South African human trafficking

South Africa, with its 7500 kilometres of borders (which includes around 5000km of inland borders and 2.500km of coastal borders) and rugged terrain, is considered a prime destination for human trafficking.

According to the United Nation's (UN) International Organisation for Migration (IOM), international crime syndicates from Africa, South East Asia and Eastern Europe are using South Africa as a transit point and as a destination because of the vast, 'porous borders'. The human trafficking is usually for the purposes of sex or cheap labour.  

Children, as well as adults are smuggled into  the country for sex purposes, among other forms of exploitation. 


Home Affairs strengthens borders with Visa regulations


Home Affairs' Spokesperson, Mayihlome Tshwete, says the department has placed measures to strengthen South African borders particularly the movement of children in the country.

"What we argued for in the new visa regulations, keeping in mind with the Children’s Act which clearly stipulated how children should move in and around the Republic, was that children should have permission from their parents or legal guardians before they come into South Africa or leave the country."

However the new visa regulations were met with resistance from various sectors, particularly travel, accommodation and hospitality.

"The impact that the new Visa regulations are  [having is]  a big step from where we were before, in the past a child could come into the country with any person claiming to be a parent or a legal guardian without the checks and balances done by the immigration officers." 

Tshwete says these measures are put in place to prevent the illicit movement of children in and out the country, not to dampen the economy.

Human Trafficking a Hidden Crime

Institute for securities Studies' (ISS) Romi Sigworth believes Visa regulations alone are not sufficient to strengthen borders to fight Human Trafficking in the country.
"Human Trafficking in its very nature is a hidden crime," says Sigworth.
She believes those illicitly moving people into the country will not use formal border posts.

Sigworth say the traffickers will find an illegal route into the country. Listen to the audio below:

South Africa Not Immune to Human Trafficking

The South African Defence Force (SANDF) says it cannot confirm whether human trafficking is on the increase in the country or not. However it believes South Africa is not immune to the illicit trafficking of people.

SANDF's Spokesperson Brigadier General Xolani Mabanga, says measures are put in place to cover borderline areas to fight trafficking of people into the country.


"The other thing we are doing is to increase the number of personnel that we are deploying or have been deploying along the border line."

Mabanga says more personnel are deployed in areas with an increase of illicit movement of humans and new technology is put in place to monitor the border.

“We are trying to make sure, to improve or optimise the use of technology to assist and help us in terms of observation areas,” adds Mabanga.

Speaking in parliament the South African Police Service (SAPS) says its intelligence exposed dangerous weaknesses in the South African border system.


"Border control is a very complex matter. It involves a lot of role players. If you look at other jurisdictions worldwide, it's a big problem, so you have a lot of work that must be done to improve. So our focus is to ensure that SAPS has the necessary manpower, also technical capability to ensure that our borders are safe," says Police Portfolio Community Chair Francois Beukman.

As an example, the SAPS highlighted conditions at the Lebombo entry between South Africa and Mozambique.

There's an acute shortage of office space, vehicles search bays, ablution facilities, and accommodation.

Border Management Agency successful


In 2015 the Department of Home Affairs Minister Malusi Gigaba launched Operation Pyramid in the Kruger National Park in Skukuza, aimed at improving the co-ordination of all border management programs in the country.

The operation is part of the processes that will see the establishment of the Border Management Agency (BMA).

Despite this, security expert David Peddle believes it will be difficult to patrol the South African border.

"We have got hills, mountains, rivers, deserts and semi desert areas, thick vegetation which make it very difficult to police," says Peddle.

Most of the border problems South Africa has might be related to finance and deploying more personnel, adds Peddle.

“With regards to the Border Management Agency, they are still starting out and struggling to organise themselves; never mind staff, which would be able to manage the entire border environment,” security expert says.

Peddle believes BMA has been successful in managing the border post and border line, however he says there have been reports of incidents of illicit movements at the border posts.

“Corruption also plays a very strong point in solving cross border crime,” he says.

Peddle says measures have been put place in to strengthen borders from both sides of the border line. He adds that South Africa has built relations with its counterparts to have more visibility on the border.


Report by Neo Motloung