Human Trafficking: Molo Songololo, Home Affairs Department and SAPS briefings

Meeting Summary

A summary of this committee meeting is not yet available.

Meeting report


24 June 2005

Ms M Morutoa (ANC)

Documents handed out:
Report on Child Trafficking: Molo Songololo PowerPoint presentation
Molo Songololo letter to Committee: 18 May 2005
Molo Songololo submission on Children's Bill: Child Trafficking
UN Protocol to Prevent, Suppress and Punish Trafficking of Persons, Especially Women: Articles
Revised Children's Bill: Chapter 18 on Child Trafficking
Department of Home Affairs' Report on Human Trafficking: PowerPoint presentation
Department of Home Affairs' Report on SA response to human trafficking
South African Police Services' presentation on human trafficking

The Molo Songolo delegation discussed child trafficking in South Africa, as this country was both a destination and place of origin for trafficked children. The delegation noted that children were mainly being trafficked as a form of cheap labour or for sexual exploitation. Various methods were used to recruit children for trafficking, which included forced abductions. Rescued victims needed support, which included trauma counselling and emotional help. The government and various stakeholders faced many challenges in preventing child trafficking, which included the need for specialised anti-trafficking units.

In the ensuing discussion, Members asked to where children were being trafficked; how many children were being trafficked into South Africa; the outcome of the Andrews case; whether missing children were likely victims; whether Molo Songololo was involved in educational initiatives; and about the main causes of child trafficking.

The Department of Home Affairs then discussed their role in combating human trafficking. No specific law existed that criminalised trafficking so a person could not be arrested for trafficking. Nonetheless, Home Affairs used various other laws such as the Marriages Act and Immigration Act to combat illegal immigration. Unfortunately, victims of trafficking lacked adequate support. The Home Affairs delegation outlined that a National Task Team under the leadership of the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA), had been established to combat trafficking.

In the discussion that followed, the Committee enquired about the extent of child pornography in South Africa; whether the National Task Team had the mandate to act against human trafficking; whether there was a law that covered human trafficking; and how many foreigners were in South Africa on expired visas.

The SA Police Services (SAPS) presented its briefing on trafficking in women and children. The delegation noted that the protection of women and children was a priority. A Family Violence, Child Protection and Sexual Offences Unit had been established. The SAPS was also involved in the National Task Team that dealt with child trafficking issues. The SAPS Organised Crime Unit was also involved in investigating organised crime that surrounded child trafficking.

During the discussion, Members enquired about the extent of trafficking Asian women to work as prostitutes in South Africa; whether the SAPS used plainclothes police officers to combat child prostitution; and whether the SAPS was responsible for border control.


Molo Songololo briefing
Ms D Mobilyn (Molo Songololo Advocacy and Lobbying Officer) provided background information on human trafficking. The trafficking of people was largely the result of an increase in the demand for cheap labour and the sexual services of women and children. Trafficking was one of the fastest growing enterprises in the world, which involved a large number of individuals and criminal networks.

Ms Mobilyn stated that South Africa was a major destination for children that had been trafficked. These children mostly came from Eastern European, East Asia and other Southern African countries. South Africa was also a major place of origin for trafficked children. Trafficking of children also took place within South Africa, where children were mainly trafficked from rural areas to the cities. Ms Mobilyn added that children were trafficked for the following exploitative reasons: domestic labour; agricultural labour; sweatshop labour; drug running; gang recruitment, and sexual exploitation. Ms Mobilyn then discussed a Molo Songololo case study that had examined how nineteen girls had been trafficked into a gang for sexual exploitation. These girls had been abducted, gang raped, drugged and forced into prostitution in Cape Town. Eventually, the trafficker was arrested and convicted.

Ms Mobilyn outlined some of the methods that recruiters used to lure children into a trafficking situation. These included forced abductions; being lured by trusted individuals; being bought and sold; being recruited by gangs; being recruited by siblings; and being hooked on drugs. The result was that these children would suffer from severe trauma; physical damage; psychological damage; sexual violation; a lack of education; and poor self-esteem. Various support and assistance initiatives were needed for children that had been rescued from an exploitative situation, which included medical assistance; trauma counselling; psychological support; support during the investigation; family support; healing therapy; and help reintegrating into society.

Ms Mobilyn highlighted that the South African government was obligated to combat human trafficking by various international conventions. These conventions included the United Nations (UN) Convention on the Rights of Children; the UN Protocol to Prevent, Suppress and Punish Trafficking in Persons; and the Palermo Protocol. Section 28 of the Bill of Rights in the Constitution also obliged government to protect the rights of children.

