Human Trafficking : WHAT IT IS 

First let me tell you what it is: it’s slavery – Modern Day Slavery. If you thought that slavery ended with Abolition at end of the 18th century or with the Universal Declaration of Human Rights in the 1940’s then you are wrong – like I was. 

There are more slaves today than at any other point in our human histor.  It is a bigger industry than the entire global drug trade and it generates R258-trillion/year.  Because if a bullet is fired or a gram of heroin is used, it’s gone.  But a human being can be sold over and over again – can be used over and over again. 

And it affects not only men and women but it’s kids too -some as young as 4 years old. 

Here’s another statistic that blew my mind: Every 30 seconds someone becomes a victim of Human Trafficking – so that’s roughly another 10 people becoming slaves by the time you get to the end of this article – some of them will likely be kids.  

Some of the forms HUMAN TRAFFICKING can take are: being forced into the sex trade (sex traffiking), being forced to work on farms or in factories (labour trafficking), domestic servitude and organ trafficking. 

So why aren’t we seeing these millions of people chained up and working as slaves?  Because nowadays slavery is an invisible crime – an invisible industry. 


A person can be trapped in 3 different ways: Force, Fraud or Coersion: 

Force: force would be kidnapping or perhaps a child being sold by their family. Force is also where traffickers use sexual or physical abuse – or literally  imprisonment –  as a means of control.  

Fraud: an example of fraud would be false job or education opportunities where victims are lured by a promise of work/learning but are then taken and trapped into a life of slavery. (This is a major tactic for traffickers in South Africa).  

Coercion: coercion can be a threat of harm/violence to self or other, psychological manipulation or being trapped in debt bondage.   

Traffickers also use gaming sites and also Social Media like Facebook, Instagram, TikTok, WhatsApp, and dating sites/apps.  Through Social Media traffickers can get to know about an individual through their posts, photos, photo tagging & their social networks – and then with all that information traffickers can start befriending, recruiting and grooming them for the end game of trafficking. So please – protect your kids: educate them about geo-tagging on posts, privacy settings and what kind of things they or other people post about themselves.  Traffickers are out there,  trawling the social media sites and gaming sites your kids are on.  


 OK, so who are the victims? Quick answer: every type of person all over the world.  

But they all have one thing in common: vulnerability:  

Vulnerability can be just the fact of being a kid. Poverty is often a big factor and also lack of education. Being in a country where there’s war leads to vulnerability. A troubled home, domestic abuse, financial problems.  Whatever it may be, there will always be an aspect of vulnerability. 

People often wonder why victims don’t just try and escape? Because there’s always an element of control. 

Traffickers often create overwhelming fear in their victims through physical violence, sexual violence or psychological tactics. Can you imagine the types of things traffickers do to create the kind of overwhelming fear in their victims that their victims don’t even try to escape.  I know of some of those tactics and let me just say – it’s inhumane. 

They also control through, amongst others: 

  • Confiscation of legal documents (id,passports,etc). 
  • Threaten victims with arrest & deportation of illegal immigrants.  
  • Threaten to harm or kill victim’s family 
  • Misrepresent law & convince victims they’re in the wrong. 
  • Create dependency through psychological, emotional & drug abuse. 
  • Or the victims simply feel such deep shame about what they’re made to do that they lose all hope.  


We estimate that at least a quarter of a million people are living in slavery within our country right now.  

South Africa is a source, transit and destination country. 

SOURCE: Occasionally, our local girls and women are taken as far as Europe for the purposes of sexual exploitation. Mostly South African victims are taken to Ireland, the United States and the Middle East as domestic servants.  

TRANSIT: This is where trafficking victims are taken from countries outside of South Africa and then processed through our borders to be sold in another country. (Just one of the reasons we as South Africa are tier 2 on the global trafficking scale.  Tier 1 being the countries with the worst Trafficking records.) 

DESTINATION: Women and girls from other African countries as well as Thailand, the Philippines, China, and Russia are often imported to South Africa and mostly forced into the commercial sex industry and sometimes domestic work and other jobs in the service sector. Young men and boys from Mozambique, Zimbabwe and Malawi are notably trafficked to South Africa for farm work. 

Generally, South African girls are trafficked for the purposes of prostitution and domestic work, while boys are used for street vending, food service and forced labour on farms.  

Child sex tourism is big in South Africa and among the 30 000 children being used for sex in our country, half of them are younger than 14 and as some as young as 4 years old (or younger). 

Who’s doing all of this here in SA?  

  • Organized criminal groups—including Nigerian, Chinese, and Eastern European syndicates.  
  • Local gangs and individual policemen who facilitate trafficking into and within South Africa, particularly for purpose of sexual exploitation 
  • And closer to home – families who traffic their own kids. 


