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Keynote Address by the Deputy Minister of Justice and Constitutional Development, the Hon JH Jeffery, MP, at a Symposium on Human Trafficking hosted by the Department of Justice & Constitutional Development, the South African Human Rights Commission and the Conference of Western Attorneys General (CWAG) Africa Alliance Partnership, held at the Capitol Hotel, 101 Katherine Street, Sandton, 5 November 2018

Programme Director,
Distinguished guests,
Ladies and gentlemen,

Good morning, and a special word of welcome to those of you who are visiting our country for the first time.

I want to thank the Conference of Western Attorneys General Africa Alliance Partnership for their interest and their involvement in this symposium.

For those who don’t know, the Africa Alliance Partnership was established in 2016 to establish and foster relationships with justice and law enforcement agencies and officials throughout Africa to support the rule of law and combat transnational criminal activity. It collaborates with a number of key stakeholders to share knowledge and experience in the fight against crimes like human trafficking.

We are very pleased to inform you that, last week, we came a step closer to finalising our National Policy Framework on Trafficking in Persons. The Policy Framework is currently awaiting Ministerial approval.

Furthermore, our partnership with the Global Action against Trafficking in Persons and Smuggling of Migrants (GLO.ACT), to assist our Government to strengthen its response in addressing trafficking in persons in the area of policy development and coordination, is going from strength to strength. 

Proper cooperation and coordination – between law enforcement agencies, government departments and civil society organisations - is vital if we want to combat and prevent trafficking in persons.

Some of you may have seen that the Pretoria High Court recently handed down an effective 12 years’ and an effective 18 years’ respective sentences to two persons convicted of human trafficking.

The two were arrested following a multidisciplinary raid at a block of flats in Sunnyside, Pretoria. The joint operation was led by the Hawks supported by the SAPS Tactical Response Team, the Department of Home Affairs, the SAPS’ National Intervention Unit, the K9 Unit, the SAPS’ Local Criminal Record Centre, the Metro Police and the Forensic Science Laboratory.

Following the raid, the two female victims recounted their harrowing ordeal and stated that they were held against their will. The victims revealed that they were subjected to beatings and coerced into a life of drugs and prostitution, while the traffickers benefitted financially.

The victims were subsequently placed at a place of safety and their testimonies were crucial in the successful convictions.

Our Prevention and Combatting of Trafficking in Persons Act came into operation in August 2015.

South Africa’s efforts are directed at all forms of TIP – in other words, not only sex trafficking, but ALL forms of trafficking in persons, thereby creating a comprehensive legal tool to combat trafficking in persons in all its forms.

Prior to the passing of the Act, a National Action Plan had already been developed which enabled the coordination of preventative initiatives, criminal justice responses, training, public education and improvement of services to victims of human trafficking. 

In 2012, the National Prosecuting Authority’s Sexual Offences and Community Affairs Unit (SOCA) also established a Trafficking in Persons Task Team. The Task Team developed comprehensive policy directives, as well as annexures to charge sheets, training manuals and data collection tools.

The aims of the TIP Act can only be achieved through proper coordination. This cannot be overemphasised, in particular because the Act can only be effectively implemented in an integrated and multi-disciplinary manner.

The South African government has already put structures in place at national and provincial levels.

A National Inter-sectoral Committee on Trafficking in Persons which comprises of national departmental representatives from, amongst others, Justice and Constitutional Development, Health, Home Affairs, International Relations and  Cooperation, Labour, Social Development, Women, the SAPS, the NPA as well as civil society organizations was established.  

The Committee leads the implementation and administration of the Act at a national government level.

Provincial Task Teams on Trafficking in Persons were also established as well as Provincial Rapid Response Teams to attend to operational matters relating to suspected complaints and pending cases of trafficking in persons and providing support to victims. 

Efforts are ongoing to ensure that such structures are adequately resourced and effectively represented from both a government and civil society perspective.