Ms Mobilyn discussed some of the national initiatives that had been established to combat trafficking in children. Some of these initiatives included a study by Molo Songololo; Molo Songololo presentations to government departments; the establishment of a National Task Team on trafficking; the establishment of a SAPS Human Trafficking Desk; the formulation of legislation such as the Children's Bill; and the establishment of victim empowerment initiatives.

Ms Mobilyn highlighted the key challenges that government and organisations faced in attempting to combat child trafficking. These included the need for legislation to prohibit trafficking; the need for effective sanctions against traffickers; the need for specialised policing units; the need for restorative justice; the need for greater research and monitoring; and the need to address the socio-economic factors that contributed to child trafficking.

Ms S Vos (IFP) asked which communities children were being trafficked into to work as domestic labourers.

Mr P Solomons (Molo Songololo Director) replied that children were being recruited and abducted from rural areas to work as domestic labourers in urban areas. This was due to the fact that poverty was widespread in rural areas. Parents often sent their children to work as domestic labourers on the back of false promises by recruiters. He added that children were taken to all kinds of communities to work as domestic labourers. In Cape Town, there had been a case where a recruiter called 'The Agency' had held girls from rural areas captive. Employers would then come and select the girls to work in their homes. Some of these girls were also placed in sweatshops and brothels.

Ms Vos noted that the issue of children working as sex workers was complicated. Sex workers had certain rights and these rights extended to children that were working as prostitutes. For this reason, the police did not act against child prostitutes. This meant that these child prostitutes remained on the streets. Ms C-S Botha asked until what age a person was considered a child. She had asked this because the age of consent seemed to differ from law to law. The reality was that children were engaging in sexual activity from a younger and younger age.

Mr Solomons responded that the Child Care Act defined any person under the age of 18 as a child. It was illegal to sexually exploit any child under the age of 18 and consent should not be an issue.

Ms J Semple (DA) asked how many children had been trafficked in and out of South Africa. What was the exact extent of the problem?

Mr Solomon answered that there were no exact figures available on child trafficking. This was because there was no specific law that targeted child trafficking, which meant that the police could not charge a person for child trafficking. As a result, the police did not have a crime code to record incidences of child trafficking. One could only be charged with other crimes such as prostitution or kidnapping, which surrounded trafficking. This meant that there were no statistics available on trafficking. The National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) needed a mandate from government to punish child trafficking. This could only be achieved by passing legislation that dealt specifically with child trafficking. Mr A Goosen (Acting Director of Port Control: Home Affairs Department) added that the United Nations had estimated that worldwide twice as many children were being trafficked when compared to women. It had also been estimated that there were approximately 38 000 child prostitutes in South Africa. Some 25% of South Africa's street children were engaging in sexual activities for monetary reward.

Ms D Robinson (DA) noted that organisations needed to co-operate in order to effectively monitor the trafficking problem. Similarly, organisations needed to work towards gathering statistics.

Ms Semple enquired whether children were being trafficked from rural areas to the cities within South Africa.

Mr Solomon replied that children could be trafficked from and into any community. Indeed, children were trafficked from rural to urban areas, from country to country, from city to city, and from community to community.

Ms Semple noted that children that had been trafficked were being forced to work in home industries. She asked what was meant by "home industries".

Ms K Rwexana (ANC) noted that Molo Songololo had conducted a case study on 19 girls that had been held in a brothel in Salt River. She enquired how long they had been held in the brothel before they were rescued. She asked what the physical and emotional consequences were for those girls.

Mr Solomons replied that Molo Songololo had discovered the Andrews case in Salt River in 1996. At that stage, the surrounding community members had been complaining about the situation to the police for quite some time. The police would raid the brothel but would fail to close it down. Molo Songololo then became involved in the case. It was only due to this that Andrews was arrested. A similar case was now taking place at a house in Mitchell's Plain. The problem in the Western Cape was that gangs were involved in sexually abusing and exploiting young girls. It was hard for these girls to escape because the gangs were in and part of the community.

Ms Rwexana noted that there was a major problem with missing children in the Western Cape. She asked whether this could be linked to child trafficking.

Ms Mobilyn replied that many of the missing children might have been victims of trafficking. The police were attempting to deal with the situation of missing children. Ms A Pienaar (Head of the SAPS Family Violence, Child Protection and Sexual Offences Unit) added that police would investigate a case of a missing child as soon as it was reported. It was a myth that the police had to wait 24 hours.

