Cablegate: Iom Survey: Human Trafficking Inside South Africa

DE RUEHSA #2249/01 2890800
R 150800Z OCT 08



E.O. 12958: N/A



1. A survey of internal trafficking in persons (TIP) due for
release on October 29 reveals that TIP is a nationwide
problem in South Africa, with domestic as well as
cross-border victims. Funded by USAID under the auspices of
the International Organization for Migration (IOM), the
survey indicates that criminal TIP activities include not
just commercial sexual exploitation but also domestic
servitude; agricultural labor; street work -- such as
vending, begging, and crime; and the "muti" practice of
harvesting human body parts for traditional medicine. The
report's poignant case stories promise to attract media
attention, improve public awareness, and enhance SAG
knowledge of trafficking patterns. While passage of draft
legislation remains the key hurdle to mobilizing a
comprehensive anti-TIP effort, in the meantime IOM and the
SAG are working to educate law enforcement and the public.
End Summary.

IOM Survey Overview

2. On September 11 researcher Laura Gauer Bermudez previewed
to USAID and poloff the results of her survey of "internal"
(domestic) trafficking in persons (TIP). Funded by USAID
under the auspices of the International Organization for
Migration (IOM), the study was conducted from March through
June 2008 in all nine provinces of South Africa. A total of
225 community activists, church and social workers, and law
enforcement personnel were polled on awareness of various
types of trafficking, and information was then gathered on
modes of recruitment, transport, and exploitation. The final
report, due for release on October 29, includes powerful
personal stories likely to draw much-needed attention to the
TIP problem. The internal survey also paves the way for a
regional multi-country TIP study which the SAG will contract
late this year.

SA Vulnerabilities: Poverty, AIDS,...

3. Poverty and economic disparity, AIDS, widespread gender
violence, and lack of TIP legislation make South Africans
especially vulnerable to trafficking. With half the
population below the poverty line and unemployment at 23
percent, many who are desperate for work will trust promises
of jobs in faraway places where the economy is robust.
Economic migration, a longstanding practice for men, is
increasing among women breadwinners and even child orphans,
as the AIDS epidemic destroys families. Fear of HIV/AIDS has
also fueled demand for virgins and children in the sex
industry. In a largely patriarchal culture with
exceptionally high prevalence of rape and gender violence,
victims fleeing forced marriages or family abuse may fall
prey to traffickers. Comprehensive legislation against TIP
is still in draft, handicapping efforts to pursue and
prosecute offenders.

53 Percent Awareness of 5 TIP Types

4. While IOM correctly cautions that its sample size was too
small and deliberately selected to be generalized, the survey
nevertheless indicated a high prevalence of trafficking
nationwide. Among all 225 respondents, 53 percent were
directly aware of TIP (e.g. directly assisting victims), 18
percent were indirectly aware of it (believing it occured
locally but unable to cite specific cases), and 29 percent
were unaware of it occurring in their areas. Respondents
Qwere unaware of it occurring in their areas. Respondents
unaware of TIP were generally in managerial rather than
front-line roles. Whites and Indians were most often unaware
of TIP, whereas direct awareness was most common among blacks
and persons designated as 'coloured.'

5. To overcome the common misperception that TIP relates
only to sex workers and to cross-border traffic, IOM's survey
described an array of TIP behavior and measured five TIP

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- commercial sexual exploitation
- domestic servitude
- agricultural labor
- street work (vending, begging, and crime)
- "muti" (organ removal for traditional medicine)

These five TIP types show some regional variation. Awareness
of commercial sexual exploitation was highest in Gauteng,
Western Cape, and Free State. The same three provinces led
in awareness of street work, although at lowest levels of all
TIP types. The Western Cape showed high awareness of
domestic servitude. The muti trade was acknowledged mostly
in the eastern provinces of Limpopo and Mpumalanga, as well
as in Gauteng.

Rural Victims, Ruthless Recruiters

6. Respondents said trafficked persons were mainly poor
young blacks, recruited from rural areas with job promises.
Victims were most often black teenage girls, followed by
females 21 to 30 years old, particularly for sex work, but
targets also included young coloured girls for domestic work
and boys for farm and street labor. Victims were lured by
promises of lucrative (and legal) jobs enabling them to
better their own lives and send money home to their families.
Posing as employment agencies, traffickers put job ads in
local newspapers to dupe girls into domestic servitude.
Recruiters for the sex trade were just as likely to be women
as men, and they were often trusted family members,
acquaintances, or neighbors. While most were individual
black South Africans, they spanned all races (even Chinese),
and Nigerian crime syndicates were frequently cited.
Traffickers controlled victims through intimidation and
threats, use of force, demands to pay job "debts," and even
use of drugs and alcohol.

