Social Development Deputy Minister Hendrietta Bogopane-Zulu has showered with praise on local NGOs’ efforts in providing services to victims of crime and in combating the growing threat of trafficking of persons from South Africa and across the borders.
Bogopane-Zulu made the remarks while addressing the service excellence awards, which formed part of the two-day National Indaba on the Crime of Trafficking in Persons. The indaba ended on Tuesday.
The awards recognise the contribution of NGOs that provide services to victims of crime, including trafficking in persons. The indaba is part of the 16 Days of Activism for No Violence against Women and Children.
"The active engagement of NGOs has contributed substantially to the success of highlighting and creating public awareness on trafficking of persons, which has become a sophisticated global organised crime,” said the Deputy Minister in a statement.
NGOs mobilise communities, identify victims and provide empowerment as well as reintegration services.
Bogopane-Zulu commended NGOs for their efforts, saying they are providing commendable services in shelters and outreach programmes, especially in rural and cross-border areas that are targeted by trafficking syndicates.
One of the NGOs that received an award and recognition is the Foundation for Victims of Crime, which is based in eMalahleni. The NGO specialises in providing legal and psychosocial support services to survivors of rape, domestic violence and sexual abuse under the Department of Social Development’s Victim Empowerment Programme. The organisation also supports witnesses and victims who are appear in court as stipulated in the Victims Charter of 2004.
Samantha Sibanda, a senior social worker with the organisation, highlighted the connection between trafficking in persons, drug trafficking and the killing of women and girls for muthi purposes. She cited the much-publicised case of Gabisile Shabane, a 13-year old girl with albinism who was kidnapped and murdered by three men - one of them a traditional healer.
In the wake of the ongoing Timothy Omotoso trial, Sibanda expressed serious concern about the hostile manner in which rape survivors are treated in court, particularly by defence lawyers who want to exonerate their clients at all costs. Omotoso and his co-accused face over 60 charges relating to the kidnapping, rape and trafficking of more than 30 girls and women across South Africa.
“Many cases of rape go unreported because it is a life time trauma. We are worried that many rape survivors watching the trial and contemplating whether to report or not could be discouraged from coming forward. It is for this reason that we provide court preparation services to survivors and witnesses in sexual offences cases. This award means a lot for our organisation and will spur us on to further work in the service of victims of crime and violence,” said Sibanda.
The department said the objective of the Indaba is to review the implementation of the Prevention and Combating of Trafficking in Persons Act.
“One of the key success factors in combating trafficking in persons is national and regional cooperation of civil society and governments within the SADC region. To this end, the Department of Social Development has established border anti-trafficking teams and provincial task teams comprising of key government departments such as Home Affairs, South African Police Service, Justice and Constitutional Development, including the National Prosecuting Authority,” the department said.
The indaba, which will be held every two years to review progress, also serves as a formal platform for networking of national and regional organisations that are active in the field of victims of crime and violence - including victims of human trafficking. – SAnews.gov.za