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Street Children

Human Trafficking & Modern-day Slavery

Poverty drives the unsuspecting poor into the hands of traffickers

Published reports & articles from 2000 to 2025                   

Republic of South Africa

South Africa is a middle-income, emerging market with an abundant supply of natural resources; well-developed financial, legal, communications, energy, and transport sectors; a stock exchange that is 17th largest in the world; and modern infrastructure supporting an efficient distribution of goods to major urban centers throughout the region.

However, unemployment remains high and outdated infrastructure has constrained growth.

Daunting economic problems remain from the apartheid era - especially poverty, lack of economic empowerment among the disadvantaged groups, and a shortage of public transportation. South African economic policy is fiscally conservative but pragmatic, focusing on controlling inflation, maintaining a budget surplus, and using state-owned enterprises to deliver basic services to low-income areas as a means to increase job growth and household income. [The World Factbook, U.S.C.I.A. 2009]

Description: Description: Description: SouthAfrica

South Africa is a source, transit, and destination country for trafficked men, women, and children. Children are largely trafficked within the country from poor rural areas to urban centers like Johannesburg, Cape Town, Durban, and Bloemfontein – girls trafficked for the purposes of commercial sexual exploitation and domestic servitude; boys trafficked for forced street vending, food service, begging, crime, and agriculture; and both boys and girls trafficked for “muti” (the removal of their organs for traditional medicine). The tradition of “ukuthewala,” the forced marriage of girls as young as 12 to adult men, is still practiced in remote villages in the Eastern Cape.  - U.S. State Dept Trafficking in Persons Report, June, 2009   Check out a later country report here and possibly a full TIP Report here




CAUTION: The following links have been culled from the web to illuminate the situation in South Africa. Some of these links may lead to websites that present allegations that are unsubstantiated or even false. No attempt has been made to validate their authenticity or to verify their content.



If you are looking for material to use in a term-paper, you are advised to scan the postings on this page and others to see which aspects of Human Trafficking are of particular interest to you.  Would you like to write about Forced-Labor?  Debt Bondage? Prostitution? Forced Begging? Child Soldiers? Sale of Organs? etc.  On the other hand, you might choose to include precursors of trafficking such as poverty and hunger. There is a lot to the subject of Trafficking.  Scan other countries as well.  Draw comparisons between activity in adjacent countries and/or regions.  Meanwhile, check out some of the Term-Paper resources that are available on-line.


Check out some of the Resources for Teachers attached to this website.

HELP for Victims

Police Service
Country Code: 27-



Are 30,000 children really ‘trafficked’ in South Africa every year? The claim exaggerates the problem

Researched by Kate Wilkinson and Sintha Chiumia, Africa Check, 18 October 2013

[accessed 5 January 2017]

As many as “30,000 kids trafficked in SA” read a headline in The Times in October 2013. A similar article appeared in the Pretoria News, suggesting that “at least 30,000 children” are trafficked and prostituted annually in South Africa and “50 per cent of them are under the age of 14”. The paper attributed the claim to Roxanne Rawlins of Freedom Climb, “a project that works with trafficked people around the globe”.

Rawlins told Africa Check via email that the figure of 30,000 originated from an International Organisation for Migration Report on “internal trafficking” in South Africa which was published in 2008, a “US AIDS” research report (she may have meant USAID) and a study by the National Centre for Justice and Rule of Law, based at the University of Mississippi school of law in the United States.

However, the International Organisation for Migration’s 2008 report “No Experience Necessary”: The Internal Trafficking of Persons in South Africa does not estimate that there are 30,000 children currently being trafficked for the purpose of prostitution in South Africa. Nor does it claim that 50% are under the age of 14.

Human traffickers aim to exploit 2010

Vivian Attwood, Independent Online (IOL) News, 19 February 2009

[accessed 23 December 2010]

TRUSTED - They were approached by people they knew, and therefore trusted, to leave their homes. En route, they were raped and had their documents confiscated. Some were sold to mine workers in SA, and others were destined for brothels.  The undercover investigation team making the video posed as prospective "clients," asking one trafficker: "How many women can you get us?"  "Depends how many you need," was the response.  When asked what a woman cost, he replied "R1 000, and maybe R150 for the border official."  "How do you make sure the women don't run away when they find they aren't going to be waitressing, but doing sex work?" the interviewer asked.  "Sometimes we rape them. We call it 'washing the hands'," the trafficker said.


*** ARCHIVES ***

IOM's national 24-hour toll-free telephone helpline 0800 555 999 was set up in August 2004 to encourage members of the public to report known or suspected cases of sex-trafficking and to inform victims in South Africa that they can seek help.

