n African Human Rights Law Journal - Human trafficking and human rights violations in South Africa : stakeholders' perceptions and the critical role of legislation

Volume 14, Issue 2
  • ISSN : 1609-073X
  • E-ISSN: 1996-2096



This article examines the perspectives of governmental and nongovernmental stakeholders in South Africa on the dynamics of human trafficking in South Africa, and on efforts to protect the human rights of rescued victims of human trafficking prior to the promulgation of human trafficking legislation in the country. The authors seek to understand the range of views and approaches of stakeholders to trafficking, including possible links to HIV, as human trafficking is commonly discussed in the media, but empirical research on the scale, dynamics, and impacts of trafficking in South Africa is scarce. This exploratory situation analysis involves desk review and 24 key informant interviews, using purposive and sequential referral sampling. Respondents included government departments and non-governmental organisations working at a border-crossing site (Musina), and two major destination sites for irregular migrants, including trafficked people (Johannesburg and Cape Town). Almost all respondents reported that human trafficking is significant and complex, and that both cross-border and internal movement of trafficked victims violate victims' rights in several ways. While they suffer at the hands of organised crime syndicates, their rights are further violated even after rescue, prior to the recently-promulgated human trafficking legislation in the country. Victims' access to justice is also either delayed or denied in many cases due to the inability to prosecute the perpetrators. The study concludes that, despite the recent giant step in the right direction in promulgating human trafficking legislation in South Africa, there is a need for further efforts by the South African government to take additional proactive and practical measures for optimum effectiveness of the law without which the goal of the Act may remain a tall dream.

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