Ms Rwexana asked whether Molo Songolo ran trafficking awareness programmes in communities.

Mr Solomons responded that there was a need to educate communities on the issue of child trafficking. This would allow parents to understand the dangers of child trafficking. It would also empower parents with knowledge that could protect their children. Molo Songololo had only just started to provide education to communities on the danger of child trafficking.

Ms Rwexana enquired whether Molo Songololo was co-operating with schools around the issue of child trafficking. Ms P Tshwete (ANC) asked whether Molo Songololo was educating teachers to recognise the symptoms of sexual abuse amongst learners.

Ms Mobilyn responded that Molo Songololo was working with schools around various issues. Molo Songololo provided training for teachers on how to help sexually abused learners. The Department of Education had also implemented a programme entitled "Abuse No More".

Ms Tshwete enquired whether Molo Songololo was involved in the training of social workers and police around child trafficking.

Mr Solomon replied that there was a need for the police and social services to be educated about trafficking. Molo Songololo was attempting to ensure that education on child trafficking was included in the police training curriculum.

Ms Botha asked about the root causes for the increase in child trafficking in South Africa.

Mr Solomon replied that one of the root causes was that border controls had been relaxed. An increase in poverty had also led to an increase in trafficking. Mr Solomons added that there also seemed to be an increase in the demand by men for sex with children. Indeed, it was highly problematic that a municipal manager from Beaufort West could receive support from his colleagues when he had clearly been involved in soliciting under age prostitutes. Such cases increased the vulnerability of children.

Mr F Maserumule (ANC) commented that the information that Molo Songololo had provided was a wake-up call. More research was desperately needed into the area of human trafficking. All the role players needed to work together in order to obtain a clear picture of the problem. Ms B Ntuli (ANC) and Ms Botha added that perhaps there was a need for all the stakeholders to hold a workshop in order to find solutions to the problem of human trafficking.

Mr G Ntlakana (National Immigration Branch Chief Director: Inspectorate) commented that the National Task Team was composed of the various stakeholders, which included government entities and NGOs. Its aim was to ensure that solutions were found to the problem of human trafficking. It was, however, important that the mandate of the Task Team was clearly defined. Added to this, information was currently being shared between various government institutions that dealt with human trafficking. Nonetheless, a strategy was needed to maximise resources that were available in order to address human trafficking effectively.

Home Affairs Department Briefing
Mr Goosen briefed the Committee on the role that Home Affairs played in combating human trafficking. He highlighted that no anti-trafficking law existed in South Africa. The laws that Home Affairs could use to address the issues that surrounded trafficking included the Immigration Act, the Refugees Act, the Marriages Act, and the Films and Publications Act.

Mr Goosen noted that Home Affairs had made a number of observations regarding trafficking. These included that South Africa lacked a proper system to aid trafficking victims; victims were deported from South Africa without considering the situation they faced in their home countries; many victims did not have the correct documentation entitling them to be in South Africa; and providing support to trafficking victims was often hampered by a language barrier.

Mr Goosen commented that an interdepartmental National Task Team, which was chaired by the NPA, had been established to deal with human trafficking. The Task Team had recently appointed an international consulting team to investigate the issue of human trafficking in South Africa. This consortium was due to release a report on 24 June 2005 on the situation of human trafficking in South Africa. This report would be used as a basis of action for the Task Team.

Mr Goosen outlined the role of the Home Affairs Immigration Service in preventing human trafficking. When a victim of trafficking was arrested for being illegally in South Africa, Home Affairs would ensure that their presence in South Africa was temporarily legalised for the duration of the investigation. Ms O Diseko (Department Deputy Director: Corporate Services) added that Home Affairs was seeking to strengthen its gender programme, which would benefit the work that it undertook around the trafficking of women.

Ms Vos stated that she had found shocking statistics regarding the number of children that were being used in child pornography. Did Home Affairs, or its affiliate agency the Films and Publications Board, have any figures regarding how many children in South Africa were being exploited by the pornography industry?

Ms S Bopape-Dlomo (Chief Executive Officer: Films and Publications Board) replied that there were no statistics available on the number of children that were being used in pornographic movies in South Africa. More research needed to be conducted around this problem. The Films and Publications Board would be establishing a research and information management unit that would be undertaking research and advocacy work around the problem of child pornography. Ms Pienaar added that some children were being filmed and photographed for pornographic purposes without their knowledge. Nonetheless, she had not discovered any case where children had been recruited as pornographic actors in South Africa.

