- Esther Mwanza, Congolese, was arrested for allegedly trafficking two women from DRC to South Africa
- Mwanza’s case follows multiple other cases of human trafficking reported recently in South Africa
- SA’s government has shown some commitment to putting an end to the pervasive human trafficking issue in the country
On Friday, 41-year-old Esther Mwanza was arrested by South Africa’s Hawks’ Serious Organised Crime Investigation unit for allegedly trafficking women from her home country, the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), to South Africa.
Mwanza appeared in the Klerksdop Magistrate’s Court on the same day. However, she will remain in custody pending her bail application on June 9.
Prior to the arrest, two women, aged 20 and 31, were found at her home on January 20.
The women later alleged that they had been trafficked from the DRC to SA. They also reported that they had been exploited for labour since their arrival in the latter.
According to Hawks’ spokesperson Captain Tlangelani Rikhosto, the women were interviewed and subsequently moved to a secure location provided by the Department of Social Development.
In the meantime, the special police unit will continue to investigate the circumstances surrounding their alleged trafficking.
Mwanza’s case is expected to drum up more charges as the investigations continue.
Her arrest took place, following an anonymous tip about suspicious activity, at Klerksdop, the largest city in South Africa’s North West Province.
Human Trafficking in South Africa
Mwanza’s case is only the latest one in a string of human trafficking cases sweeping the southernmost African country.
The defendant had allegedly enticed a 15-year-old girl from his home country under false hopes of employment at his spaza—informal convenience—shop in Alexandra, a township in SA’s economic capital Johannesburg.
According to local police, the victim was told that she would assist the defendant’s partially blind wife in managing the business.
However, upon getting to Johannesburg, she discovered that she had been bamboozled as there was no spaza shop. Instead, she was subjected to threats and sexual abuse between January and March 2023.
Also last month, a teenager managed to escape from a shipping container in Durban after being allegedly kidnapped on his way to school.
The 16-year-old had been reportedly waiting for his school transport when he was approached by three men and hauled off in a vehicle.
He was in the shipping container for a day before he successfully freed himself, but was still said to be badly traumatised by the incident.
The incident is reminiscent of SA’s uber successful Netflix Original show “Blood and Water”, whose third season vividly painted the human trafficking of women in shipping containers to foreign shores.
FGM is a common cause of urinary problems, cysts, infections and childbirth complications for women who have undergone the procedures.
South Africa’s Efforts to Put an End to Human Trafficking
However, even with such an alarming track record, it is clear that South Africa’s government is not just sitting back with folded arms, but is actively trying to put an end to the vice.
Last year, South Africa was part of the Tier 2 Watch List of the US Department of State’s Trafficking in Persons Report.
The Department categorised countries into four tiers, based on the government’s efforts to meet the minimum standards for the elimination of human trafficking as stipulated by the Trafficking Victims Protection Act (TVPA) of 2000.
Tier 1 countries fully meet the TVPA’s minimum standards, while Tier 2 countries do not fully meet them, but show appreciable efforts towards being in compliance with those standards.
Additionally, Tier 2 Watchlist countries either have “significantly increasing” rates of severe forms of trafficking, or no evidence of increasing efforts to tackle severe forms of trafficking.
South Africa qualified for the Tier 2 Watchlist on the basis of efforts such as “convicting and sentencing traffickers to substantial terms of imprisonment, including government officials complicit in human trafficking”.
The report also noted that SA’s government had appointed the Chair of the National Inter-ministerial Committee for Trafficking in Persons (NICTIP).
However, the country remained on the watchlist for the second year in a row as it had not shown significant improvements since the last reporting period.
The lack of coordination of its local anti-trafficking agencies hampered victims’ access to emergency services, and law enforcement failed to adopt the necessary training to avoid victim re-traumatisation.
Furthermore, SA’s government failed to “promulgate implementing regulations for the 2013 Prevention and Combating of Trafficking in Persons (PACOTIP)” for the 9th consecutive year.
Namibia was the only African country to make it to Tier 1, while South Africa was joined by 18 other African states, including DRC, on the Tier 2 Watchlist.
South Africa, and other African countries alike, must not relent in their efforts to eliminate such a barbaric vice.
Instead, they must resolve to innovatively and effectively combat human trafficking through the 3 all-too-important P’s: prosecution, protection and prevention.
Sources: IOL, The Citizen, Sunday World