Some of the cross-cutting challenges being experienced in our trafficking prevention, protection and prosecution efforts, lie in the areas of knowledge management and research; capacity building and development and monitoring and evaluation.

Strengthening our national efforts to combat trafficking in persons requires a better understanding of the scope and nature of the crime, particularly the labour exploitation dimension, something which is perhaps not yet adequately understood by some key role-players.

Another major challenge for us is that the TIP figures simply don’t tally.

Some of the figures claimed by civil society organisations and what we see in the media – in particular on social media – and the figures reported via law enforcement channels don’t match up. 

I have often spoken about the problem of the huge discrepancy between the anecdotal figures and accounts of TIP in South Africa coming from some of the NGOs and the official figures of cases reported to the SAPS. 

In a recent News24 article Sarah Evans writes that in January, a Facebook post claiming that a child is kidnapped every 30 seconds went viral. The Facebook post was shared over 3 000 times. Africa Check then researched the issue and debunked the claim. 

Africa Check also pointed out that if true, it would mean that over a million children went missing every year – yet, the figure of children that were reported missing to the police was considerably lower, at 996, in 2016.

As you know, in South Africa, there is currently no systematic collection and analysis of data on trafficking in persons and the smuggling of migrants. 

This means that there is no integrated information management system for human trafficking offenders and victims. This gap hinders government’s policy response to enforce and implement our TIP Act.

There is also a need for quantitative and qualitative research. Quantitative data should be disaggregated and the baseline information must form the underpinning of a national integrated information system.

Qualitative research on the other-hand, should deal with amongst others, the “push” and “pull” factors pertaining to legal, social, cultural and economic circumstances that lead to vulnerability to trafficking.
Partnering with institutions researching on issues such as routes, changes in patterns and trends and modus operandi of the perpetrators remains key to the effective combating of the crime of trafficking.

A two-day workshop was convened in July this year, consisting of representatives of different government departments and civil society, where it was agreed, amongst others, that South African should adopt the SADC Tool on human trafficking, after adapting it to suit our specific conditions.  Processes are currently underway to obtain Cabinet approval for this.

Ladies and gentlemen,

We fully agree with the UN Special Rapporteur on trafficking in persons when she recently said that trafficking must be considered as a violation of human rights, not just a security issue.

It is also noteworthy that the Special Rapporteur highlighted the value of cooperation and partnership in her report when she recommended that national and local authorities and civil society organisations should be involved in procedures to detect trafficking cases and indications of the risk of trafficking, as well as in the organisation of assistance, protection and support for victims or potential victims.

We are also heartened by the awarding of the joint 2018 Nobel Peace Prize to Ms Nadia Murad.

As you know, Ms. Murad is the UN Goodwill Ambassador for the Dignity of Survivors of Human Trafficking. She is a human rights activist from the persecuted Yazidi religious minority in Iraq and a former captive of ISIS.

Ms Murad and about 3,000 other Yazidi women were kidnapped and sold into sexual slavery by ISIS in 2014. She is the first-ever human trafficking survivor to serve as a United Nations Goodwill Ambassador.

In response to her winning the award, the UNODC’s Executive Director hailed Ms. Murad's courage and said that it –

“… reminds us that we must always listen to the people who have been most affected and harmed by the crimes we seek to stop”.

This is indeed a commendable reminder to all of us who work in the areas of law enforcement, justice and human rights.

In closing, I would once again like to thank everyone involved in the organising of this symposium, in particular, the Conference of Western Attorneys-General for their invaluable support.

We need to explore cooperation with organisations like CWAG and make use of their offers of technical assistance and training. I trust that the National Prosecuting Authority will look at areas where it requires support and that we can build on, and further strengthen, this relationship.

I think the real challenge, for all of us, lies in events not becoming mere talk-shops, but rather becoming agenda-setting events, which we follow up with concrete and practical steps for implementation. 

And I therefore wish you all the best for very fruitful and productive deliberations.

I thank you.