Firstly, we’re not alone. Around the world there is a huge counter trafficking movement made up of thousands of organizations that are fighting to free victims and to put an end to Human Trafficking.   

Here in the Western Cape we are part of our own counter trafficking coalition that is working with the Hawks, the Department of Social Development and Department Of Home Affairs , as well as many other government institutions and other counter trafficking NPOs to fight Human Trafficking right here in our cities and communities.  

Central to fighting Human Trafficking is our National Human Trafficking helpline 0800222777.  Call this number if you need it or if you feel somebody else might. 

As S-Cape,  the organization I’m involved in – our part in this coalition is as a Safe House where our vision, mission and purpose is to restore women who are rescued from Human Trafficking – in particular from sex trafficking.  

We not only work to restore these women emotionally, physically and psychologically,  but we equip and empower them for their new life ahead. 

This is an extremely important part of what we do – because if our residents don’t have another way to make a living once they leave the safe house, they are in danger of being re-trafficked.  One of our initiatives in this regard is our “NotIButWe” project, and our residents have completed barista courses, sewing courses, computer training courses and business management courses. 

And beyond that we also get to partner with external professionals who provide invaluable medical, psychological and psychiatric care.  

So what can you do about it?  

With a problem this huge it often feels impossible to even begin to make a difference.   

But something like buying a scrunchy from NotIButWe that a resident has made, is a very real way of being part of the fight. Because that survivor is then empowered – not only practically, but in her sense of achievement, ability and her self belief in being able to build a new life going forward.  (Links to Shop at he end of this article)

We are also partnered with companies like Cape Island who support us through the sale of their African Storm collection. Again, purchasing one of those products goes directly into supporting our work at S-Cape in restoring women rescued from Trafficking.  (More below)

And to be frank – what we most need is financial donations, whether it be once off or a monthly commitment.  It takes about R1 million a year for us to run the Safe House and every cent donated is needed. (To be franker – is that a word?? – regular financial commitment – no matter how small – is the most effective support for us, because then we can budget and plan.)  

What I would want for you though, out of all of this,  is that you walk away from reading this knowing that Human Trafficking is a very real thing in the world, it’s a very real thing in South Africa, and it is a very real thing just a stone’s throw from where you live.  

In fact the one thing every single resident at S-Cape has said to me is this “people don’t know this is happening” “people don’t know about us”.  

Now you do.  

And now you know too that there is a safe house operating and a coalition at work – so if you’d like to find out more, please click on the links provided below.  


S-Cape is a registered non-profit organization and accredited safe-house committed to holistic restoration for women and children coming out of human trafficking and exploitation by providing victims with physical, psychological, emotional, and spiritual care.

“What skills do YOU have? What are YOU passionate about? What are YOU gifted in? What do YOU enjoy doing? ” Click here to find out how you can help.

NotIButWe: Is our skills development initiative. 

“Not I But We was born out of the fundamental need to see economic justice for survivors of human trafficking.  Poverty is one of the greatest driving forces of human trafficking, and without providing viable opportunities, survivors often find themselves in the very same situation that led them to be exploited in the first place. With the unemployment in South Africa being over 50%, dignifying and sustainable employment is incredibly difficult to come by.”  

You can show support by hitting the SHOP button and purchasing any of the beautifully handmade items on our online shop. “Every purchase provides dignity, justice, hope and healing.  We cannot end this injustice alone, we are inextricably bound together and we are not free until all are free.”

Cape Island: One of our biggest supporters who donate a part of their profits on certain goods sold to help our mission and support our cause.

“Our African collection pays tribute to the women of Africa. A portion of the purchase of our classic candle and room spray is donated to Hope Risen and S-Cape, both organisations working to bring restoration to victims of human trafficking.

This Women’s Month, we have expanded our commitment to supporting S-Cape and Hope Risen. A percentage of all purchases of African Storm products will be donated to both these worthy causes. Explore the collection online here and show your support by simply making an online purchase ”

You can also buy tickets to this event on the 9th of August.

A day of fun in Cape Town with your girlfriends, show your support BUY TICKETS HERE

Thank you!

We really hope this post leaves you feeling inspired to join us on this fight, please feel free to leave a comment or get in touch with us via the comment section below.

Hi I’m Leigh! Did you enjoy reading this post? I really hope so and would love you to stick around a little longer! Please feel free to browse my blog for other articles or to keep up with all the latest news and to be the first to hear about some great competitions, come and find me me on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. You can also email me directly at or simply subscribe below and never worry about missing out!