Africa Check: No new evidence that 30,000 children are trafficked in SA each year

Home Affairs officials have put in place strict new travel regulations, which they claim will help prevent 30,000 children being trafficked each year. Africa Check previously found this number to be exaggerated. Has new evidence emerged? By KATE WILKINSON for AFRICA CHECK.

Are 30,000 children trafficked each year in SA? In October 2013, Africa Check investigated the claim and found it to be exaggerated and unsubstantiated.

Nearly two years later the statistic is again making news headlines. This time the South African government is citing it as a reason for introducing stricter regulations for children traveling into and out of the country.

How many children are trafficked in SA each year? Are the estimates reliable? And will stricter visa regulations help? We reviewed the evidence.

Full birth certificate to ‘protect children’

The South African Department of Home Affairs started enforcing new travel regulations in June 2015. Children under the age of 18 must now carry their full, or “unabridged”, birth certificate when crossing SA’s borders. This shows the names of both parents.

A month before the regulations came into effect, director-general of the department, Mkuseli Apleni, briefed Parliament on the new travel requirements. In his presentation he was reported to have claimed that an estimated 30,000 children were trafficked through SA every year.

His presentation stated that one of the benefits of requiring minors to travel with an unabridged birth certificates was “protecting (them) from child trafficking”.

23 victims detected by government in last 3 years

Unfortunately there is little data and research on the prevalence of child trafficking in SA. This is partly because it is extremely difficult, and in most cases impossible, to quantify how many cases go undetected. Available research only sheds light on detected victims.

Marcel van der Watt, lecturer and researcher at the University of South Africa’s department of police practice, told Africa Check that no one knew how many children were trafficked in SA each year.

Researching the matter previously, we found that the International Organisation for Migration reported assisting 306 victims of trafficking in the southern African region between January 2004 and January 2010. Of these, 57 were children. In 2011, they reported assisting 13 victims in SA, but did not state how many were children.

In its 2014 Global Report on Trafficking in Persons, the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime stated that “the police reported to have detected 155 victims of trafficking (of all ages) during the fiscal years 2011/12 and 2012/13” in SA.

When asked whether new evidence of child trafficking cases have emerged since, associate professor at the African Centre for Migration and Society Jo Vearey directed us to a parliamentary question answered by Home Affairs Minister Malusi Gigaba in June this year.

Gigaba said his department had recorded no instances of child trafficking between 2009/10 and 2011/12. Between 2012/13 and 2014/15 they had detected 23 victims.

Regulations won’t reduce child trafficking – experts

The director of the Centre for Child Law at the University of Pretoria, Professor Ann Skelton, has said her centre believes the new requirements are “far too broad” and that “the inconvenience to ordinary people far outweighs the actual risk of trafficking”.

Liesl Muller and Patricia Erasmus, both attorneys at Lawyers for Human Rights, previously told Africa Check that the measures will not prevent child trafficking.

“Real human traffickers don’t follow legitimate and documented methods of travel but cross the border in illegitimate and clandestine circumstances. The regulations won’t prevent this,” they said.

Conclusion: The claim remains exaggerated and unsubstantiated

The Department of Home Affairs recently told Parliament that its new travel regulations would help prevent an estimated 30,000 children being trafficked in the country each year.

While the true extent of human trafficking is unknown, no evidence supports the claim. The Department of Home Affairs reported that they had detected 23 cases in the last three years.

The government must act to prevent the horrifying act of child trafficking. However, policies and interventions must be based on sound research and accurate estimates, not exaggerated claims.

This article was originally posted on the Daily Maverick website and can be viewed here.

Intercultural Competence needed at the top

Cross-cultural training often focuses on those undertaking international assignments, rather than on senior decision-makers.

Dr Barbara Gibson, a consultant and lecturer in intercultural communication and global business, shares research findings she presented at this year’s EuRA Congress, arguing that failure to address intercultural competence at CEO level can hinder organisations from achieving strategic objectives in non-domestic markets.

In the increasingly global world of business, more and more companies of every size are doing business beyond their domestic borders. Unlike in the 20th century, when international business was the realm of the mega-corporation, and companies tended to progress slowly through identifiable stages of domestic to international to multinational to transnational, today many companies are global from start-up, and many global players are small and medium enterprises.

For smaller companies, the percentage of company resources focused on international markets means the stakes are higher. Even for the large, well-established multinationals, increased globalisation and worldwide competition have added pressure to be as successful outside their domestic markets as they are at home. But companies both large and small still often encounter cultural barriers that result in lost contracts, failed joint ventures, disappointing performance, regulatory and legal difficulties, and other challenges.