Sex Trade Still Most Prevalent

7. Sex work -- forced prostitution and pornography -- was
the TIP category of which respondents were most aware.
Policing of the sex trade was seen as lax, and cops often
failed to distinguish TIP victims from other sex workers.
Cases tended to be dropped due to poor evidence. Sex
trafficking was strongly linked to organized crime, with
victims sometimes swapped or sold to new places when their
earnings fell off. Whereas typical victims used to be
runaways who fell prey to city pimps, nowadays syndicates
proactively sent recruiters to rural towns. AIDS orphans
were vulnerable to adult traffickers, and children were more
in demand as a means to avoid HIV. Young boys were
increasingly exploited for homosexual activity and
pornography. Demand came from mid-to-upper income men over
40 years of age, including for business entertaining, in
downtown and suburban areas of main cities, with new venues
recently proliferating near football stadiums in advance of
the 2010 FIFA World Cup.

Daughters into Domestic Servitude

8. South Africa's very unequal distribution of wealth
generates both a supply of poor working girls and a demand by
rich households to buy them as domestic servants. According
to the survey, the Western Cape had especially organized
networks of employment agencies trading in teens and young
women, with coloured girls preferred. Although the law
forbids employment of persons under 15 years of age,
respondents said the Department of Labour lacked enforcement
Qrespondents said the Department of Labour lacked enforcement
capacity, and there was minimal monitoring or punishment of
lawbreakers. Recruits were reportedly bused to Cape Town
suburbs, kept in small rooms of 20-30 girls, and paraded
before prospective employers. Employers paid the agency a
purchase price, which the victims were then debt-bonded to
repay from their meager wages. Poverty compelled parents to
send their daughters into this kind of employment, even
knowingly, despite denial of access to schooling and risk of
sexual abuse by employers. Shame and need for income
prevented girls from escaping, and those who attempted to
flee often felt victim to traffickers in the sex trade.


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Boys into Farm Labor, Street Work

9. Respondents said men and boys were also TIP victims, sold
for forced labor on farms and recruited for street work in
vending, begging, and crime. Small-scale private contractors
rounded up groups of boys then offered them to farmers for a
fee. Contract labor was used in this way to circumvent
minimum age and minimum wage laws. Just as their sisters
were sent away to be servants, boys from cash-strapped
families were dispatched to earn money, although they were
often paid little or nothing to work long hours and live in
substandard housing. Parents' prior consent prevented police
from pressing charges against ringleaders. In many cases,
orphans were vulnerable to labor trafficking. For street
work, older boys recruited younger children as beggars since
they were able to elicit more charity, and as thieves since
their small bodies could slip through more spaces.

"Muti" Organ Removal

10. "Muti," the Zulu word for medicine, is applied to the
harvesting of human body organs for use in homemade remedies
by tribal medicine men, particularly in rural areas of
Limpopo and Mpumalanga. Respondents' accounts refer to theft
of genitalia, wombs, embryos and placentas, intestines,
tongues, and hands and feet. Although victims normally die
from the attack, it is conducted when they are still alive.
Perpetrators are often said to be youths looking for quick
cash by selling body parts to traditional healers. Hundreds
of muti cases are estimated to occur each year in South
Africa, but the practice is taboo, and few witnesses are
willing to testify. While the act may not fit the strict
U.N. definition of trafficking if the victim is not
transported from one place to another, still it meets the
criteria of targeting, exploitation, and for-profit sale of
other human beings.


11. IOM's report concludes with a list of recommendations to
improve SAG's capacity to combat human trafficking. First
and foremost is to accelerate drafting, passage, and
implementation of the specific anti-TIP legislation currently
moving slowly through the SAG's legislative process.
Awareness of the problem should be raised through a range of
educational and media programs, both in vulnerable rural
communities and nationwide, and community watch initiatives
to alert groups to predators. Police should more vigorously
control the sex trade, with alertness and sensitivity to
signs of TIP, and attention to victims should be more
systematically defined. Rural development is essential to
redress TIP's root cause of poverty.

Interim Steps, While Awaiting the Law

12. COMMENT: Per Post's past reporting (reftel), South
Africa is committed to combating the scourge of human
trafficking. The key hurdle remains comprehensive anti-TIP
legislation, which is still in the drafting process. A
tough, focused law is necessary to grant resources and
authorities to law enforcement, the judiciary, and social
services to punish perpetrators and protect victims of
trafficking. In the meantime, however, IOM and the National
Prosecuting Authority (NPA)'s Sexual Offences and Community
Affairs (SOCA) unit are conducting police training and public
awareness campaigns to pave the way for a more comprehensive
Qawareness campaigns to pave the way for a more comprehensive
legislated response. On issues with close linkages to TIP,
such as violence against women and organized crime, SOCA and
the NPA have taken strong steps. This IOM survey, and the
regional one soon to follow, will contribute needed
information on TIP flows, patterns, and modus operandi,
bringing the SAG one step closer to ending them. End Comment.


© Scoop Media

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