A ter­ror run for her life

Po­lice dis­miss woman who es­caped from her kid­nap­pers – leav­ing two young girls at the mercy of traf­fick­ers

CityPress - - News - MSINDISI FENGU msindisi.fengu@city­press.co.za

Nomsa* still can­not be­lieve that the po­lice did noth­ing af­ter she told them she’d es­caped from a gang of hu­man traf­fick­ers. Af­ter she es­caped from the boot of a car – trau­ma­tised and pet­ri­fied – the young South African woman im­me­di­ately told the po­lice about her or­deal and in­formed them about the other young girls who had also been kid­napped.

But the re­sponse from the au­thor­i­ties was cold. In­dif­fer­ent.

Nomsa is haunted by the faces of those other drugged girls, and ag­o­nises over what has hap­pened to them.

Af­ter she pre­tended to be un­con­scious, traf­fick­ers left her in an open boot while they car­ried away the two other teens who could no longer walk be­cause they were in­ca­pac­i­tated by the drugs they’d been in­jected with.

De­spite the drug cock­tail cours­ing through her veins, she jumped out of the car boot, ducked into a nearby for­est and ran as fast and far from her traf­fick­ers as she could.

When Nomsa es­caped, she was near the bor­der of South Africa and an­other sub-Sa­ha­ran coun­try, which, to pro­tect her iden­tity, can­not be named.

“I ran for my life un­til I came to a river. I just wanted to throw my­self in it, but then I saw an on­com­ing car,” she says.

Nomsa made a split-sec­ond de­ci­sion to put her faith in the un­known mo­torist. She flagged the car down and the mo­torist took her to the near­est po­lice sta­tion.

“I told the po­lice about those girls, but they said that only the Hawks, In­ter­pol and oth­ers would follow up on leads,” says Nomsa.

“They could have called se­cu­rity at the bor­der gates – or In­ter­pol – if they did not want to be the ones do­ing the chase ... The girls have not been found.”

In ad­di­tion to the po­lice’s dis­in­ter­est, no trauma coun­selling or med­i­cal as­sis­tance was of­fered to her, she says.

She had to go to her pri­vate doc­tor so that he could draw her blood and test it to find out what sort of cock­tail of drugs she’d been in­jected with.

Nomsa’s ex­tra­or­di­nary or­deal be­gan when she climbed into an or­di­nary taxi in one of our big cities – some­thing that thou­sands of South Africans do every sin­gle day.

When she got in­side, the driver pointed a gun at her and then took out a bul­let to show her that it was real. He told her to act nor­mally.

Be­hind her was an­other man.

Af­ter driv­ing for al­most 30 min­utes, they stopped. An­other car ar­rived with four men in­side it. The driver of the taxi got out to talk to them.

At that mo­ment, she reached for her phone, which the driver had placed next to the gear lever.

The other man in the back jumped out, and dragged her off the pas­sen­ger seat. Dur­ing the strug­gle, she man­aged to put her phone into one of her boots.

When she was taken over to the boot of the other car, there were al­ready two girls in­side it.

They squashed her in with the oth­ers and, de­spite the lack of space, she man­aged to send text mes­sages to her loved ones to tell them that she had been kid­napped.

Sud­denly, the traf­fick­ers stopped the car and opened the boot. They grabbed her phone and then in­jected Nomsa and the other two girls with a drug that made them drowsy.

The kid­nap­pers then made reg­u­lar stops to in­ject them again.

“They were speak­ing in their lan­guage the en­tire time. When I woke up, it was soon af­ter we were in­jected for the sec­ond time. One of them was speak­ing in English, telling the per­son on the other end of the phone how old we were and say­ing they would have to pass by the bor­der be­fore mid­night.

“Then, af­ter a long while, the car stopped again. There were two other cars that were in front of us and I re­alised that was go­ing to be our sepa­ra­tion point,” she says.

“It was so dark and cold. I played dead – like I was gone from the drugs. They came to take the other girls, but they could not walk. The kid­nap­pers helped each other to move the girls from one car to the other. They must have thought that I was com­pletely un­con­scious from the drugs, so no one stayed be­hind to watch me at the back of the car.”

Nomsa says she con­tin­ues to live in fear for her life, and she gets calls from un­known num­bers at dif­fer­ent times dur­ing the day and night. The caller never says a word.

Nh­lanhla Mok­wena, the ex­ec­u­tive di­rec­tor at Peo­ple Op­pos­ing Women Abuse, said this was prob­a­bly be­cause the traf­fick­ers were try­ing to find Nomsa.