Human Trafficking In South Africa

Marcella Teresi, The Borgen Project, 9 February 2021

[accessed 23 February 2021]

WOMEN -- Traffickers capitalize on South Africa’s poverty epidemic and unemployment, and poverty strips its victims of their dignity. Women who undergo trafficking come from different backgrounds of poverty and many of them are immigrants. The same applies to internal migrants. Since most of these poor women who enter South Africa are in search of economic opportunities, they do so often without formal immigration papers; such women often turn to domestic work. They work long hours every day of the week, their salaries often lower than the mandated accepted salary for domestic workers. Sometimes, employers take the identification they might have entered South Africa with for “safekeeping,” though it is really about holding these women hostage. This makes it difficult for them to leave if they are not happy with their employer’s conditions. For black women, the marginalization doubles due to their race and gender. White South Africans make up 8% of South Africa’s population yet own 87% of all farmland, according to the country’s government through AFP and the Washington Post. Since most are not living in poverty, they are less vulnerable.

Jobs scam part of human trafficking syndicate - Hawks

Rudolf Nkgadima, Independent Online (IOL) News, Cape Town, South Africa, 29 December 2020

[Long URL]

[accessed 29 December 2020]

More than half of South Africans show vulnerability indicators to being susceptible to trafficking, according to the Global Slave Index.

With at least 2,2 million jobs having been lost this year, more people are finding themselves in a vulnerable position economically, traffickers are using this to their advantage, luring potential victims into a life of trafficking by offering them job opportunities.

According to A21, a non-profit organisation fighting the injustice of human trafficking, if you are going to consider a job outside of South Africa, you will need to do some online research on the company offering the position.

Here are ways to tell if a job is a scam ....

Elucidating the reality of human trafficking in South Africa

Nonsindiso Qwabe, University of the Free State, 12 October 2020

[accessed 19 October 2020]

Prof Kruger said these convictions provide significant insights into human trafficking in South Africa. Firstly, victims are seldom being kidnapped and taken by force. Instead, traffickers prefer to trick and trap victims by misleading them with false promises of a better life.

Court cases exposed that many are misled by fabricated well-paid jobs or educational opportunities. The cases further reveal how traffickers submit their victims to various forms of exploitation. Aldina dos Santos [S v Dos Santos [2018 1 SACR 20 (GP)] was sentenced to life imprisonment for cunningly transporting Mozambican girls to her Gauteng residence, where they were forced to use drugs and perform sexual services to multiple paying clients. The court further imposed eight life sentences on Loyd Mabuza [S v Lloyd Mabuza 2018 2 SACR 54 (GP)] for holding four Mozambican girls between the ages of 10 and 16 captive as sex slaves for three years in the Sabi district.

 In S v Matini [case no. RC 123/2013 EC)], several South African victims, including mentally challenged girls, were sexually exploited in a brothel near Port Elizabeth. The two female traffickers in S v Seleso [case no. SS45/2018 (GJ)], who forced an orphaned girl into prolonged online sexual exploitation, were each sentenced to 19 life sentences.

Convictions were also secured in other forms of exploitation, such as labour trafficking. In Mpumalanga, a boy of only six years old was forced into child labour. In the Pinetown area, children were provided at a price in illegal adoption scams: some children were sold for up to R15 000.  Babies were also commodified and traded – in KwaZulu-Natal, a mother even advertised her baby on Gumtree for R5 000. “In most cases, there were either multiple victims, multiple traffickers, or both, and multiple places of exploitation.”

 More charges for human trafficking suspects

South African Government News Agency, 4 March 2020

[accessed 3 March 2020]

The seven Chinese nationals were arrested on 12 November 2019 in a joint operation conducted by the Department’s Inspection and Enforcement Services (IES) in conjunction with the police, Home Affairs and the Hawks.

 “The arrests followed a tip-off that the Chinese nationals were allegedly involved in the trafficking of illegal immigrants and subjecting them to forced labour,” said Department spokesperson Tebogo Thejane.

During the blitz, 91 Malawian nationals were found in the factory, 37 of whom were children.

“The Court has since heard that the Malawians working in the factory were transported to South Africa using containers. The Malawians are alleged to have been brought to South Africa by a middleman known as 'the transporter' who is still on the run,” said the department.

Mpumalanga police rescue 50 suspected victims of human trafficking

SABC | @SABCNewsOnline 26 October 2019

[accessed 27 October 2019]

Police in Mpumalanga have rescued 50 suspected victims of human trafficking from various houses in eMalahleni. This after a raid was conducted on Saturday morning to rid the area of drugs and prostitution.

The women claim to have been kept against their will and forced to do sex work.

About 150 people were taken in for questioning.

Of the women rescued, some were sex workers and others captured against their will.

Human trafficking suspect to appear in court

SABCNewsOnline, 18 June 2019

[accessed 18 June 2019]

[name withheld] was arrested after a woman escaped from a house where she was allegedly held captive and forced to be a prostitute.

According to the Hawks in Mpumalanga, the victim was recruited by a friend with a promise of an immediate job.

Hawks spokesperson in Mpumalanga Dineo Sekgotodi says the woman was taken to a house where she found other girls who were all allegedly forced into drugs and prostitution.

