Inside the Free State farm suspected to be a human trafficking lair
"Livestock for sale‚" reads the nondescript blue sign that marks the boundary of a Free State farm that has attained notoriety over the past several years.
On a table inside a face-brick building‚ a receipt book‚ with two boxes of Trust condoms close by‚ lies open:
-22/12/17. Alice. 1 hour. 6:5 out 7:5. Room 6. R120.
-25/12/17. 2 hour. 5:15 out 7:15. Room 9. R240.
-01/01/18. 1 hour. 6:30 out 7:30. Room 13. R250.
Behind the reception-style room‚ which has shelves stocked with tins of Lucky Star pilchards‚ Frisco‚ Ricoffy‚ cooking oil and rice‚ is a neat row of bedrooms.
The buildings are all separated from the road by a high palisade security fence. The only signs of life are a gardener spraying weeds and a flock of grazing sheep.
The sparsely furnished bedrooms are neat‚ each filled with either two single beds or a double bed‚ half-moon shaped mirrors behind all of them. The walls are decorated with ceramic and cork tiles‚ with a flat-screen TV mounted on one.
"See? There is no one here. No women. No nothing‚" says the gardener‚ who refused to be named.
Authorities say it's inside this farm‚ situated just outside Welkom‚ that one of the province's most infamous human trafficking syndicates operated for years. Its purpose: the alleged trade of young women from across southern Africa.
The farm is one of many across the province‚ which police believe the syndicate used to trade in sex slaves and cheap labour. The advice from another farm worker was to look elsewhere.
"You are right to come here and hear what is really happening‚ but there is no one here now. Go to Khune Village [a taxi rank in Welkom]. That's where this owner has a tavern. There are all kinds of girls there. Basothos‚ South Africans. They are guarded there.
"You can buy a girl like you can buy alcohol. When you want one‚ you get one. If you go to Welkom now‚ by the taxi rank‚ you can walk in and have fun."
He remembers three young girls who were brought to the farm last year.
"They were from Lesotho. One was still in school uniform. They wouldn't tell me how they came to the farm. They said they were there to clear weeds.
"The owner has a lot of farms and businesses. When people want work‚ he takes them to one of his outlets. Go to town and you will find out more information. Everyone knows."
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 ...