A group of Cape Peninsula University of Technology students is helping to fight the scourge of human trafficking with an awareness drive in high schools.
Stacey-Lee Alcock, a second year student at CPUT’s Bellville campus, has spent four years fighting human trafficking, after having her eyes opened to the problem on a missionary trip to Uganda.
“We were doing a hospital visit, when a woman told me how she was tied up in her village and used as a sex slave by her husband. I was so horrified and did some research once back from my trip.
“This is when I realised the magnitude and reality of human trafficking happening in the shadows all around us,” she said.
Ms Alcock then joined the National Freedom Network, running meetings and doing outreach work with sex workers on the streets.
Recently, she got involved with the A21 campaign against human trafficking.
Its aim is to “reach, rescue and restore victims of slavery around the world”.
After a talk with the acting head of CPUT’s emergency medical sciences department, Dr Navindhra Naidoo, Ms Alcock and nine classmates launched an outreach programme in April to spread the message about human trafficking to high school pupils.
The nine students – Lidia Strydom, Susan Coetzee, Ruan Coetzee, Raihaanah Thiart, Josslynn Killow, Mlungisi Dutywa, Athenkosi Bhusa, Matthew Denton and Zayd Fredericks – also work with the A21 campaign.
“My teammates and I decided to target schools and professionals in Bellville as this was our shared community,” said Ms Alcock.
They have given presentations to departments in the university and surrounding high schools, including Excelsior High School and President Höerskool, as well as Blouberg and Stellenbosch high schools.
“Initially we focused on schools in the Bellville area, but following requests from other schools, we’ve now extended this area,” said Ms Alcock.
“To date, we have reached 2 544 people with our awareness programme and plan to continue presenting as opportunities arise.”
She said the response to the campaign had been “phenomenal” and high school pupils had signed up to help A21 spread the message about human trafficking.
“People have also been shocked, as teachers have approached us after presentations, claiming they had never heard most of what we brought to light and they were also very interested to incorporate content into their life-orientation curriculum as it is such a relevant and real issue.”
The presentations include information on the A21 campaign and its fight against modern-day slavery exists. There are also video clips of a trafficker and a survivor telling their stories.
“We tell them about the strategies that are used to lure people and what they can do to help the situation, even with limited resources.”
A 36-year-old man appeared in the Bellville Magistrate’s Court last month on a charge related to human trafficking.
According to IOL, Chizoba Uba was arrested for allegedly subjecting a 37-year-old woman to prostitution and drugs.
Hawks spokesperson Captain Philani Nkwalase said: “The victim was allegedly recruited under false pretences to travel from Johannesburg to Cape Town. On arrival, she was received by the alleged suspect, kept against her will in Parksig Villas and forced into a life of drugs and prostitution, from 5 to 21 January this year.”
Mr Uba was denied bail and will remain in custody pending his next appearance on Monday July 2.
Bellville police spokeswoman Lieutenant Colonel Fienie Nimb said that in most cases girls were lured with offers of work only to be held against their will and drugged.
Lieutenant Colonel Nimb said she had helped a girl who had been promised a job but had later been forced to work the streets.
“She came to the police and we took her to a place of safety,” she said.
According to A21, human trafficking is the fastest growing crime in the world today, generating more than $150 billion a year with only 1% of victims ever being rescued.
Almost half of all South Africans are vulnerable to human trafficking and some 250 000 are already caught up in its web.
Rene Hanekom from A21, said the South African National Human Trafficking Resource Line (SANHTRL) which A21 South Africa operates, assisted on 15 cases in the Western Cape in 2017. Thus far in 2018 they have already been able to assist on 10 cases in the province.
“The 2016 Global Slavery Index estimated that 248 700 people or 0.45% of the total population live in conditions of modern slavery in South Africa. Unfortunately statistics in South Africa has been proven to be unreliable and unfortunately not all cases of human trafficking are correctly identified or reported,” said Ms Hanekom.
“Over the past two years through the SANHTRL we have been able to assist on 68 rescues across South Africa.”
Ms Hanekom said Bellville was known as a hotspot area and they had seen multiple cases from there.
Cornel Viljoen, prevention and awareness coordinator for A21, said the campaign had a great impact, motivating many to take action, because students were talking to their peers.
“The students at universities are the future of this nation and will be approaching the working world after university. They are a vulnerable group due to the fact that they may be searching for part-time jobs or considering other opportunities in the working field. It is important for students to be able to identify false-work, education or internship opportunities so that they won’t fall prey to the schemes of traffickers,” she said.
The public can call the national human trafficking resource line at 0800 222 777 to report suspected trafficking, ask for victim assistance, or obtain training and more information. Visit www.A21.org, email info.sa@A21.org or find the A21 Campaign on Facebook for more information.