2020 Country Reports on Human Rights Practices: South Africa

U.S. Dept of State Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor, 30 March 2021

[accessed 24 June 2021]


Boys, particularly migrant boys, were forced to work in street vending, food services, begging, criminal activities, and agriculture (see section 7.c.). Women from Asia and neighboring African countries were recruited for legitimate work, but some were subjected to domestic servitude or forced labor in the service sector. There were also reports by NGOs of forced labor in the agricultural, mining, and fishing sectors.


Children were found working as domestic laborers, street workers, and scavenging garbage for food items and recyclable items. Boys, particularly migrant boys, were forced to work in street vending, food services, begging, criminal activities, and agriculture.

Freedom House Country Report

2020 Edition

[accessed 7 July 2020]


Inequality levels in South Africa are among the highest in the world. Only a small percentage of the population benefits from large state industries, and the economy is controlled by a relatively small number of people belonging to the political and business elite. The government, businesses, and the biggest labor federation agreed to institute a minimum wage, which was implemented in January 2019. In October, finance minister Tito Mboweni proposed exempting small businesses from the law, but he encountered opposition from the COSATU and SACP, the ANC’s coalition partners, later that month. High levels of unemployment persist.

South Africans predominantly from rural regions, as well as foreign migrants, are vulnerable to sex trafficking and forced labor. Organized criminal syndicates are responsible for the bulk of trafficking.

2017 Findings on the Worst Forms of Child Labor

Office of Child Labor, Forced Labor, and Human Trafficking, Bureau of International Labor Affairs, US Dept of Labor, 2018

[accessed 22 April 2019]

[accessed 6 May 2020]

Note:: Also check out this country’s report in the more recent edition DOL Worst Forms of Child Labor

[page 903]

South Africa is a source, transit, and destination country for child trafficking. Children are trafficked from rural areas to the cities of Bloemfontein, Cape Town, Durban, and Johannesburg. (2) Girls are mainly victimized for commercial sexual exploitation and domestic work, while boys are forced to work in street vending, food service, and begging. (17; 26; 27; 28; 2)

Every five years, the government publishes data on youth activities, including on child labor. (1) In March 2017, the government released its 2015 Survey of Activities of Young People; the survey results stated that 557,000 child laborers were identified in the country. In KwaZulu-Natal province, approximately 1 out of 10 children were engaged in child labor, the highest percentage of all provinces. (5) Additionally, the 2015 UNAIDS report, which was published in 2017, showed that 2.1 million South African children were newly orphaned due to AIDS in 2015; this number has not declined since 2011. (29; 30) Orphaned children and those with disabilities are especially vulnerable to child labor, such as forced begging. (9; 31).

Human trafficking expands in KZN

Barbara Cole, Independent Online (IOL) News, September 15 2008

[accessed 23 December 2010]

BELIEF - The Daily News has learned of several cases in this province of girls from other countries - Mozambique and Thailand - some enticed here by the mistaken belief they would be working in restaurants. Thai girls have been "partially deceived" about what life in KwaZulu-Natal and the country holds in store for them. Already sex workers, they have been told they will earn more money in South Africa. But when they get here, they find they can only work for themselves after they have paid back the trafficker.

The workshop heard about one case where a girl had almost paid back her trafficker, only to find she was then sold to another trafficker. "They are regarded as property," said Mia Immelback, of the International Organisation for Migration (IOM), who is helping the Southern African Counter-Trafficking Assistance Programme.

War against trafficking - SA must enact laws to nail perpetrators

Lowesa Stuurman, (Researcher at the South African Law Commission), Sowetan, 12 March 2008

At one time this article had been archived and may possibly still be accessible [here]

[accessed 11 September 2011]

Despite the best efforts of South African courts to clamp down on practices related to human trafficking, they are limited by current legislation, so it is important to promulgate comprehensive trafficking legislation.

Combating Human Trafficking: A South African Legal Perspective [PDF]

Hester Beatrix Kruger, Thesis for degree Doctor Legum, Faculty of Law, University of the Free State, November 2010

[accessed 16 February 2018]

The aim of the study is threefold: first, to provide a better understanding of the multifaceted human trafficking crime; secondly, to clarify obligations to combat human trafficking contained in relevant international and African regional instruments; and, thirdly, to analyse the South African legal response for combating trafficking and to assess whether this response complies with the identified international and African regional obligations.

Legalise prostitution for 2010

Xolani Mbanjwa, Independent Online (IOL) News, December 7 2007

[accessed 23 December 2010]

Prostitution needs to be legalised in South Africa ahead of the several hundred thousand football fans expected to arrive for the 2010 Fifa World Cup. Child and human rights organisations have warned that human trafficking could worsen in the country ahead of the World Cup, with "trafficked" women and children being forced into the sex industry. The experts say that the only way to prevent this is to decriminalise prostitution and promulgate trafficking laws.