Ms Rajbally asked what the cut off age was for adopting a child from another country. She felt that people could be using the pretext of adoption to traffic children.

Ms D Tihagale (Acting Chief Director: Home Affairs Department Legal Services) replied that all adoptions, including international adoptions by South Africans, needed to be registered in terms of the Child Care Act. In terms of this Act, one could legally adopt a person that was under the age of 21.

A Member enquired whether follow up visits were conducted to ensure that adopted children were not being exploited.

Ms Tihagale responded that the Department of Social Development was tasked with ensuring that adopted children were not being exploited.

Ms Rajbally enquired why a person would adopt an 18-year-old child. Surely, a person adopting such a child needed to provide a valid reason.

Ms Tihagale answered that in any adoption case, the interest of the child was paramount and not the interests of the adoptive parents. Therefore, a Court would decide whether it was in the interest of an 18-year-old child to be adopted.

Ms Botha commented that the NPA had a mandate from government to act against organised crime. Human trafficking was an organised crime. She therefore enquired if the NPA or the Task Team could act against trafficking as an organised crime.

Ms Tihagale replied that trafficking was almost always surrounded by other forms of crime. The NPA could prosecute offenders for other crimes that surrounded trafficking but not specifically for trafficking. This was due to the fact that no law specifically criminalised trafficking. Mr Goosen added that the Task Team did not have a mandate to act against trafficking as a crime on its own.

The Chairperson enquired whether specific legislation was needed to criminalise human trafficking.

Ms Tihagale replied that she could not give a definitive answer. Before any legislation could be passed the definition of human trafficking needed to be clarified. One could not criminalise intentions. Nonetheless, there needed to be an investigation into the possibility of implementing legislation that criminalised human trafficking.

Ms Botha asked why one could not act if it was clear that a person was intending to commit a criminal act.

Mr Maserumule asked when the consortium would be delivering its report on human trafficking to the Task Team. He also asked how many institutions were involved in gathering information for the Task Team.

Mr Goosen responded that the consortium was due to deliver its report to the Task Team on 24 June 2005.

Ms Vos enquired whether the Immigration Unit could establish how many people from countries where trafficking was a problem were illegally in South Africa on expired visas?

Ms Tihagale responded that the Immigration Unit's system could identify cases where visas had expired. However, the system did not give a breakdown of the figures per country, as it only provided a total figure. The reason for this was that it was unconstitutional to profile people according to their country of origin. For example, even if a group of Bulgarian women legally arrived in South Africa with the purpose of working as exotic dancers they could not be turned away merely because they were Bulgarian. This was despite the fact that Bulgarian women could be involved in criminal activities in South Africa. One could not arrest people on mere suspicion. Added to this, it was also difficult to establish the reasons why a foreigner's visa may have had expired. For example, a person's visa may have expired due to criminal activity, or a person's visa, who was a legitimate businessperson or tourist, may have expired because they extended their stay.

Ms Vos asked how many foreigners in South Africa had expired visas. She also asked why foreigners were being allowed to legally come to South Africa to work as exotic dancers. Countries such as Britain, Australia and the United States would not allow such a situation.

Ms Tihagale responded that South African law did not allow a person to act prejudicially against another.
Ms Botha commented that it was nonsensical that Home Affairs could not bar foreigners from working legally as exotic dancers in South Africa when foreign professionals were subjected to strict criteria when they applied for work visas in South Africa.

SA Police Service briefing
Ms Pienaar noted that the other presentations had covered most of the issues relating to human trafficking. Perpetrators of child trafficking could be charged for crimes that surrounded child trafficking. For example, people that sexually exploited children could be charged under the Child Care Act. The SAPS could only enforce the existing legislation.

Ms Pienaar then explained that when the SAPS took cases involving child prostitution to court they needed the child involved to testify. In many cases, the children would refuse to testify perhaps due to fear. In such cases it would usually mean that the SAPS would have to drop the charges. Indeed, prosecutors would usually decline to prosecute a case involving child prostitution when the child in question refused to testify.

Ms Pienaar commented that one of the focus areas of the SAPS was the protection of women and children. As a result, the Family Violence, Child Protection and Sexual Offences Unit had been expanded. Members of the Unit had also received training to combat trafficking in children and women. Ms Pienaar stated that the SAPS were also involved in educating children, adults and organisations about trafficking and sexual abuse. Added to this, the SAPS were sharing information on human trafficking with other organisations. Indeed, the SAPS were also involved in the National Task Team.

