21 trafficking victims in Namibia
11 July 2018 | Crime
With 21 trafficking victims identified in Namibia last year, almost double the 2016 total, more needs to be done to eliminate the growing problem.
According to the 2018 US State Department Trafficking in Persons Report, while Namibia has made efforts to combat human trafficking, it still lacks in the areas of convicting traffickers, referring all identified victims for care and implementing formal procedures for victim identification and referral.
The report, which was released worldwide recently, said although Namibia does not fully meet the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking, it is making significant efforts to do so.
According to the report, 21 trafficking victims were identified last year in Namibia. These victims included 11 men, one woman and nine girls.
Only five of these trafficking victims were referred to a non-governmental shelter, which is partially funded by government. This is compared to 12 trafficking victims identified and referred for care in 2016.
The report says that 15 of the trafficking victims were exploited via forced labour and six were victims of sex trafficking.
According to the report, the Namibian government did not have formal written procedures for use by all officials, in terms of victim identification and referral to care.
However, it created a checklist for law-enforcement to aid in victim identification, which was introduced into the Namibian police's standard operating procedure manual.
The report adds that although the national anti-trafficking coordinating body drafted a national referral mechanism to formalise identification and referral procedures, it has not been adopted yet.
Furthermore, the report points out that government shelters for victims of gender-based violence, including trafficking, were inadequately staffed and non-operational during the reporting period.
“The NGO shelter that received victims during the reporting period expanded its ability to receive families and teen boys. However, there were no facilities equipped to shelter adult male victims of trafficking.”
According to the report, government provided N$26 000 per month to the NGO that received victims, which funded approximately 13% of its operating costs. Social worker interns were also assigned during their final year of training to support the NGO.
Furthermore, seven trafficking cases that involved 10 suspects were investigated last year in Namibia. Of these cases, two involved alleged sex trafficking and five were forced labour cases.
In 2016, a total of eight trafficking cases were investigated.
The prosecution of four trafficking cases, involving five defendants, were initiated, which is an increase from the two cases during 2016.
According to the report all defendants were charged under the Prevention of Organised Crime Act (Poca) of 2004 and two of the five defendants were also charged with knowingly soliciting a victim of sex trafficking under the Combatting of Immoral Practices Act of 1980.
One of the two defendants solicited sex from a trafficking victim in 2015 and he absconded to South Africa shortly after being charged. The report says the Namibian government proactively requested and then secured his extradition to Namibia in December 2017.
Martinus Pretorius (47) is accused of committing sexual acts with three minor girls and is currently standing trail in the High Court. He is facing 13 human trafficking and rape offences, but his trial has been plagued with delays, with the withdrawal of two defence lawyers since the start of the year.
Pretorius' alleged accomplice, Johanna Lukas, was the first Namibian to be convicted of human trafficking in 2015.
The report points out that for the second consecutive year no traffickers were convicted in Namibia and added that one defendant was also prosecuted and acquitted under the Poca.
Efforts that were, however, highlighted in the report, including the signing of the Combating of Trafficking in Persons Bill, the prosecution of more traffickers, identifying more trafficking victims, of whom the majority were victims of forced labour, and referring some victims for care at the partially government-funded NGO shelter.
The report says Namibia also increased anti-trafficking law-enforcement efforts. The 2009 Poca criminalised labour and sex trafficking and prescribed penalties of up to 50 years imprisonment or a fine not exceeding N$1 million.
“These penalties were not sufficiently stringent, and with respect to sex trafficking, (are) commensurate with punishments prescribed for other serious crimes, such as rape.”
In March this year, the Combating of Trafficking in Persons Act was signed, which explicitly criminalises human trafficking and provides protection measures for victims of trafficking. However, it is yet to be officially gazetted, which is a requirement for the law to be fully operational, according to the report.