South Africa is a hot spot for human trafficking yet very little help exists for the lucky few who are rescued from organised criminal rings, as there is a dire lack of funding for safe houses.
It is estimated that 27 million people are victims of trafficking worldwide, of which 1.2 million children. South Africa is a source, transit and destination country for men, women and children who are trafficked for forced labour, sexual exploitation and organ harvesting.
Government has acknowledged the growing problem and the long-awaited Prevention and Combating of Trafficking in Persons Bill, currently under review in parliament, is aimed at tackling traffickers. In the meantime, though, rescued victims are at risk of being turned back onto the streets because of a shortage of safe house facilities.
In Cape Town, there are only two safe houses for victims of trafficking — mostly women and children — where they are protected and receive counselling and rehabilitation. And these safe houses are constantly struggling to remain open due to a lack of funding.
S-Cape House, which was opened in March 2011, is one of the two operational safe houses in Cape Town and barely makes it from month to month.
“We offer medical and legal assistance, substance abuse counselling, life skills training, therapeutic art, therapeutic journaling, various workshops, spiritual uplifting and inner healing programmes, as well as one-on-one mentoring, according to each woman’s individual case,” said S-Cape home founder Maryam Danam.
With only five beds available for intake, and looking for a place that could hold more, they aren’t getting enough support.
The safe house’s plight has been acknowledged by the United Nations Global Initiative to Fight Human Trafficking, which in a country report on South Africa for 2012, stated: “Despite the government’s financial resources, anti-trafficking personnel and protective services providers in the country still lack adequate funds and co-ordination mechanisms to respond to the challenge of trafficking”.
Compounding this problem is that, of the 13 multi-purpose shelters accredited by the Department of Social Development in 2011 that previously accepted trafficking victims, most no longer do because of financial constraints.
“We don’t provide help for trafficking victims anymore because we cannot afford to,” confirmed Dorothea Gertse, a social worker at the Saartjie Baartman centre for Women and Children. “We used to in the past but now we don’t have the money to do that.”
“Trafficking victims require more than just a few counselling sessions,” she explained. “There has to be a specific kind of counselling, we have to have translators because some are not South African and cannot speak any South African languages, and we don’t have the kind of money to hire all that staff to help them, so we cannot accept them.”
Danam said S-Cape House depends on private funding from one main sponsor and various donors and is looking for more long-term sponsors. The safe house is also on a mission to raise funds from alternative sources by whatever means possible.
Tomorrow, on Mandela Day (July 18), the safe house is rallying the community of Muizenberg to attempt to win R10 000 from radio station GoodHope FM through its “Goodhope’s Craziest Fan” competition.
S-Cape House volunteer Emily Robertson is driving the initiative to get 50 or more people on Muizenberg beach at 15h30 to spell out “Good Hope” with live bodies on the beach. She hopes this will scoop the “Craziest Fan” title and, should they win the competition, all funds will go directly to S-Cape House.
“It’s Mandela Day and South Africans are being called on to give 67 minutes of their time. This is a perfect way for people to give back to people who need their help the most,” said Robertson. © The Big Issue SA
To take part in the attempt to win in S-Cape House’s bid to win Goodhope’s Craziest Fan title for R10 000, visit
Or to sponsor the S-Cape House, visit