Trafficking charge dropped

Girls pretend to be bound as Capetonians marched to Parliament to protest against human trafficking last year.

A 40-year-old man, who was facing human-trafficking charges in the Bellville Magistrate’s Court, has been set free after the victim withdrew the charges against him.

Captain Philani Nkwalase, spokesman for the Hawks, said the woman had allegedly visited the man in Bellville with a friend of hers, in February.

The man had been accused of holding the 21-year-old woman prisoner for five months and forcing her into prostitution.

The Hawks arrested the man after the woman allegedly escaped.

“After being introduced to the suspect, the friend left and never returned.”

Meanwhile, the young woman was allegedly given accommodation and forced into a life of drugs and prostitution.

Captain Nkwalase said that after the man had appeared in the Bellville Magistrate’s Court on Monday August 20, the alleged victim had written a withdrawal statement.

“We opened a case; investigated the merits of the woman’s allegations and she later withdrew the case after she was taken to a place of safety.”

He said that the Hawks had a high arrest rate in terms of human trafficking but their successful-prosecution rates were lower.

“Many times these victims are intimidated, threatened, disappear or cannot overcome their addiction to drugs, so they go back to what is familiar to them. This is a major challenge for us as state resources are used and ultimately wasted after the victims withdraw the cases,” he said.

In May, a 36-year-old man appeared in the Bellville Magistrate’s Court on a charge relating to human trafficking.

He had been arrested for allegedly forcing a woman, 37, into a life of prostitution.

He later made an appearance in the Bellville Magistrate’s Court on Monday July 2.

Bellville police were not able to provide the Northern News with information about the outcome of the case.

Commenting on the case at the time, Captain Nkwalase, said the man’s alleged victim had been recruited under false pretences to travel to Cape Town from Johannesburg.

“On arrival, she was received by the alleged suspect, kept against her will in Parksig Villas and forced into a life of prostitution from January 5 until Monday July 2,” he said.

Rene Hanekom, from A21, an anti-human trafficking advocacy group, said the South African National Human Trafficking Resource Line (SANHTRL), under which A21 South Africa operates, had helped with 15 cases in the province last year.

So far this year, 10 cases of human trafficking had passed their desk (“Students tackle human trafficking,” Northern News, June 14).

Ms Hanekom said almost half of all South Africans were vulnerable to human trafficking and close to 250 000 were already caught up in its web, living in conditions of modern slavery, according to the 2016 Global Slavery Index.

“Unfortunately statistics in South Africa have been proven to be unreliable and not all cases of human trafficking are correctly identified or reported,” she said.

Bellville was a hot spot for human trafficking and the organisation had dealt with several cases in the area, she said.

Lieutenant Colonel Fienie Nimb, of Bellville police, said girls who fell prey to human traffickers were lured with offers of work and then drugged.

According to A21, human trafficking is the fasted growing crime in the world, generating more than $150 billion a year, with only 1% of victims ever being rescued.

Bellville Community Police Forum chairman Hennie Koekemoer said the CPF and neighbourhood watches held regular operations at prostitution hot spots, such as Parksig Villas.

“The CPF also hosts awareness campaigns and works in tandem with the police to keep their eyes peeled for any suspicious activity as houses and complexes known to be hot spots for prostitution. Prostitution is rife along Voortrekker Corridor and we try to identify these women and offer them help to get off the street,” he said.

* The public can call the South African National Human Trafficking Resource Line at 0800 222 777 to report suspected human trafficking.

* Additional reporting Lizahn Wentzel