Mr J Oosthuizen (Director of the SAPS Organised Crime Unit) noted that the SAPS Organised Crime Unit focused on investigating the structures and networks that existed between organised crime and the brokers that recruited or abducted children for trafficking or sexual exploitation. His Unit wanted legislation that criminalised human trafficking.

The Chairperson commented that many people were migrating from the rural areas to the cities. When they arrived in the cities they ended up living in overcrowded squatter camps. She knew of a young woman that had been brought from a rural area to Brown's Farm in Gauteng. It seemed as though this girl was being sexually exploited. However, there were also many other young girls in the Brown's Farm informal settlement, which was concerning. She asked whether there was a relationship between migration, overcrowding, smuggling and trafficking.

Ms Pienaar responded that in such cases the SAPS could remove the exploited child to a place of safety. However, it would then be the responsibility of a social worker to open legal proceedings to place the child. However, in most cases the children that were removed from an exploitative situation ended up returning to the exploitative situation. Mr Ntlakana added that at an international level, drug smugglers, terrorists and human traffickers often used the same routes.

Ms Semple commented that Asian women were being brought into South Africa for exploitative purposes. They would have their passports taken from them by criminals and would then be forced to work as prostitutes. She asked whether such practices were widespread.

Ms Pienaar responded that it was difficult to establish how many Asian women were being brought into South Africa to work as prostitutes. Although the SAPS were involved in intelligence gathering, it was battling to gather enough information on this problematic trend. It was important that cases where Asian women were being forced to work as prostitutes were reported to the SAPS. Nonetheless, the SAPS had uncovered a number of cases where Asian women were being forced to work as prostitutes. Many of these women would tell the SAPS that even though they had been recruited to work in clubs, they had not initially realised that they would have to work as prostitutes.

Ms Vos commented that the SAPS should be using plainclothed police officers to identify child prostitutes and the syndicates that were involved in child prostitution. She also asked what steps were taken when a syndicate involved in child prostitution had been identified.

Ms Pienaar responded that in order to act against child prostitution the SAPS needed to prove that a person had paid money to have sex with a child. The child would then have to testify against the syndicate and the person that had paid them for sex. The SAPS could not use children to act as undercover 'prostitutes', in order to arrest perpetrators, because this was unethical. Similarly, the SAPS could not use women over the age of 18 as undercover child 'prostitutes', because the clients would simply point out that the undercover 'prostitute' was over the age of 18. They could then claim in a Court that it was not their intention to have sex with a child. The SAPS, however, did remove child prostitutes from the street but, in most cases, once the SAPS released these children they would return to the street to continue work as prostitutes.

Ms Rajbally asked whether the SAPS were responsible for controlling South Africa's borders. She also enquired whether the SAPS had been successful in combating the problem of people illegally entering and exiting South Africa.

Mr Oosthuizen replied that in the past the South African National Defence Force (SANDF) had been responsible for border control. Recently, the SAPS had established a Unit to deal with border control and had taken over the responsibilities of border control from the SANDF. Mr Oosthuizen further noted that once a person was illegally inside South Africa, its was the responsibility of Home Affairs to help deal with the situation. Mr Ntlakana added that in the past the focus of the Home Affairs Immigration Unit had been on identifying and deporting aliens. There had been a shift in focus over the last year to alter the Immigration Unit into a law enforcement agency. The Immigration Unit would be implementing standard operating procedures on how to detect possible trafficking cases at points of entry into South Africa. The Immigration Unit was also examining how it could link up with the police in order to combat trafficking.

A Member enquired whether the National Task Team and the SAPS Units that dealt with crimes against women and children had branches in all of the provinces.

Mr Ntlakana responded that the National Task Team was not duplicated at a provincial level. The Task Team dealt with policy at a national level. However, operational co-ordination was taking place at a provincial level within the security cluster. Mr Oosthuizen noted that the SAPS Human Trafficking Desk was structured at a national level. It was duplicated at a provincial in that the units that dealt with organised crime could act on the other crimes that surrounded human trafficking.

Ms S Camerer (DA) commented that legislation such as the Child Care Act and the Sexual Offences Bill dealt with issues that surrounded human trafficking. She asked why these could not be used in addressing the problem of human trafficking.

Mr Oosthuizen replied that there were legal gaps in between these different Acts and Bills. For example, the recruitment and transportation of victims was not covered in these Acts and Bills. There needed to be specific legislation that dealt with trafficking.

The Chairperson noted that a public forum, involving all the stakeholders, should be held in order to begin to deal with the problems that surrounded human trafficking.

The meeting was adjourned.


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