Alleged child trafficker walks free

Raffaella Delle Donne, Independent Online (IOL) News, December 1 2007 at 01:09pm

[accessed 23 December 2010]

Lured by promises of work and a new life in the big city, children as young as 13 are being brought to Cape Town from rural towns to work on fruit and flower stalls. When they are not working, these children are prisoners in a Wendy house in the back garden of their employer. They are fed, but rarely paid. Many run away and, alone in a strange city, take to the streets to join Cape Town's brigade of street children. - htsc

Judges asked to clamp down on trafficking

South African Press Association SAPA, October 19 2007

[accessed 23 December 2010]

"Malawian women are sold by Nigerian syndicates... to Germany, Italy and Belgium, and this all happens via South Africa." She said South Africans themselves were being trafficked to Hong Kong and Macau. Chinese traffickers were using Johannesburg as a transit point for Swaziland, Lesotho and Mozambique, Majokweni said. Russian and Bulgarian women were exploited in private clubs and venues in Johannesburg.

Human trafficking as terrible as slavery

South African Press Association SAPA, October 19 2007

[accessed 23 December 2010]

Langa also said about 1 000 Mozambican girls and women were trafficked annually in SA. He said they were lured with promises of lucrative jobs or picked up at taxi ranks while searching for a lift. "After crossing the border, many women are subjected to an 'initiation' rape at transit houses near the border. "The girls are then sold as 'wives' to men on the mines in the West Rand for around R650 or to SA brothels for R1 000."

Women and children trafficked at SA border

Troy Martens and Vivian Attwood, Independent Online (IOL) News, September 18 2007

[accessed 23 December 2010]

EXTENSIVE - "It is not uncommon in SA for women and children to be trafficked within the borders and sold to brothels in different cities," she said. She described the trafficking chain as "extensive and highly organised". Victims, said Toughey, are passed from person to person.

"In the case of cross border trafficking, girls are kept in appalling conditions, smuggled into the country in the backs of trucks, in taxis, cars and in some cases even on foot or in containers as stowaways on ships. They are beaten and abused and often do not speak any South African language".

Tara, a former prostitute, said more and more young girls under the age of 10 were arriving in the city from rural areas. The South African Law Reform commission is currently drafting legislation criminalising the trafficking of humans.

UN urges action on 'scary' levels of trafficking in southern Africa

Agence France-Presse AFP, 03 SEP 2007

[accessed 22 August 2014]

‘None of the countries in southern Africa has specific anti-human trafficking legislation in place,' Thomas Zindl-Cronin of the UN Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) told reporters in Johannesburg. Specific legislation to tackle the issue was needed to help the law enforcement agencies get to grips with the situation. 'South Africa and Mozambique are more advanced than the rest of the region, but the capacity of the police and the judiciary to deal with the problem is low.’

Human trafficking in the sex industry

South African Press Association SAPA, July 31 2007

[accessed 23 December 2010]

Preliminary research suggests that human trafficking in the sex industry in Cape Town might not be as prevalent as first thought, a seminar on trafficking and "sexploitation" heard on Tuesday. "The numbers probably aren't as high as we initially assessed them to be but we still need to do something about it," said Chandre Gould, senior researcher at the Institute for Security Studies (ISS) at a seminar at the University of the Witwatersrand in Johannesburg.

Gould was speaking on the early indications of research by the ISS and the Sex Worker Education and Advocacy Taskforce (Sweat) to determine the nature and extent of human trafficking in Cape Town's sex industry. The number of victims of trafficking who required assistance from the state were suggested to be "relatively few" and to form a "small percentage" of the population of the sex work industry.

SA hotbed of human trafficking

Rebecca Wynn (IOM's Southern African Counter-Trafficking Assistance Programme): COMMENT - Jun 05 2007

[accessed 6 May 2020]

For 15-year-old Faith, the impact was devastating. Struggling to make ends meet in Bulawayo, Zimbabwe, she was approached by a man offering waitressing at a Johannesburg restaurant. But the promise was false. There was no restaurant job. Once in Johannesburg, Faith was beaten, abused, locked in a Hillbrow flat and forced into prostitution to earn profits for her traffickers.

New study shames human traffickers

Patrick Mathangani, The Standard, 11 May 2007

At one time this article had been archived and may possibly still be accessible [here]

[accessed 11 September 2011]

International Confederation of Free Trade Unions (ICFTU) says Kenyans were also trafficked to Germany, Italy and South Africa for domestic labour and prostitution.

Its report, ‘Trafficking in Persons — The Eastern Africa Situation’, notes that women and children were favourite targets for well-organised trafficking rings, which operate freely for lack of solid laws against the vice.

Human, drug trafficking at border on the rise

South African Press Association SAPA, Maputo, March 6 2007

[accessed 23 December 2010]

"We are currently not pre-occupied with people who enter illegally into South Africa or Swaziland to buy two or three kilograms of rice, but those who use the illegal points for criminal activities," she said. Apart from facilitating human trafficking, she said these points also assisted criminals to traffic drugs and illegal arms between the countries.

