Hawks rescue 'sex slaves' from foreign traffickers

05 March 2015 - 02:16 By Graeme Hosken
A legal prostitute Miko poses for a photo inside a brothel converted into a museum in Taipei.
A legal prostitute Miko poses for a photo inside a brothel converted into a museum in Taipei.
Image: SAM YEH / AFP

A police raid on a suspected Bloemfontein brothel has led to the rescue of seven South African students and the arrest of two Ugandan men.

Police believe the girls were being exploited by one of several multimillion-rand criminal organisations operating in this country.

Last week they found seven girls allegedly being held as sex slaves by Nigerians just outside Brits, in North West.

In January, the Hawks rescued five Malawians allegedly being used for slave labour.

The LexisNexis human trafficking awareness index shows that last year 93 people were trafficked in South Africa, 17 of them children.

At least two had organs removed.

Hawks spokesman Brigadier Hangwani Malaudzi said South Africa had a serious human trafficking problem.

"We have huge operations lined up that target syndicates that are smuggling not one or two people into South Africa, but dozens.

"Those behind these syndicates are running multimillion-rand criminal organisations with global reach."

He said that during the Bloemfontein raid "We discovered pornographic material which the [seven students] had allegedly been forced to make.

"The students, who are all from North West, were allegedly brought to Bloemfontein with the promise that their student fees would be paid but instead they were trapped."

The Hawks also seized crack cocaine and crystal meth with an estimated street value of R5000 from the premises.

The men will appear in court today on human trafficking and drugs charges.

The girls are being held in a place of safety.

Malaudzi said: "We are trying to establish if they have been reported missing and exactly how they were caught up in the syndicate.

"We believe that other girls [are being] held by other members of the syndicate."

LexisNexis spokesman Nelly Hlombe said it was believed that a quarter of all the trafficking victims it had identified last year had been subjected to sexual exploitation.

"Some of the cases identified include a father who attempted to sell his 18-day-old son for R2000 to feed his drug addiction, and a baby girl trafficked from Canada was rescued from a man at Cape Town International Airport."

Monique Emser, a University of the Free State researcher, labelled South Africa a key source, transit point and destination for human trafficking.

She said that trafficking was under-reported, under-detected and under-prosecuted in South Africa.

"We are under-performing in the detection and assistance of child victims."