more so, exotic dancing was legal. The fairest way to go about it would be perhaps to suggest they needed to be closely monitored to ensure that exotic dancing activities did not have any connections to trafficking.
Mr Jeffery agreed with Ms Michael, suggesting that a good monitoring strategy would cure the worries which some members had with exotic dancers.
Mr M Gungubele (ANC) asked the Department to give an assurance that come June Kick-off, the country would be ready to fight human trafficking.
The Chairperson said Mr Gungubele’s question was important because it was only a few days left before the kick-off date but it seemed that the house was not yet in order to deal effectively with human traffickers and victims of trafficking.
Ms Moodley said indeed it was worrying that not all provinces had managed to set up task teams but she gave an assurance that the Department of Justice was doing everything in its powers to make sure that all was ready by the time the event started. One big challenge was getting senior people from various departments involved. If that could happen, it would be much easier for people lower down in the chain to work as their superiors could be able to pull rank on them to work even harder.
Ms Michael asked what would happen to the victims if the trial of the perpetrators dragged on for years as was seen in the Sayed case which dragged on for three years. Would the victims still have to be kept within the Republic or what? Had the budget been approved to pay the prosecutors and others who would be working extended working hours and working overtime?
Ms Moodley said her office had received confirmation from the Department that all the funding for the functioning of special costs had been approved and everyone, including highly skilled prosecutors, were ready to begin work. The arrangement made with stakeholders in the administration of justice was that all World Cup related cases, that is, where the victim, offender or witness had been in the country for a reason that had to do with the World Cup, such offences would receive urgent priority so that they were processed within a two-month period at the latest.
Ms Michael asked if the figures given on the prosecution of trafficking related offences in Germany during World Cup 2006 was not an over-simplification of figures. While the figures reflected a total of 33 cases that were prosecuted, Ms Michael wanted to know how many cases went unprosecuted for whatever reasons.
The Chairperson said it was clear that the state of readiness for combating human trafficking was not where everyone wanted it to be. One of the things that needed to be done was ensuring that the activities of all stakeholders were better managed and co-ordinated.
The Committee would prepare a report to the National Assembly detailing the state of readiness as observed through the interaction. The Committee would consider writing to the NCOP Chairperson to request him to instruct Premiers of the provinces to pull their weight too. He appealed for an improved frequency of the stakeholder meetings, saying the present meeting rate was not impressive. The Department of Justice was encouraged to liaise regularly with the Committee so it was constantly aware how the state of readiness was progressing.
The meeting was adjourned.
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