Organisations working with trafficked women say more than 1000 Mozambican women are trafficked each year, mostly to South Africa.

Caught In Traffic

Show: Carte Blanche, Producer: First Edit, Date: 28 January 2007

[accessed 23 December 2010]

Every month thousands of children are smuggled by greedy opportunists and syndicates across our international and provincial borders. Once on the other side, they are sold as domestic workers, for criminal activities, or for hard labour on farms. And many of the young girls are forced into prostitution.

Cops probed in human trafficking case

Sibusiso Ngalwa, Independent Online (IOL) News, December 24 2006

[accessed 23 December 2010]

Police are investigating the role of fellow officers in an alleged human trafficking case involving 26 Thai women who were arrested in a dramatic raid on Durban's After Dark "gentlemen's club" last weekend.

The probe has also been widened to include the murder of a young Thai woman, whose battered body was found near the N3 at Camperdown last month. The woman had been in the country illegally and was believed to have been working as a prostitute in a brothel in the Midlands.

Human trafficking rife in SA

Lebogang Seale, Independent Online (IOL) News, 7 December 2006

[accessed 23 December 2010]

They are promised a better life in South Africa, but instead they are kidnapped, branded and sold into sexual slavery for as little as R380. Women and children, some as young as 13, are falling prey to syndicates operating in Mozambique and Swaziland, trafficking and smuggling them to South Africa on an unprecedented scale.

Warning on human trafficking

Tabelo Timse, THE HERALD NEWSPAPER, PE, RSA, 15 Nov 2006

At one time this article had been archived and may possibly still be accessible [here]

[accessed 11 September 2011]

The report said women and children were brought into the county by syndicates, individual agents, Nigerian drug lords, Congolese businesspeople, Angolan crime groups, South African farmers, and Chinese triads.

Women trafficked from Port Elizabeth to a Cape Town agency said they had ended up in sex work after responding to advertisements in newspapers. Upon arrival in Cape Town, the women were informed that their work involved sex and that they were now debt-bonded to the agency for the costs of their travel, accommodation and food.

Human trafficking a grave concern in SA

[access information unavailable]

"But certainly women and children are being trafficked from Zimbabwe into South Africa for sexual exploitation through syndicates that are being run by taxi drivers who do the recruiting and transporting. Also involved are brothel owners who force the trafficked women to work as prostitutes for little or no pay,"said Blackman.

She explained that most women were lured by false promises to work in restaurants or with promises of scholarship, school and study. She expressed concern at the lack of legisaltion that dealt with trafficking as a crime but indicated that there was now progress in redressing this problem area.

Human trafficking: 4 Asians held

Graeme Hosken, Independent Online (IOL) News, October 13 2006

[accessed 23 December 2010]

A Bangladeshi man allegedly posing as a department of home affairs official was among four people arrested on Thursday as part of a police investigation into a human-trafficking gang.

The arrests once again highlighted the plight of thousands of people trafficked into South Africa every year, for among others, sexual exploitation. The victims - including women and children - are known to come from as far afield as Eastern Europe, Thailand and Africa, according to International Organisation of Migration (IOM).

Women sold into prostitution by gamblers

Tash Reddy, Independent Online (IOL) News, October 22 2005

[accessed 23 December 2010]

Women married to compulsive gamblers are being raped or forced into prostitution by loan sharks after being used as collateral by their addicted husbands. And the lack of action by the KZN Gambling Board, among others, is exacerbating the problem.

City a 'human trafficking centre'

Candes Keating, Innocence in Danger IED, Cape Argus, 26.08.2005

At one time, the article had been accessible [here]

[accessed 11 September 2011]

Cape Town and its surrounding regions have been identified as a centre for one of the fastest-growing and most lucrative enterprises in the world - human trafficking.

Speaking at the launch, at the Slave Lodge in the city, Jonathan Lucas of the UN office said South Africa's legislation and law enforcement was inefficient in dealing with the trafficking of people, which he described as one of the fastest growing industries worldwide.

Community Safety MEC Leonard Ramatlakane said the city remained a "targeted port of entry" by child traffickers, creating "a major problem".  He said the Western Cape had experienced growing concern over children who went missing.

Women Must Expose Sex-Trafficking Cartels

Source:, Date of publication: 08 March 2005

[accessed 24 June 2013]

The 18 women, according to police, had been locked in a house by the home owner and not allowed to leave the premises. The women are now receiving counseling before they face being deported.

But the extent of human trafficking is not limited to women, with children often being the victims. Edwards said that in South Africa, they had found that families were selling off younger children. She said sometimes parents believed traffickers would give them a better future.

