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An exploratory study on responses of South African Police Service and non-governmental organisations to human trafficking in Durban policing area.

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Human trafficking is not a recent phenomenon, as it is believed that acts of human abduction for various reasons can be traced back to time immemorial. The manifestation of this crime is escalating, with elusive trends and patterns across the globe and in the Durban policing area (DPA) in particular. However, scholarly investigations into this practice have been avoided for quite some time in the field of humanities, which has exposed society to experience its harmful effects. However, in response to this scourge, relevant stakeholders across the globe have exerted relentless efforts to curb it, with limited success to date as the elusive nature and extent of human trafficking allow the perpetrators to continue their acts with impunity. This crime remains a huge threat to peace and security and violates the human rights of any affected individual. In recent years, this problem has escalated, and its exploitative and manipulative nature has destroyed the lives of thousands. It appears that not only underdeveloped states experience the destructive presence of this form of crime, but that the operations of human trafficking exist globally owing to porous borders and associated corruption. The approach to human trafficking in South Africa should be geared towards a capable system that may inform practices to curb it across the globe. In the South African context, this could be achieved by rigorously implementing available legislation and using collaborative strategies to respond to and eradicate this scourge effectively. The South African Police Service (SAPS) and relevant non-governmental organisations (NGOs) are two of the systems that should not stint their efforts in addressing this crime. To this aim, the SAPS has formed partnerships with different structures such as the International Police (Interpol) and many other NGOs in their quest to respond effectively to human trafficking in the DPA. The research design and methodology of this study employed an exploratory objective. This study thus adopted a qualitative research approach to adequately explore the responses from selected participants representing the SAPS and NGOs regarding human trafficking in the DPA. These participants were probed to learn about the available strategies and legislation in operation that are utilised to respond to human trafficking. The nature of this study allowed purposively and snowballed selected participants to be drawn from the SAPS and NGOs. Five (5) investigators were purposively selected from SAPS while a further five (5) participants were selected from two NGOs operating in the DPA. The snowball sampling technique was used in the latter instance. These participants were all selected to obtain detailed information and to maintain the trustworthiness of this study. Semi-structured one-on-one interviews were vii used as the primary data collection instrument. The thematic analysis method was employed for the analysis of the data. The study found that human trafficking is perpetuated in the DPA due to the current instability in the current partnerships of all the relevant stakeholders (selected SAPS and NGOs included). The findings call for closer societal contributions and collaboration, as the South African criminal justice system (CJS), compared with international responses, evidently does not find common ground in its response to human trafficking. Furthermore, the use of advanced technology to respond to this crime is not adequate. It was suggested that the use of appropriate and advanced technology in responding to this crime is crucial and that the SAPS and NGOs should acquire knowledge and frequent training in using relevant technological devices to respond to human trafficking. This should be coupled with updated changes in the commission of this crime to identify human traffickers and instances of victimisation easily. It is envisaged that this study will be significant in assisting relevant structures such as the SAPS and NGOs in devising new and effective strategies to respond to human trafficking in the DPA. Most importantly, it is acknowledged that the relationship between the SAPS and NGOs is paramount in dealing with this crime; however, NGOs should take further steps in responding to human trafficking by identifying victims themselves instead of heavily relying on the SAPS to perform this duty. Therefore, NGOs should partner with other relevant stakeholders in the community while also exercising savvy in the utilisation of technologically advanced devices.


Masters Degree. University of KwaZulu-Natal, Durban.