SA is a major highway for human trafficking
South Africa ranks among the 10 countries in Africa where human trafficking is worst, with 100000 people reportedly being trafficked in the country annually.
And experts believe this number is not a true reflection of the crime as legislative shortcomings hinder prosecutions.
A newly released database shows that the main driving factors for human trafficking in South Africa are sexual exploitation, forced labour, drugs and an alarming new trend of parents selling their children for adoptions or sex.
Organ trafficking is a growing concern.
The first LexisNexis Human Trafficking Awareness Index - released in Johannesburg yesterday - paints a picture of growing trafficking numbers and a shortage of specialised task teams to investigate the crimes.
Dr Monique Emser, of the KwaZulu-Natal Human Trafficking, Prostitution, Pornography and Brothel Task Team, said: "South Africans need to be worried. human trafficking is the final stage in exploitation.
"South Africa is an extremely exploitative society, with poor attitudes regarding women and children . [there is] a low value of life that leads to people being viewed as commodities."
The database shows that 540 people - 67 of them children - were potentially trafficked into and within South Africa in the last two years, 96 for sexual exploitation, 271 for forced labour, 90 for organ trafficking, four for forced marriages (ukuthwala) and two as drug mules.
Emser said the biggest problem facing South Africa was the lack of a centralised database "even at provincial level.
"Different government departments and non-governmental organisations have different reporting structures with different classification systems."
Compiled over the past 24 months and to be published quarterly, the LexisNexis database maps trends, incidents, legal developments and victim and offender profiles. It is the first such report in South Africa.
The database was released as the government pushes to establish specialised provincial task teams to respond to trafficking. There are only six such teams currently.
Advocate Thoko Majokweni, head of the sexual offences and community affairs unit at the National Prosecuting Authority, said: "The biggest [challenge] is legislating correctly . [New legislation] will go a long way to help us monitor and respond correctly to ensure the criminalisation of all forms of human trafficking."
In February last year - in one of the country's largest anti-trafficking raids - 16 under-age girls were rescued from a Durban brothel.
In April last year, 200 Cambodian men and boys, who were trafficked to Cape Town for forced labour, were rescued from a fishing vessel.
Billy Last, the LexisNexis South Africa CEO, said the index aimed to show that trafficking was not something that happened only to a few people in faraway countries.
"It is happening right here in South Africa, in our backyards. It is important that as citizens we become more aware of it."
Despite significant strides in the proclamation of anti-trafficking legislation this year, South Africa lags far behind other countries.
A US State Department trafficking report found that, though the South African government was making significant efforts, it did not fully comply with the minimum standards to eliminate trafficking.
"Government departments took preparatory steps, such as developing regulations and policy directives, to be ready to implement the legislation upon enactment ... however, challenges remain in the identification and investigation of trafficking cases," it said.