As the Justice and Constitutional Development Portfolio Committee continues its deliberations of the “Prevention and Combating of Trafficking in Persons” (TIP) Bill, some disturbing trends have emerged.
It appears not all the members of the Committee are convinced that the threat of human trafficking presents a clear and present danger to vulnerable women and children in South Africa. And this may be a key reason why Parliament has dragged its feet in finalising this critical Bill. During deliberations of the TIP Bill on 23 August, the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) confirmed they have prosecuted 34 human trafficking cases so far – and mainly for prostitution.
The IFP member of the Committee, Mario Gaspare Oriani-Ambrosini scoffed at these statistics and suggested that the Anti-Trafficking legislation is a waste of law enforcements time. Ambrosini remarked, “I don’t know how generalised this crime is. 34 cases are miniscule. It is a minor occurrence. It is a miss-allocation of time in fighting crime.”
Ambrosini is blatantly exploiting the fact that there is no specific law to prosecute trafficking in SA – making it difficult to compile accurate statistics. Ironically, this is what makes the Bill urgent. Most trafficking cases are prosecuted under the Sexual Offences Act due to a lack of intelligence, training and proper legislation. The conviction rates for these crimes are unacceptably low. Conviction rates for rape cases are also miniscule in comparison to offences. According to Ambrosini’s flawed logic, enforcement of rape crimes must also be a miss-allocation of crime fighting time.
Mr Ambrosini’s bizarre hostility to the Anti-Trafficking Bill prompted ANC MP, John Jeffrey to enquire who he speaks for in the Committee. During previous deliberations of the TIP Bill, Ambrosini attempted to manipulate proceedings to get prostitution decriminalised via the back door. Exactly who Mr Ambrosini is representing on the Justice Committee in Parliament is unclear. What is clear however, is his complete failure to accurately represent the will of the people of SA. Despite overwhelming evidence of sex trafficking in SA, Ambrosini chooses to ignore the facts. Tragically, his actions in Parliament will only benefit organised crime and the sex industry in general.
Stop Trafficking of People (STOP) painstakingly compiled a dossier of media reports of human trafficking in SA for the Committee’s perusal. However, this report appears to be overlooked.
The NPA’s prosecution of just 34 human trafficking cases says more about the overall inability of SAPS and the Justice Department to effectively investigate and prosecute serious crimes in SA. There is currently very little intelligence gathering of human trafficking cases in SA. As a result of the efforts of SWEAT, law enforcement has generally turned a blind eye to the illegal sex industry.
Please write to Mr Mario Gaspare Oriani-Ambrosini at firstname.lastname@example.org and inform him (in your own words) that the implementation and enforcement of laws that protect women & children from slavery are not a waste of crime fighting time – but its primary purpose. Please also copy in IFP leader Mangosuthu Buthelezi at email@example.com and Justice Portfolio Committee secretary Vhonani Ramaano at firstname.lastname@example.org
You and I must hold our MP’s accountable. Your participation can and will make a difference!