Representatives from the UNODC,
Representatives from government departments, the NPA and the SAPS
Ladies and gentlemen, friends
I’m sure many of you read the City Press article about trafficking over the weekend.
For those who may have missed it, the article is about Nomsa, – not her real name – a young South African woman who escaped from a gang of human traffickers.
In my view, the first aspect the article raises is when one looks at how her ordeal began.
The article mentions that she climbed into an ordinary taxi in one of our big cities. When she got inside, the driver pointed a gun at her and 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.
She was dragged from the passenger seat of the taxi and squashed into the boot of the car, which already had other girls in it. They injected Nomsa and the other two girls with a drug that made them drowsy.
This raises the issue where, when and how human traffickers operate – and how we must direct our anti-trafficking efforts accordingly.
The second aspect, and one which is crucial to today’s workshop, is the way in which the criminal justice system responds.
The article says that after Nomsa escaped, traumatised and petrified, she immediately told the police about her ordeal and informed them about the other young girls who had also been kidnapped.
But, says the article, “the response from the authorities was cold. Indifferent.”
When Nomsa escaped, she was near the border of South Africa and another sub-Saharan country, which, to protect her identity, cannot be named. She says:
“I told the police about those girls, but they said that only the Hawks, Interpol and others would follow up on leads…. 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 it appears that no trauma counselling or medical assistance was offered to her and she had to go to her private doctor for the necessary help and treatment.
This raises many questions – for one, why was she not sent to a place of safety? Why was she not sent to a Thuthuzela Care Centre where she could have received the necessary medical and psychological support services? And how do the various role-players in the criminal justice system respond to trafficking cases?
This is why workshops such as today’s workshop are so vitally important.
And this is also why the work of GLO.ACT is so important.
As you know, the Global Action to Prevent and Address Trafficking in Persons and the Smuggling of Migrants is a four-year (2015-2019) joint initiative by the European Union and the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime being implemented in partnership with the International Organization for Migration and the United Nations Children's Fund.
The programme forms part of a joint response to trafficking in persons and the smuggling of migrants and it is expected to be delivered in up to 15 strategically selected countries across Africa, Asia, Eastern Europe and Latin America.
The focus is on assistance to governmental authorities, civil society organizations, victims of trafficking and smuggled migrants and the programme aims to assist selected countries in developing and implementing comprehensive national counter-trafficking and counter-smuggling responses.
A dual prevention and protection approach has been adopted and includes six key responses linked to strategy and policy development; legislative assistance; capacity building; regional and trans-regional cooperation; protection and assistance to victims, and assistance and support to child victims of trafficking and smuggled migrants.
This workshop falls under the third intervention, namely capacity building.
One of the key outcomes of the successful Trafficking in Persons (TIP) information sharing workshop that took place in June 2017, was that a lack of practical training and capacity building were identified as one of the main challenges to the successful implementation of the Prevention and Combatting of Trafficking in Persons Act in South Africa.
Furthermore, participants agreed that there was a need to develop a standardized TIP manual for criminal justice practitioners, relevant within the South African context.
In order to address these challenges, GLO.ACT with our Department, the Department of Justice and Constitutional Development, facilitated the first working session of the recently established national inter-sectoral training committee on TIP in South Africa on the 12th of July.
The training committee will review Terms of Reference (TOR) for an expert who will do an evaluation of existing training curricula on TIP in South Africa.
This work will include the mapping of existing resources, identifying barriers to institutionalization and making recommendations. The idea is to streamline training programmes for criminal justice practitioners in South Africa.
The review of the TOR for an expert who will develop a standard TIP manual for criminal justice practitioners that should include, but is not limited to, the social context for South Africa, response mechanisms in the South African context and South African legislation citing South African TIP cases.
The committee will also develop a roadmap for the roll-out of TIP training initiatives and awareness campaigns and evaluate the impact of the TIP training and its relevance within the South African context.
Representatives from the following departments and organization are committee members: the Department of Justice and Constitutional Development, the South African Police Services, the National Department of Health, the Justice College, the Department of Social Development, the Department of Home Affairs, the National Prosecuting Authority, the National Freedom Network, UNODC and civil society representatives.
The way in which the criminal justice system responds is crucial if we are to combat and prevent trafficking in persons.
For example, in order to identify victims of trafficking, proactive policing is required where brothels, for example, are raided. It is vital to look at common links, perpetrators and patterns where these types of crimes are suspected, and thus training and sensitisation of stakeholders is so important.
Our Act also highlights the importance of training and provides that the Director General of the Department of Justice and Constitutional Development, the National Commissioner of SAPS, the National Director of Public Prosecutions, and the Directors General of Home Affairs, Labour and Social Development “must each develop training courses . . . to ensure that all police officials, prosecutors and other functionaries are able to deal with matters relating to trafficking in persons in an appropriate, efficient and sensitive manner.”
When cases of trafficking in persons do come to light, stakeholders must be empowered and know the relevant Policies, Regulations, National Instructions, Directives or provisions contained in the Prevention and Combatting of Trafficking in Persons Act.
If not, such a failure to refer the victims properly, failure to recognise trafficking in persons and failure to assist the victims as per the Act, will have dire consequences for the victims who are in many instances left stranded.
Role-players tell me that when the cases are finally referred to the Provincial Trafficking in Persons Task Team the members of the Task Teams have to “play catch up” and, for example, do emergency placements, medical examinations and status verification which could, and should, have been done proactively.
We believe that the intensive training and skills development of workshops such as these will make a big difference in the way the criminal justice system responds.
We are confident that this workshop will assist participants to identify victims of trafficking in persons and hence be better placed to respond to victim identification and to better understand their respective roles and responsibilities in terms of the Act.
And I also want to give credit where credit is due. Marcel van der Watt from the National Freedom Network is quoted as saying that –
“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….
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.”
But, he also says, correctly, that at this stage, the successes pale in comparison to the work that still needs to be done.
Ladies and gentlemen, there is indeed much that still has to be done. The real work lies ahead.
I wish you all the very best for the workshop. I don’t know how many of you are fans of The Lord of the Rings by JRR Tolkien? But in book 1, when Gandalf explains the history of the ring to Frodo, he says something which is universally true for us all. He says –
“All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given us.”
Let us decide to use our time wisely and to use today to help combat and prevent human trafficking. I thank you.