(This article was first published on 13 January 2018 in the Weekend Argus, a weekly regional newspaper distributed in the Western Cape, South Africa.)

Written by Yazeed Kamaldien

Illegal sex work and human trafficking have gripped Milnerton suburb where police are cracking down on the flesh trade.

Just this week, Chibuike Innocent Nwosu, 39, appeared in the Cape Town Magistrate’s Court for alleged human trafficking.

 

Chibuike Innocent Nwosu

He was arrested days earlier for allegedly luring two women to a house where they were trapped to illegally have sex for cash.

Captain Lloyd Ramovha, spokesman for the Western Cape police, said the Hawks, which is the police’s organised crime unit, raided the house last Thursday.

“The raid resulted in two female victims both aged 22 being freed and taken to a place of safety. The victims had been allegedly forced to work as sex workers after they were reportedly lured from Mpumalanga and Free State respectively in 2017, with offers of employment,” he said.

Nwosu remains in police custody while investigations continue.

Police intend to unearth other brothels in Milnerton and last month also arrested three alleged human traffickers in the area.

The suspects – Pretty Hlengiwe Mkhize, 33, Uche Davidson, 41, and Aishatu Musae, 34 – were arrested during another Hawks’ raid.

Pretty Hlengiwe Mkhize

Ramovha said the suspects face human trafficking related charges and remain in police custody while investigations continue.

Police worked with a local non-governmental organisation that had information about the alleged traffickers after a 26-year-old female victim escaped the entrapment.

Ramovha said the woman was “allegedly lured to Cape Town from Johannesburg by a lady known to her, with promises of employment”.

“On arrival (in Cape Town) two males allegedly picked her up and she was subsequently kept against her will and allegedly turned into a sex worker,” said Ramovha.

“She managed to escape after a while and the matter was reported to the Hawks, which led to the arrests. The victim’s ID book and cellphone were allegedly confiscated by the suspects.”

Aishatu Musa

Claudia Burger, programme director of Activists Networking Against the Exploitation of Children (Anex), said Milnerton was on their radar for human trafficking.

“It’s known to us that girls are often kept in the Milnerton and Brooklyn area,” she said.

Burger said traffickers were using social media to lure and trap young girls to sell their bodies.

“A guy usually befriends a girl on Facebook and starts telling her she’s pretty and he wants to meet her. The girl doesn’t know it’s an older guy using the profile pictures of a younger person,” said Burger.

Patric Solomons, director of Cape Town-based child rights group Molo Songololo, pointed to various human trafficking cases in the Western Cape. Last year they helped five teenagers trafficked locally.

Uche Davidson

“They were lured with alcohol and drugs and then sexually exploited. In one case the recruiter and trafficker is the ‘boyfriend’. In another case the child was used as a sex slave by the ‘boyfriend’ for his drinking and drug friends,” said Solomons.

“The increase in drug use, abuse and selling in Cape Town has increased sex for money or drugs and luring, deceiving and forcing young people into prostitution. This has also increased trafficking in persons.

“Several teenage girls have gone missing over the holidays. Some remain missing and it is feared that they might have been lured or forced into a sexually exploitative situation.”

Burger said once young women were trapped as sex workers they would be filmed while doing “terrible sexual practices”.

“Traffickers keep them trapped and threaten that they would post these videos on to social media. They do everything to keep the girls in their power,” said Burger.

Rene Hanekom, manager of the South African National Human Trafficking Resource Line launched in 2016, said last year they received 7,095 calls from across the country. She said this led to at least 50 rescue cases.

“Every year over the festive season we prepare ourselves for a possible spike in calls as there is the possibility of an increase in trafficking due to sex tourism. There is however no substantiating evidence,” said Hanekom.

“With some of the recent rescues, survivors indicated they were recently recruited, just before the Christmas period, however again there is no evidence confirming that they were specifically recruited for an expected increase in sex tourism.”

Hanekom and Burger both talked about the Lover Boy or Blesser recruitment method that they are raising awareness about amongst young women and community groups.

This method entails a man pretending to fall in love with a woman, with the intention of recruiting her into the sex trade.

Hanekom said once women were recruited they were “given drugs and forcibly taken to the streets as sex workers”.

“In many cases we see a dependency on drugs being formed as a means to control the women. If they don’t bring in enough money they are often beaten and tortured,” said Hanekom.