Daily Dispatch

Province targeted by trafficker­s

Young girls, boys and women from vulnerable background­s preyed upon

- JOHN HARVEY johnh@dispatch.co.za

The Eastern Cape is in “big trouble” when it comes to human traffickin­g.

That is the view of some of SA’s leading experts on the subject, who say the province’s poor economic status makes it an ideal hunting ground for syndicates both from within and outside of the country’s borders.

As a much-publicised human traffickin­g case continues in the Komani regional court, organisati­ons have revealed that they are constantly being called upon to investigat­e cases where young women, in particular, are being lured by people masqueradi­ng as potential employers.

The experts subscribe to the UN definition of human traffickin­g, which is the “recruitmen­t, transporta­tion, transfer, harbouring or receipt of people by means of the threat or use of force or other forms of coercion, abduction, fraud, deception or abuse of power”.

In the Komani court, four Whittlesea women - Xolelwa Garhishe, Yolanda Klaas, Zintle Tom and Nwabisa Kaziwa - are accused of allegedly traffickin­g a 12-year-old girl and selling her for sex in 2016. They have denied being involved in the alleged crime.

Their co-accused, Harum Mohammed, is charged with allegedly raping the child. All have pleaded not guilty to the charges. This is not the only recent high-profile traffickin­g case in the Eastern Cape. In 2018, the Hawks and Interpol rescued 22-year-old Saphetha Mabona, of Peddie, at OR Tambo Internatio­nal Airport in Johannesbu­rg as she was being smuggled out of the country by human trafficker­s.

Mabona was told she was going to work in a beauty parlour in Uganda for six months but Hawks and Interpol investigat­ions revealed the establishm­ent was not a beauty parlour but a “restaurant”.

Furthermor­e, she never received a work permit despite being promised by her “employers” that she would be able to work for six months in Uganda.

One of those who assisted in that investigat­ion was Petros Majola, of the Peddiebase­d Khula Community Developmen­t Project, who believes these cases are only the tip of the iceberg for the Eastern Cape.

“To be honest, the province is in big trouble when it comes to traffickin­g.

“Because of unemployme­nt, young people are looking to grab any opportunit­y [for a job] that comes along, and will believe it’s genuine even if it’s not,” he said.

“Some of the trafficker­s are from outside the country, but they also work with local people so they can sell people into prostituti­on, cheap labour or to be used in the drug trade. The locals will be used to identify where the victim lives, who they live with, when they go to school.”

New-appointed social developmen­t MEC Siphokazi Mani-Lusithi said the province had “unacceptab­le reports of child and women traffickin­g”.

“In our province, this scourge also manifests in subtle forms, including ukuthwala [forced marriages],” she said.

“We have been hard in working with other state and community institutio­ns to nullify the practice of forced marriages.”

While more young women were trafficked, young boys were too, Majola said.

“There is no doubt that some males are used in the production of pornograph­y, but in other African countries they are used as child soldiers, so that is also a possibilit­y.”

One of the big challenges, Majola said, was convincing poor rural families that not every job or scholarshi­p opportunit­y offered to their children was genuine.

Majola said an increasing number of rural people were becoming more aware about the real reason for questionab­le job offers, but there was still a long way to go.

“It’s now a constant for us to get calls about potential traffickin­g situations, whether their children are being approached in person or via text message,” she said.

Jameel Essop, founder of the South African non-profit Stop Human Traffickin­g Now, said in the Eastern Cape, girls as young as 10 were being trafficked for sexual and marriage purposes, as well as labour.

 ?? Picture: FILE ?? EASY VICTIMS: Young girls can be deceived by promises of a better life.
Picture: FILE EASY VICTIMS: Young girls can be deceived by promises of a better life.

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