30 July 2013
President Jacob Zuma has signed the Prevention and Combating of Trafficking in Persons Bill into law, giving South Africa, for the first time, a single statute that tackles human trafficking holistically and comprehensively.
The new law provides for a maximum penalty of R100-million or life imprisonment or both in the case of a conviction.
Spokesperson in the Presidency Mac Maharaj said on Monday that the legislative framework dealing with this issue had until now 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, possessing, destroying or tampering with travel documents, and using the services of victims of trafficking, all of which contribute to 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 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,” Maharaj noted.
“This is receiving urgent attention, and the plan is to have the Act put into operation as soon as possible.”