Landmark anti-human trafficking bill signed

Victims of human-trafficking in Pattaya, Thailand. Pic: Kay Chernush
Victims of human-trafficking in Pattaya, Thailand. Pic: Kay Chernush
Victims of human-trafficking in Pattaya, Thailand. Pic: Kay Chernus

Pretoria – South Africa will for the first time have a single statute which addresses the scourge of trafficking in persons holistically and comprehensively.

President Jacob Zuma has signed into law the Prevention and Combating of Trafficking in Persons Bill, which will see a maximum penalty of R100 million or life imprisonment or both in the case of a conviction.

Spokesperson in the Presidency, Mac Maharaj, said the signing of the bill into law was significant, noting that to date, the legislative framework dealing with this issue has been fragmented.

“For instance, the legislation dealing with sexual offences addresses the trafficking of persons for purposes of sexual exploitation only, while the Children’s Act addresses the trafficking of children specifically,” Maharaj said.

Besides creating the main offence of trafficking in persons, the new legislation also creates offences such as debt bondage; the possession, destruction and tampering with travel documents and using the services of victims of trafficking, among others, all of which facilitate innocent persons becoming victims of this modern day form of slavery.

Maharaj warned that the penalties for these offences were appropriately severe, as a deterrent to would-be perpetrators.

“The main offence of trafficking in persons, for instance, attracts a maximum penalty of R100 million or life imprisonment or both in the case of a conviction.  Compensation is furthermore payable by the perpetrators to their victims.”

In addition to creating very specific offences that have a bearing on trafficking in persons, Maharaj said the legislation also focused on the plight of the victims, providing them with protection and assistance to overcome their traumatic and life threatening experiences.

The new legislation gives effect to South Africa’s international obligations in terms of a United Nations Protocol.

“While the legislation has been signed into law, its operationalization is dependent on regulations that are required to be made by a number of role-playing departments such as Home Affairs.  This is receiving urgent attention and the plan is to have the act put into operation as soon as possible,” Maharaj said. – SAnews.gov.za