US State Department report accuses SA officials in trafficking networks
By Siyabonga Mkhwanazi | IOL News |
A report from the US State Department has accused top officials in government in South Africa of being involved in human trafficking networks.
The report said while Pretoria was making strides in combating human trafficking, a lot of work still needed to be done. People were trafficked for sex and labour.
In its operations, the Hawks and other agencies have arrested foreign nationals from Mozambique, Malawi, Zimbabwe, Ethiopia, Bangladesh, Lesotho and other countries who have been accused of trafficking.
There were South Africans who were trafficked from rural areas to urban centres like Johannesburg, Bloemfontein, Cape Town and Durban.
“Official complicity in trafficking crimes, especially by police and immigration officials, facilitated the operation of traffickers and organised syndicates engaging in trafficking,” reads the report.
The government has over the years tried to scale up investigations and expedite prosecutions of those behind trafficking syndicates.
But the US report noted that the government did not have a budget dedicated to anti-trafficking training, instead individual departments and agencies working on the programme made their own contributions. The Department of Justice had made available R1.7 million for training.
The report further said the National Prosecuting Authority and other law enforcement agencies have to get more cases before court.
But the government still has to address some of the challenges in meeting minimum standards to fight trafficking, it said.
“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. These efforts included increasing investigations and convictions of traffickers; investigating and prosecuting some allegedly complicit government officials; coordinating with foreign governments on trafficking investigations and repatriation of victims; increasing coordinated labour inspections to investigate forced labour; adopting an anti-trafficking NAP (national action plan); accrediting two shelters; and expanding awareness-raising activities,” states the report.
But the government can do more to fight the scourge of human trafficking.
One of the shortcomings was a lack of training and capacity by law enforcement agencies “to identify and refer trafficking victims to care”.
However, the report found that the government has been prosecuting some of the cases of trafficking.
It has put in place tough penalties to act against criminal syndicates involved in sex and labour trafficking.
Criminals involved in trafficking have received sentences ranging from 15 years to life imprisonment.
The report said some of the people behind trafficking and related crimes were in government.
“The government recognised official complicity as a key challenge in addressing all transnational crime, including human trafficking, and investigated and prosecuted government officials during the reporting period. The government prosecuted the co-defendant of an acting judge, who was deceased before criminal proceedings began, for multiple trafficking-related crimes.
“The government charged three SAPS officers for extorting potential trafficking victims in a case reported in 2021; the case remained ongoing. Two NPA prosecutors were implicated in a potential corruption scheme for obstructing efforts to hold a high-profile, public figure accountable for alleged child sex trafficking over several years; the government did not report any actions taken against the prosecutors,” said the report.
It added that a number of officials from the Department of Home Affairs were arrested for corruption.
It accused the SAPS and the Department of Social Development of failing to help victims of trafficking.