25 April 2014
The South African Government has over the past twenty years ensured that everyone within the country’s borders enjoys equal rights and protection as enshrined in our Constitution. We have therefore noted with concern the practice that people are lured to the country with false promises of lucrative jobs. Often criminal syndicates use this as an avenue to force people into prostitution, drug trafficking or forced labour. The recruitment and transportation of people by deception for the purpose of exploiting them economically is no-less than human trafficking.
Trafficking is a crime in South Africa and is a serious violation of human rights as enshrined in the Bill of Rights. This issue is receiving urgent government attention and we are doing all we can to combat it. Government will not tolerate such practices in our country and law enforcement agencies will take stern action against any perpetrators. President Jacob Zuma last year signed the Prevention and Combating of Trafficking in Persons Bill into law. It gives government the means to tackle human trafficking holistically and comprehensively.
The new law also makes it an offence for any person to intentionally engage in conduct that causes another person to enter into debt bondage. It further criminalises the possession, destruction, concealment of, and tampering of travel documents.
The law provides for a maximum penalty of R100-million or life imprisonment in the case of a conviction. It also affords victims with protection and assistance to overcome their traumatic experiences. For instance, a foreign national who is a victim of trafficking is entitled to public healthcare services as provided for in section 27 of the Constitution.
Reacting to the signing of the bill last year by the President, Dr. Erick Ventura of the International Organisation for Migration in South Africa said: “The signing of this bill is important not only to prevent and combat human trafficking in South Africa, but also to bring justice to trafficked persons. We believe that these severe penalties will serve as a deterrent to potential perpetrators."
This legislation is in line with country’s international obligations as a signatory to the United Nations Protocol to Prevent, Suppress and Punish Trafficking in Persons. It places an obligation on the country to provide support to victims of trafficking and ensure their safety should they be returned to their respective countries.
We all have a role to play in combating human trafficking. Human trafficking is not only limited to people being trafficked from one country to another, but also includes them being moved from rural to urban areas. As communities, we must not allow abuse and injustices against all people to take place while we have institutions that have been created to deal with the scourge of human trafficking.
Anyone who has fallen victim to such crimes is encouraged to report it to the South African law enforcement agencies so that perpetrators face the full might of the law.