The Cost Of Human Trafficking

South African Press Association SAPA, Johannesburg, 2005-02-16

[accessed 23 December 2010]

It costs R50 000 a head to move people between certain countries, a witness said in a Johannesburg High Court murder trial that involved allegations of "human trafficking". This was said by Ali Tarssawari, who turned State witness after having been in the dock for allegedly trying to cover up the execution-style murder of Mozambican immigrant Fatima Momade and her daughter, Nazia, 11. He said this fee related to two Pakistanis who were "moved" from South Africa to France.

Tutu calls for child registration

BBC News, 22 February 2005

[accessed 23 December 2010]

In South Asia alone, there are no records for six out of every 10 babies, campaign organisers Plan say. The agency fears around half a billion children worldwide may be unregistered. Archbishop Tutu said a birth document was important because it "proves who you are". Without it children are often barred from education, health care and citizenship. "It is, in a very real sense, a matter of life and death," the Nobel Peace Prize laureate told a news conference at the UN headquarters in New York. "The unregistered child is a nonentity. The unregistered child does not exist. How can we live with the knowledge that we could have made a difference?"

South Africa Linked in the Global Human Trafficking

Yazeed Kamaldien, Inter Press Service News Agency IPS, Johannesburg, Mar 8, 2005

[accessed 23 December 2010]

[accessed 25 February 2019]

Human trafficking, particularly of women and children, in South Africa is not slowing down while the country’s government has not yet implemented legislation recognising this vicious flesh trade as a crime. With legislation, activists like Vanessa Anthony, a researcher and counsellor with child rights non-governmental organisation, Molo Songololo, can see justice for the victims she deals with. Anthony says it recently ‘’took eight years to jail a man who kidnapped, gang-raped and exploited girls as young as 13’’.

Counter-Trafficking Information Campaign in South Africa, News & Updates, March 2005

[accessed 23 December 2010]

As part of its Southern African Counter-Trafficking Programme (SACTAP), the IOM office for Southern Africa will launch on 25 April three information posters, which will feature prominently in the on-going information campaign "Seduced, Imported, Sold"

All posters feature IOM's national 24-hour toll-free telephone helpline 0800 555 999, which was set up in August 2004 to encourage members of the public to report known or suspected cases of sex-trafficking and to inform victims in South Africa that they can seek help.

FORGOTTEN SCHOOLS: Right to Basic Education for Children on Farms in South Africa

Human Rights Watch, 2 JUNE 2004

[accessed 23 December 2010]

The government faces enormous challenges in attempting to protect the rights of those living in remote rural areas, particularly the right of children living on commercial farms to education. The present government has inherited a situation where a child may have to endure long journeys on foot, be unable to meet schools fees or pay for a school uniform. All these needs create a burden on the child and parent(s).

The South African government has inherited an education system in rural areas based on racial, social and economic inequalities. Through the 1996 constitution and the ratification of international human rights law pertaining to children’s rights to education, the government is obliged to protect the right to an education. Children living on farms have the right to receive an education freely and in an environment conducive to learning.

South Africa: Caution urged over new human trafficking laws

U.N. Integrated Regional Information Networks IRIN, Johannesburg, 19 October 2004

[accessed 9 March 2015]

EXTENT OF THE PROBLEM NOT KNOWN - According to the Geneva-based International Organisation for Migration (IOM), South Africa is the regional centre of an intricate trafficking network that recruits women and children from Mozambique, Angola, Malawi, Eastern Europe, Thailand and China.

However, Ted Leggett, a researcher with the Institute for Security Studies (ISS), recently questioned the benefit of promulgating new anti-trafficking legislation. In an ISS article titled, 'The Risks of Human Trafficking Legislation', Leggett argued that the extent of trafficking in South Africa was unclear. The South African Law Reform Commission (SALRC), which is investigating the proposed legislation, "draws its ideas about the extent and nature of the local [trafficking] problem almost entirely from two pieces of primary research ... [which] are hinged on the direct experiences of less than 35 people", Leggett pointed out. Although both pieces of work "profess to be preliminary investigations, in the absence of other research they are being taken as authoritative".

Commenting on the unverified need for additional legislation, Leggett noted that "the bottom line is that virtually everything that is part of trafficking is already illegal, and simply generating more legislation is unlikely to revolutionise the situation". He suggested that "no policy decision should be taken in this area without further research".

Sexual abuse of young children in southern Africa

Higson-Smith, C. & Richter, L. (2004) Commercial sexual exploitation and trafficking of children. In Sexual abuse of young children in southern Africa, Cape Town: HSRC Press. 143-175

At one time this article had been archived and may possibly still be accessible [here]

[accessed 11 September 2011]

In this chapter the authors argue that both commercial sexual exploitation if children and trafficking in children are significant and growing problems in southern Africa. Although sex tourism is one aspect of this problem, the underlying causes of the sexual exploitation of children are firmly embedded in social inequalities, corruption, gender discrimination, cheap labour practices and poor educational opportunities. Worsening poverty among especially vulnerable families and communities affected by HIV/AIDS, and the increasing adult mortality associated with AIDS-illness, are creating, potentially very dangerous situation for children. Under these conditions, children prematurely engage in livelihood activities, most in demand and lucrative if which is sex.

