South Africa: Tier 2 Watchlist

South Africa: Tier 2 Watchlist

Human trafficking has become a concerning occurrence in South Africa and throughout the world. The State Department of the United States of America publishes its Trafficking in Persons report annually which confirms the ratings countries are allocated in line with their efforts to meet the international minimum standards to combat human trafficking. In its most recent report (published in June 2023) the State Department confirmed that South Africa would remain on Tier 2 Watch List for the third consecutive year since 2020.

In terms of the United States Trafficking Victims Protection Act, a country that receives the same rating over two consecutive years would automatically be downgraded to a lower rating. South Africa was granted a formal waiver in terms of the Trafficking Victims Protection Act to remain on Tier 2 Watch List rating. When a country is rated as Tier 2 Watch List it signifies that the government of that particular country does not fully meet the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking but is making significant efforts to do so.

The report stipulates that although the South African government has taken strides to meet the minimum requirements, the government did not demonstrate overall increasing effort when compared to the previous reporting period. In terms of the report, the South African government has finalised and approved the implementation regulations to operationalise the immigration provisions in the Prevention and Combating of Trafficking in Persons Act 7 on 2013. However, these regulations were still not in effect at the end of the reporting period.

The effect of a downgrade to Tier 3 has the propensity to impact the funding that South Africa currently receives from the United States and other international organisations to combat human trafficking. This will certainly debilitate the efforts currently employed by the government in combating human trafficking.

Human trafficking is a gross violation of human rights and impacts severely on the dignity of those persons trapped in trafficking syndicates. Victims of human trafficking are often subjected to indentured servitude, sex exploitation and debt bondage. The trafficking profile of South Africa indicates that traffickers exploit domestic and foreign victims in South Africa. The high unemployment rate and the socio-economic challenges faced in South Africa, increases the vulnerability to exploitation particularly for youth, Black women and foreign migrants. The increasing trend to entice women with marriage prospects and the abuse of the custom of ukuthwala may contribute to the vulnerability of girls and women to exploitation and forced labour after marriage.

A co-ordinated effort from all relevant stakeholders must be generated to ensure that Provincial Trafficking Forums are feeding accurate information to the National Trafficking in Person Forum, to assist in the government’s efforts to prevent and combat human trafficking.

Leandi Esterhuizen is a Legal Officer at the CGE

Opinion Piece By Leandi Esterhuizen

Date: 29 September 2023