Social media and instant messaging platforms such as Whatsapp are becoming increasingly filled with reports of attempted human trafficking incidents and kidnappings. South Africans are being urged to exercise more caution in both day to day living and where employment or potential income opportunities arise.
Just days ago, an elderly Capetonian man was implicated in what was reported on as a possible case of human trafficking. News 24 earlier reported that although the man was initially charged with human trafficking, the charge was converted to a contravention of the Employment Services Act 4 of 2014.
“We have to be more vigilant and more careful. We can’t go through life thinking ‘nobody is going to hurt me’,” said national coordinator for the Salvation Army’s anti-human trafficking department, Major Margaret Stafford.
“People are saying there’s an increase [in human trafficking] but I’m not sure whether it is or whether we’re becoming more aware…”
Major Stafford summarised human trafficking as being “modern day slavery”, referring to the opportunistic “taking”, selling and exploitation of people in a variety of ways.
She also indicated that a case can only be considered human trafficking under certain conditions.
“For something to be considered human trafficking, three things need to happen: you have the act, means and a purpose.
The act is what happens – how you were recruited, transported, harboured, placed into a breaking ground, received and receipted. Then, the means is about how it happened – by force or deception? We look at the giving of money in order to obtain the services of the person and then we look at ongoing exploitation.
Sexual exploitation, labour exploitation, slavery-type servitude, all those things have to be present for us to look at it and say ‘Yes, this is a trafficking case’,” said Major Stafford.
Major Stafford reasoned that due to the value of the human trafficking industry rivalling the wealth of some countries, it is difficult to stop.
Despite this, however, she has urged young women in South Africa and around the world to not be afraid, but sensible.
“I always say to girls, ’Don’t let this make you so afraid that you don’t do anything in your life, but be sensible and clever. Be a step ahead’.”
“If you’re being offered a job in Turkey, find out everything you need to find out about what the job entails and what you need to have. Empower yourself – there are so many ways we can do that.”
Misleading parents, caregivers or friends about your whereabouts removes an important safety net, according to the Major.
“Stop going to parties and telling your parents you’re going somewhere when you’re actually going somewhere else, because then there’s no safety net. We don’t know where you are and we don’t know how to help you.”
The Salvation Army’s anti-human trafficking department is now paying increased attention to human trafficking and exploitation in the labour sector.