38 000 child prostitutes in SA

South African Press Association SAPA, Pretoria, 11 May 2004

[accessed 23 December 2010]

South Africa is a major destination and source for international trafficking of children, a conference on human trafficking heard in Pretoria on Tuesday. Susan Kreston of the Council of the National Centre for Justice and the Rule of Law in the USA told the conference - arranged by the Institute for Security Studies - that between 28 000 and 38 000 children were currently being prostituted in South Africa. "Up to 25% of prostitutes in South Africa are children, and up to 25% of street children (are prostitutes)," she told the conference.

Human Trafficking Stretches Across the Region

Moyiga Nduru, Benoni SA, Inter Press Service News Agency IPS, June 23, 2004

[accessed 19 February 2011]

[accessed 22 September 2016]

IOM official Jonathan Martens told a three-day conference which opened in Benoni, near South Africa's main commercial city of Johannesburg, this week (Jun. 22) that the women are promised employment, luxury accommodation, and a payment of between 10,000 and 20,000 dollars. Their passports are confiscated once they arrive in Macau.

Martens said South African traffickers earn around 500 dollars for every woman recruited for prostitution in Macau, which has been labeled the "Las Vegas of Asia" for its numerous casinos and nightclubs. Drugs play a "very big role" in recruitment, he added.

A 23-year-old woman identified as Nicola reported to the IOM that she had met nine other black, white and mixed race South Africans aged 18 to 21 in Macau, who were forcibly prostituted in the former colony.

South Africa regional centre for human trafficking

U.N. Integrated Regional Information Networks IRIN, Johannesburg, 23 June 2004

[accessed 9 March 2015]

Mozambican women are recruited either through a "passive" or an "active" method by organised groups or minibus-taxi operators. The passive method targets female passengers already en route to South Africa. In the active method, traffickers offer women jobs as waitresses or sex workers in Johannesburg and charge R500 ($80) to smuggle them from the Mozambican capital, Maputo, through the Komatipoort or Ponta do Ouro border posts to South Africa.

"The women stay in transit houses along South Africa's border with Mozambique and Swaziland for a night, where they are sexually assaulted as an initiation. They are then smuggled into Johannesburg and are kept in safe houses in Soweto and Lenasia until they are sold to brothels in Gauteng or KwaZulu-Natal for R1,000 (about $160)," Martens said. The women are also sold as wives to South African men for R650 (about $104).

Initiative to fight human trafficking to be launched

U.N. Integrated Regional Information Networks IRIN, Johannesburg, 18 Jun 2004

[accessed 25 April 2012]

An initiative to build collaboration between government and NGOs to fight human trafficking will be launched at a conference in South Africa next week, according to the activist body, War Against Trafficking Alliance.

The Johannesburg conference beginning on 22 June will help put together a newly constituted national task team's agenda on combating human trafficking and is the fifth follow-up of a world summit held in Washington last year.

The global coalition will also release video footage documenting sex tourism in South Africa. "Leaders in the anti-trafficking movement must strive for balance in their efforts to provide long-term service provision and successful prosecution, conviction and sentencing for those who prey on the vulnerable," said founder of the coalition, Linda Smith. "I believe this video will shock participants and sustain the good efforts being made to put these predators behind bars."

SOUTHERN AFRICA: Major destination for traffickers in women and children

U.N. Integrated Regional Information Networks IRIN, Johannesburg, 23 April 2004

[accessed 9 March 2015]

The women and children are either sexually exploited, used as labour or their organs are harvested. While poverty has been recognised as the most "visible cause for trafficking human beings ... another strong determinant is the particular vulnerability of women and children, which makes them an easy target for traffickers". Patterns of oppression, discrimination, social and cultural prejudices, and the prevalence of gender violence put children and women at greater risk and ensures the flourishing of the trafficking trade.

Southern Africa: Conference On Human Trafficking Opens

U.N. Integrated Regional Information Networks IRIN, Johannesburg, 22 June 2004

[accessed 9 March 2015]

"I am young - but up here is old," says an 11-year-old girl working as a prostitute in Cape Town, pointing to her head - one of many images in hard-hitting footage on the sex industry, screened at the opening of a conference on human trafficking in South Africa on Tuesday.

A pimp in Cape Town, South Africa's tourism capital, who supplies eight- to 11-year-olds to sex tourists mainly from the US, Britain and Japan, commented in the film that children are sometimes tied with barbed wire and told to perform sexual acts on adults.

The footage was shot by the global coalition of NGOs. According to the South Africa-based child rights' activist organisation, Molo Songololo, 25 percent of prostitutes in Cape Town are children.

While the film alleged that child prostitution in Cape Town was run predominantly by a Nigerian syndicate, Smith said Russian, Bulgarian and Chinese crime groups were other major players in the human trafficking business in South Africa.

