How a 'shop assistant' helped bust human trafficking ring
David* arrived in South Africa last week‚ with the promise of work as a shop assistant in the Free State mining town of Welkom.
Instead‚ with the threat of violence and death hanging over him‚ he was forced to guard women who had been lured from across southern Africa to the Free State with the promise of work.
The syndicate‚ which operates primarily out of Lesotho‚ preys on people's desperation for work. Like scores of others‚ David believed the offer‚ made by two Lesotho women he knew‚ was the answer to getting his family out of a life of poverty. The women recruited David and three other men‚ who used false passports to travel across the border and into South Africa.
"We were told there was lots of work in Welkom. That we could earn R2‚400 a month. That's a lot of money for someone from Lesotho. We were desperate‚" David said.
Once through the border‚ the men were driven to a taxi rank in Welkom. It was here that David began to think that something was wrong.
"We couldn't get hold of the man who we were to work for. We wanted to go to the police‚ but the woman ordered us not to. She told us not to worry‚ that everything would be okay‚" he said.
"She spoke to our taxi driver and then afterwards another taxi came to collect us."
Ordered into the minibus-taxi‚ the men were driven to a "guest lodge"‚ where they spent the night. The next day they were taken to a farm‚ where they were told they would be trained. Instead the training was not on how to be a shop assistant.
"A man came to us. He was screaming at us. He told us that he had killed people before‚ driven over them with cars and that if we did not listen‚ it would happen to us‚" he said.
"He told me that I was going to be a guard‚ and that I was to guard women brought to the farm to work."
Questioning why the women needed guarding and what work they were doing‚ the man threatened David with his life. For days David was beside himself with fear‚ unable to reach his wife and sisters‚ who were set to join him.
On Tuesday‚ using a cellphone he had hidden on himself‚ David eventually managed to get hold of his wife.
"I begged her not to come. I told her what was happening. That they would be in danger if they got into the taxi that was coming for them."
His wife alerted a Lesotho police officer‚ who in turn went to the South African embassy. Embassy officials immediately contacted Interpol in Lesotho and the Hawks.
Heavily armed police raided farms and lodges outside Welkom‚ along with several businesses‚ arresting six alleged traffickers and rescuing 10 people.
"I just thank God that he was able to show me what was happening. If he hadn't‚ my wife and sisters would have been trapped here."
*Not his real name
David* arrived in South Africa last week‚ with the promise of work as a shop assistant in the Free State mining town of Welkom. Instead‚ with the threat of violence and death hanging over him‚ he ...