Pretoria - Four alleged human traffickers have been remanded in custody after they appeared in the Pretoria Magistrate’s Court yesterday for contravening the Trafficking in Persons Act 7 of 2013 for the purpose of sexual exploitation.
The case against the suspects, who are aged between 19 and 40, was postponed to January 10 for a formal bail application.
The suspects were arrested in Sunnyside on December 31 by a multidisciplinary team that included the Hawks Serious Organised Crime Investigation teams, both in Gauteng province and at head office, assisted by the Tshwane K9 unit.
Hawks spokesperson Lieutenant-Colonel Philani Nkwalase said the joint team responded to information received from the human trafficking hotline about a 17-year-old minor victim who reportedly left home in March last year.
She was allegedly recruited from Hammanskraal by one of the suspects, kept against her will, forced into a life of drugs and subjected to acts of sexual exploitation.
“A search and rescue operation was conducted on Friday, December 31, 2021, at the apartment in Sunnyside following an in-depth investigation,” Nkwalase said.
“The minor was successfully rescued along with another 25-year-old victim and both were taken to a place of safety,” he said.
Nkwalase said two of the four arrested suspects were fugitives who had been on the run since September 2019. They were allegedly linked to another case of human trafficking in which nine suspects were arrested and whose case was now before the Gauteng High Court, Pretoria.
The Hawks’ provincial head in Gauteng, Major-General Ebrahim Kadwa, applauded the joint team for the arrests and reiterated the significance of forging a multidisciplinary approach in the fight against crime.
“I urge victims suffering in isolation and members of the community who may witness this injustice to use the available emergency numbers in their quest for intervention.”
On Thursday, the Hawks also rescued three trafficked victims aged 18, 29 and 33 from an alleged brothel operating under the guise of a guest house in Benoni.
Nkwalase said the two victims from Sebokeng and KwaZulu-Natal province who were rescued along with the 18-year-old were taken to a place of safety.
Two suspects, aged 25 and 39, were arrested and were expected to appear in the Vanderbijlpark Magistrate’s Court yesterday.