SADC launches booklet on human trafficking

Mpho Tebele

Gaborone – SADC this week launched a booklet on lessons learnt from regional members on human trafficking, as part of its effort to combat the crime.

The booklet, titled “Preventing and Combating Trafficking in Persons: Lessons from the Region”, details experiences of victims of trafficking in persons from member states. It also discusses efforts and mechanisms that have been put in place by each member state to combat trafficking in people.

Delivering the keynote address, SADC Director of the Organ on Politics, Defence and Security Affairs, Jorge Cardoso, said the secretariat believes that documenting lessons learnt from the region provides a platform for experience sharing and learning among member states.

He added that this would ultimately improve regional response to the crime of trafficking in persons.

Cardoso said they were encouraged by the commitment of member states in the region, who have put in place mechanisms to prevent and combat trafficking in persons.

“For example, all SADC member states are party to the United Nations Convention Against Transitional Organised Crime and the Conventions’ supplementing Protocol to Present, Suppress and Punish Trafficking in Persons, especially Women and Children,” he said.

He revealed that 13 out of the 15 member states have specific stand-alone legislation criminalising trafficking in persons, while the remaining two use several pieces of legislation to criminalise this abhorrent practice. However, he added, the critical challenge lies in implementing and enforcing the legislation.

“It is important to mention that despite the increasing number of cases of trafficking in person being identified and reported in the region, conviction rates remain very low,” he said.

Cardoso said the region needed to self-introspect and ask itself why few cases of trafficking in member states were convicted and “why do we still have poor citizens being trafficked and subjected to horrendous forms of exploitation and to conditions akin to slavery”.

Cardoso said there was need to increase awareness of citizens of member states on the crime and on the existing legislation.

Also speaking at the launch, head of Gender Unit at the SADC Secretariat, Dr Joseph Pitso, said the number of SADC member states that have enacted legislation on trafficking in persons increased significantly since 2009 when the 10-year SADC Strategic Plan of Action on Trafficking in Persons, especially women and children (2009-2019), was adopted.

“In recent years, countries such as Botswana (2014), Malawi (2015) Seychelles (2014) and Zimbabwe (2014) have enacted their respectable anti-trafficking in persons laws while DRC and Namibia are in the process of drafting and subsequently enacting their legislation on anti-trafficking in persons,” said Pitso.

He said in 2015, Madagascar amended to its legislation on trafficking in persons, becoming the first country in the region to amend its law that was enacted in January 2008.

“Eight countries in the region had developed national plans of trafficking in persons. These are Lesotho, Madagascar, Seychelles, South Africa, Swaziland, Tanzania, Zambia and Zimbabwe,” he said.

Botswana’s permanent secretary in the Ministry of Defence, Justice and Security, Segakweng Tsiane, said in so far as devising strategies and polices to address human trafficking was concerned, SADC had recognised the importance of data capturing and data sharing within the region.

“The continued deployment of SADC Regional Trafficking in Persons Data Collection Systems across member states is an encouraging step. At national level, it is, and continues to be best practice for us to develop and implement national action plans that are inclusive of their key role players such as civil society,” she said.

Tsiane said Botswana has adopted a multi-sectoral anti-human trafficking national action plan, which will be implemented effective April 1, 2018.

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