“They are prob­a­bly try­ing to lo­cate her. This is a syn­di­cate and is very dan­ger­ous. They know hu­man traf­fick­ing is a huge of­fence.”

Mok­wena said it was dis­grace­ful that the po­lice Nomsa spoke to al­lowed her to leave the po­lice sta­tion with­out be­ing re­ferred to a place of safety.

She said there were gov­ern­ment ini­tia­tives op­er­at­ing in part­ner­ship with non­govern­men­tal or­gan­i­sa­tions that the po­lice could have con­tacted or re­ferred Nomsa to.

One of these is Thuthuzela Care Cen­tre, where Nomsa’s blood could have been tested so that she didn’t have to go to her own doc­tor. Of­ten, ev­i­dence col­lected by an at­tack sur­vivor’s pri­vate doc­tor is in­ad­miss­able in court.

Mok­wena said that a sur­vivor’s case was of­ten botched by po­lice be­cause of­fi­cers reg­u­larly didn’t follow the cor­rect pro­ce­dures. Added to this, there were no reper­cus­sions if the po­lice did not follow the cor­rect steps when deal­ing with this kind of case.

“Some­times po­lice don’t know how to han­dle these cases. They end up fur­ther trau­ma­tis­ing the vic­tims,” Mok­wena said.

Mar­cel van der Watt, a lec­turer at the Uni­ver­sity of SA’s depart­ment of po­lice prac­tice and the case man­ager for the Na­tional Free­dom Net­work, said that, since 2015, when the Pre­ven­tion and Com­bat­ing of Traf­fick­ing in Per­sons Act came into force, gov­ern­ment had pro­gres­sively re­sponded to its in­ter­na­tional obli­ga­tion to ad­dress the is­sue of hu­man traf­fick­ing.

Van der Watt has worked with is­sues re­lated to hu­man traf­fick­ing for the past 15 years.

“I am en­cour­aged to say that this year has seen a re­ju­ve­na­tion in South Africa’s 13-year counter-hu­man traf­fick­ing jour­ney since we rat­i­fied the Palermo Pro­to­col in 2004.”

The Palermo Pro­to­col is an agree­ment to pre­vent, sup­press and pun­ish traf­fick­ing in per­sons, es­pe­cially women and chil­dren. It sup­ple­ments the UN con­ven­tion against transna­tional or­gan­ised crime. “Gov­ern­ment should be com­mended for the man­ner in which it ac­tively en­gages civil so­ci­ety and non­govern­men­tal or­gan­i­sa­tions in for­mu­lat­ing South Africa’s counter-hu­man traf­fick­ing strat­egy,” Van der Watt said.

How­ever, he said that, at this stage, the suc­cesses pale in com­par­i­son to the work that still needs to be done. Per­haps the great­est chal­lenge is in­creas­ing the trust be­tween the po­lice and the com­mu­ni­ties that rely on them. Van der Watt said that every re­source needed to be put to work to en­sure that all South Africans felt com­pas­sion for each other so that the cause of so­cial co­he­sion can be ad­vanced. “Ac­count­abil­ity and re­spon­si­bil­ity is a dou­ble-edged sword, and re­quires com­mu­ni­ties and gov­ern­ment to be co-cre­ators of so­lu­tions to the change that is needed when re­spond­ing to hu­man traf­fick­ing,” he said.

South Africa, as a sig­na­tory of the Palermo Pro­to­col, fea­tures in the Traf­fick­ing in Per­sons Re­port that was com­piled by the US and pub­lished last month.

Ac­cord­ing to the re­port, our gov­ern­ment did not fully meet the min­i­mum stan­dards for the elim­i­na­tion of traf­fick­ing; how­ever, the re­port said it was mak­ing sig­nif­i­cant ef­forts to do so. The pres­i­dency and the depart­ment of so­cial de­vel­op­ment had not re­sponded to re­quests for com­ment by the time of go­ing to print. * Nomsa is not her real name. It has been changed to pro­tect her iden­tity.

TALK

TO US

Do you think the state should be do­ing more to pro­tect cit­i­zens?

SMS us on 35697 us­ing the key­word HU­MAN and tell us what you think. Please in­clude your name and prov­ince. SMSes cost R1.50

. Call the Na­tional Hu­man Traf­fick­ing Re­source Line on 080 022 2777 . Follow the Na­tional Free­dom Net­work on Twit­ter @NFN_SA

PHOTO: GETTY IM­AGES / ISTOCK

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from South Africa

© PressReader. All rights reserved.