The country's attractive First World conditions - "clean water, good schools for their children" - were luring trafficking traders to the country, said Smith.

40 000 child prostitutes - Street children vulnerable to sex trade

A. Bolowana, 2004

[access date unavailable]

About 40 000 children in South Africa are involved in child prostitution and the figures are rising as more and more children are driven from their homes because of poverty, neglect and abuse. The child prostitutes - all under the age of 18 - are among 400 000 child labourers in the country, according to the Network Against Child Labour. Once on the streets, children are vulnerable to a booming sex trade and trafficking.

Seduction, Sale & Slavery: Trafficking In Women & Children For Sexual Exploitation In Southern Africa [PDF]

Jonathan Martens, Maciej ‘Mac’ Pieczkowski, Bernadette van Vuuren-Smyth, International Organization for Migration (IOM) Regional Office for Southern Africa, Pretoria, South Africa, May 2003

[accessed 25 April 2012]

[accessed 28 September 2016]

EXECUTIVE SUMMARY - The major findings may be summarized as follows:

Refugees are both victims and perpetrators of trafficking to South Africa. As male refugees encounter unemployment and xenophobia in South Africa, some choose to recruit female relatives from their countries of origin to South Africa. These women are usually 25 years and older, married and have children. Individual refugee traffickers are assisted by ethnically-based syndicates in delivering a recruiting letter to the victim in her country of origin, escorting her to South Africa, and sexually assaulting her as an initiation to sex work should she resist upon arrival. The refugee trafficker takes the earnings the woman receives as a sex worker and, to protect his investment, he assists her in applying for refugee status to prevent deportation if police detain her.

Concluding Observations of the Committee on the Rights of the Child (CRC)

UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, 28 January 2000

[accessed 23 December 2010]

[26] While the Committee notes that the Child Care Act (1996) provides for the regulation of adoptions, it is concerned at the lack of monitoring with respect to both domestic and inter-country adoptions as well as the widespread practice of informal adoptions within the State party. The Committee is also concerned at the inadequate legislation, policies and institutions to regulate inter-country adoptions.

[40] The Committee notes the efforts of the State party to address the situation of the sale, trafficking and abduction of children, including the adoption of the Hague Convention on Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction, into domestic legislation. However, the Committee is concerned about the increasing incidence of sale and trafficking of children, particularly girls, and the lack of adequate measures to enforce legislative guarantees and to prevent and combat this phenomenon.

Human Rights Overview by Human Rights Watch – Defending Human Rights Worldwide

Human Rights Watch

[accessed 23 December 2010]


Human Rights Reports » 2005 Country Reports on Human Rights Practices

U.S. Dept of State Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor, March 8, 2006

[accessed 11 February 2020]

TRAFFICKING IN PERSONS – The country was a destination, transit, and point of origin for the trafficking of persons, including children, from other countries in Africa, Asia, and Europe for prostitution and forced labor. A substantial number of persons were believed to be trafficked annually. Domestic and international organized crime syndicates trafficked women into the country for the sex industry. Young men were generally trafficked for agricultural work.

The extent of trafficking operations was unknown, but the International Organization for Migration (IOM) reported there were 12 major routes for trafficking operations, including Southern Africa, Asia, and Eastern Europe.

Trafficked women and children who worked in the sex industry often lived with other trafficked victims in segregated areas; were frequently under constant surveillance; usually had no money or identifying documents; were often indebted to the agents who arranged their travel; often worked long hours, in some cases up to 18 hours each day, on weekends, and when ill; and sometimes were fined by their trafficker for infractions of strict rules. Young men trafficked for forced agricultural labor often were subjected to violence and food rationing.

In most cases traffickers lured women with promises of employment, marriage, or educational opportunities abroad. Traffickers often lured the children of poor families with promises of jobs, education, or a better way of life. Victims, who could be kidnapped or forced to follow their traffickers, were subjected to threats of violence, withholding of documents, and debt bondage to ensure compliance.

The Department of Labor’s 2004 Findings on the Worst Forms of Child Labor

U.S. Dept of Labor Bureau of International Labor Affairs, 2005

[accessed 23 December 2010]

Note:: Also check out this country’s report in the more recent edition DOL Worst Forms of Child Labor

INCIDENCE AND NATURE OF CHILD LABOR - There are reports that child prostitution is increasing. There have been reports that some cities are becoming destinations for tourists seeking sex with minors. South Africa is an origin, transit, and destination country for children trafficked for the purpose of commercial sexual exploitation and forced labor. Children are reportedly trafficked from Botswana, Angola, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Ethiopia, Malawi, Zimbabwe, Swaziland, Lesotho, Mozambique, Zambia, Russia, Ukraine, Slovakia, and Thailand. Children are also trafficked from rural areas to urban areas for the purpose of domestic service. Children are also reportedly involved in pornography.

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