The Face of Human Trafficking In South Africa

One of the most shocking things about human trafficking is that this global crime touches every major city, with trafficked persons found in so many different industries.

Since the 2010 Soccer World Cup, awareness that human trafficking exists in South Africa has increased immensely but so has skepticism on how many people are trafficked into this country and what it actually looks like in South Africa.

Unfortunately, due to lack of legislation, there are few statistics giving us  an accurate picture of trafficking in South Africa. But using tools such as, as well as the information gathered by Not For Sale South Africa from 2010, we can begin to formulate who is being trafficked and into which industries.

In South Africa, cross border trafficked persons have been identified from the following countries:

Burundi, Cambodia, China, Congo, Thailand, Ukraine, Russia, Korea, Romania, Moldova, Zimbabwe, Zambia, Vietnam, Nigeria…

Domestically trafficked victims have been identified in Cape Town from all provinces, and many different cities and communities.

The following industries in Cape Town have had cases of forced labour and human trafficking connected to them:

Domestic Work, Commercial Sexual Exploitation (forced prostitution, debt bondage within strip clubs, child pornography), Agriculture, Commercial Fishing, Forced Begging, etc…

Last year of the 45 victims Not For Sale South Africa identified, all were female and 1/3 were under the age of twenty.

Half were from overseas, the other half from Southern Africa.

16 of the 45 cases involved South Africans trafficked for the purpose of forced domestic work.

The rest of the cases were victims of sex trafficking.

But I think for us to really grasp human trafficking, it is the individual, the story and face of one person, that touches our hearts, and help us to understand the way human trafficking occurs within South Africa, and how we can sometimes miss recognizing it.

For that, I refer to a cases involving a woman from Moldova named Tatiana Malachi.

Mark Kozhanow, owner of the House of Rasputin and the Cape Dance Academy, brought Tatiana Malachi into South Africa to work as an exotic dancer in March 2009. Upon her arrival in the Country, Mark Kozhanow informed Malachi that her passport would be held for 30 days so that they could register her with the police. He then kept her passport for the duration of her employment and said he would not return her passport unless she paid him $2000 for her air ticket and R20,000 as levy. Malachi was unable to pay this as she was not earning sufficient income but was instead was obliged to pay R2,700 per week to the club (House of Rasputin).

After one month of working at the club, Malachi approached her employers and voiced a concern over her mounting debt, she said she felt trapped and wanted to go home, but her the club was not interested and wouldn’t return her passport until she paid off her debt. Malachi was told she could do ‘extras’ to make more money, but as she did not want to do more then strip dance, her debt continued to mount.

Over the course of her three month ‘employment‘ Malachi had accumulated R120,940 in debt (this also included a R37,000 charge for the agent who located her). Kozhanow has been quoted saying that he knows the recipe for keeping girls who want to leave because they can not pay their travel debts “Immigration Attorney,” Says Kozhanow, “He keeps their passports.”

After Malachi received assistance to return to her home she was detained at Pollsmoor Maximum Security Prison for two weeks without the opportunity to plead her case in court. She was at the last minute hauled off a Turkish Airlines flight departing Cape Town by the Department of Home Affairs pursuant to an arrest warrant suspectus de fuga (fleeing an alleged debt).

Eventually this case became highly publicized in South Africa, as the lawyer who represented Malachi was able to get the law – suspectus de fuga declared unconstitutional and annulled.

But during the time that this was in the newspapers, very few called this case what it really was, a systematic luring and entrapment of foreign women into Cape Town’s strip clubs.

No one really used the words human trafficking, even though that was exactly what it was. Tatiana Malachi experienced a horrible ordeal, but her experience of human trafficking will only be repeated in the lives of other young women unless we begin recognizing debt bondage in the strip clubs as a form of modern day slavery, damaging the lives of individual people.

6 Responses to “The Face of Human Trafficking In South Africa”
  1. concerned says:

    Lets put things in to perspective. The exotic dance industry needs to re look at the factors driving owners in to commiting crime. Essentially the girls dancing at the clubs are freelancers and the “levy” charged is to cover marketing, maintenance and of course a bit of a profit for the owners as well (the industry is not after all a non profit industry) Many girls do not realise this and do not pay this “levy” as they do not understand this basic business principle (basic example: If you are self employed you need to pay rent for your office, fact) That said, this is the part were the club owners fall foul of the law in trying to recoup initial costs and unpaid levy’s by withholding passports.

    My suggestion is simple. Only employ girls that are able to pay for their return ticket themselves and do so upfront. Source these girls yourselves so that you cancell out the “agency” fees. Run your business like a business. If the girls are not able to pay their levy’s (or “rent” as per my previous example) then cut them loose as they are not generating income for themselves or your business. Yes its costing you a bit of money in permit fees and incidentals but, as a business you should accomodate for those expenses in your yearly financials.

    Is it only me understanding this simple process or am I missing something here? There should be no reason this industry gets grouped with the likes of prostitution and human trafficking if run properly.

  2. aventina says:

    am a student and was told to do a presentation so did human trafficing….it realy broke my heart when a few of my classmates knew about it.this is a a very important thing and most people are turning blind eye on it!

  3. Bishopscourt says:

    Interesting blog.
    Is your theme custom made or did you download it
    from somewhere? A design like yours with a few simple tweaks would really make my blog look more pro.
    Please let me know!

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  1. […] Posted on April 2, 2011 by justsaskia Recently a comment was posted on the blog post “The Face of Human Trafficking in South Africa”. This comment brought up some legitimate points and interesting questions. As I started to reply I […]

  2. […] The first time I learned about Moldova was when I lived in South Africa and I heard this story of a young woman trafficked into Cape Town and held in debt-bondage. […]

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