Bar raised in war against human trafficking after enlightening seminar

[notice]A monthly column by Marcel van der Watt, lecturer in the Department of Police Practice at UNISA, former police detective, and current member of the Gauteng Rapid Response Task Team for Human Trafficking.[/notice]


The University of South Africa (UNISA) was host to more than 200 delegates who attended the Project Tshireletso seminar on human trafficking and psychologically motivated crimes on May 28,  2014. Delegates came from as far as Cape Town and Bloemfontein with practitioners representing diverse fields such as social work, psychology, law enforcement, media and civil society. The seminar endeavoured to shed light on issues relating to social injustices which include human trafficking and, more specifically, the use of ‘juju’ as a control mechanism over victims.

The first speaker was Brigadier Gérard Labuschagne who is an international expert on the investigation of psychologically motivated crimes. He addressed delegates on the role of the South African Police Service’s (SAPS) Investigative Psychology Section (IPS) of which he is the head. The IPS is responsible for assisting the SAPS with investigations into psychologically motivated crimes such as serial sex offences. The Section is also the only unit with a mandate to compile offender profiles for the SAPS. Brigadier Labuschagne is a clinical psychologist with the Health Professions Council of South Africa and a criminologist with the Criminological Society of Southern Africa. He is a trained homicide investigator having attended the Los Angeles Sheriff’s Department Homicide and Death Investigation Course. Over the past 13 years Brigadier Labuschagne has assisted in the investigation of over 110 serial murderers and over 200 serial rapists.  He  has  assisted  the Namibian Police with their first murder series (the B1 Butcher), Swaziland with their second murder series, and consulted with the Indian Central  Bureau  of  Investigation on a murder series in Nithari. Brigadier Labuschagne highlighted that the IPS are becoming increasingly aware of the need for expertise when dealing with victims of human trafficking and acknowledged that capacity building within SAPS is much needed in response to this complex problem.

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Mr Andy Desmond (UK), founding director of Anti Trafficking Consultants and internationally recognised investigator and educator on organized international human trafficking, was the second speaker at the seminar. He challenged the audience to set aside any preconceived notions they may have regarding the response and assistance provision to victims of human trafficking before, during and after the trial. Andy gave a poignant presentation on the reality of ‘juju’ as a psychological control mechanism over victims. It is used by Nigerian human traffickers and delves deep into the supernatural realm where the bondage is rooted in the overpowering spiritual beliefs with no need to have the victim locked up or kept under surveillance. This is taken care of by the ‘spirits’. As Andy progressed through his presentation it became increasingly clear why a ‘paradigm shift’ is required when engaging with all victims of human trafficking, especially those exploited by Nigerian human traffickers. For many practitioners he provided the missing piece of the puzzle and, for others, new challenges regarding how this knowledge regarding ‘juju’ will be infused into the South Africa response strategy.

The seminar was a battle won in the larger war against human trafficking and social injustice. However, with knowledge comes responsibility and the bar was certainly raised on our responsibilities towards both victims and practitioners who have not heard the thought-provoking message of Mr Andy Desmond (for more information see the link below). I decided to reflect on the following words of Major Margaret Stafford (Salvation Army):

Social justice is a field that requires a number of different approaches. We need to make people aware of situations – that requires awareness. But once they are aware of the situation we have to start looking for some sort of action. So we begin the process of advocating.  An advocate speaks on behalf of someone who trusts them to tell their story in the best way possible so as to bring about justice.

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This coming Saturday, June 7, 2014, the Salvation Army in Port Elizabeth will have an hour of social advocacy and stand in empathy and compassion for the families affected by the terrible abduction of nearly 300 Nigerian school girls – this because they were exercising their right to an education. The situation needs an Advocate. Those present will stand forming a human chain around the water feature at the Boardwalk from 12-1pm holding up placards that speak to the situation. Some will express the heart of the issue whilst others will demand the right for justice and peace to reign. 


Anybody with information regarding the use of ‘juju’ as a method of control over vulnerable persons is invited to send the information to

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One Comment

  1. this info is both scary and informative.we have to get our heads around this juju