With a background that includes more than 25 years in corporate communication and business strategy, I had observed at first hand how many companies – including large global players – were often not achieving objectives outside their domestic markets. I often saw what I felt was a lack of intercultural competence at the top of the organisation. I had begun to suspect that ‘ethnocentricity rolls downhill’, and I wanted to find a way to help companies achieve success globally. So I decided to undertake a PhD in intercultural communication, focusing my research on the intercultural competencies needed by global CEOs.

What I found was that few studies actually examined the top level of management, leaving a gap in understanding which intercultural competencies are needed at the strategic level, where decision-making that determines the company’s success or failure in non-domestic markets takes place. Little is known about CEOs’ own perceptions regarding cultural challenges in their day-to-day jobs, or about their own capabilities in dealing with them.

The purpose of my study was to gain insights into the strategic-level intercultural challenges faced by companies doing business internationally, and identify the competencies needed by CEOs, in order to help companies to overcome cultural barriers to achieving their strategic objectives.

In total, I interviewed 28 CEOs of businesses operating in a global context. Companies represented ranged in size from fewer than ten employees to more than 200,000. Those interviews generated approximately 24 total hours of digital audio recordings, which were transcribed verbatim, resulting in more than 250,000 words of textual data available for analysis.

Areas of business impact

My first research question focused on whether the intercultural competence of the CEO has an impact on their success in achieving business objectives. The interview data was analysed to examine where, if at all, culture comes into play at CEO level. The findings clearly indicated that cultural challenges impact the CEOs in the study and that the CEOs’ intercultural competencies do have an impact on their ability to achieve their objectives in a number of areas, the top five being managing their top teams, conflict/negotiation, decision-making, hiring, and ethical issues.

Five key intercultural competencies

Based on those identified areas of business impact, I analysed which intercultural competencies are most likely to contribute to success or failure. In total, the data revealed 351 instances of competencies evident or lacking across all 28 interviews.
The findings identified five key intercultural competencies needed at the CEO level.

These were:

  1. Cultural self-awareness, defined as an awareness of one’s own cultural influences, tendencies and biases, and awareness of how one’s own culture may be perceived by members of a different culture.
  2. Cultural sensory perception, defined as the ability to recognise when cultural differences are in play, utilising a range of senses to spot verbal and non-verbal cues. (Although this competency is frequently referred to as ‘intercultural sensitivity’ in the literature, that term is also frequently misinterpreted as something akin to political correctness, so I coined this new term to better describe the sensing nature of this competency).
  3. Open-mindedness, defined as the ability to suspend judgement based on one’s own cultural biases and accept that other ways of thinking and behaving may be just as valid.
  4. Global perspective, defined as viewing the business from a transnational perspective, rather than as domestic first, rest of world second.
  5. Adaptability, defined as the ability to change one’s behaviour, communication style or business strategy as needed to fit the circumstances.

Analysis also found associations between specific competencies and the identified areas of business impact, providing possible insights into which competencies may be most critical, depending on the current strategies, challenges, and stage of business of the company.
By far the most-referenced source of culture-related challenge for the CEOs in the study was that of managing and motivating their culturally diverse top management teams. They experience problems building trust and loyalty cross-culturally, and motivating team members from other cultures with different value systems from their own. They encounter difficulties gaining the feedback needed to make sound decisions due to cultural differences in communication style, and at times they are tripped up by cultural differences in specific practices or attitudes.

The competencies most associated with the impact area of managing in the data were cultural sensory perception and adaptability. Those who are successful seem to rely more on their ability to sense that something is not working as intended, paying close attention to both verbal and non-verbal signals. Once they sense a problem, they can gather more culture-specific information and adapt their behaviour or strategy.

The findings revealed that culture impacts CEO success in dealing with conflicts, and in negotiating. Although not an everyday challenge, the narratives regarding this area of business impact often revealed incidents where the consequence of not understanding the cultural issues at play was complete failure (that is, the negotiation ended, the deal was lost). Therefore, where the CEO is involved in intercultural negotiation, either on a frequent basis or in areas of high strategic importance, this impact area becomes more important. Cultural sensory perception appears to be the most critical competency in this area, to avoid abrupt failures that are the result of being blindsided by cultural differences.

The competencies associated in the data with decision-making include cultural sensory perception (the most frequently associated), adaptability, global perspective and open-mindedness. Issues raised were not solely around whether or not decisions made were the ‘right’ ones, but also around the CEO’s ability to adapt to culturally-different decision-making styles, particularly when the CEO is the cultural outsider compared with the majority of the top management team and employees.

Hiring the right people for key roles in foreign markets, while not an everyday occurrence, is critical to a company’s success. As one CEO in the pilot study explained, the inability to hire the right people in foreign countries is one of her company’s greatest barriers to growth. While several competencies were associated with this impact area in the data, the highest association was with cultural self-awareness, particularly the ability to recognise one’s own cultural biases.

The competencies most associated with dealing with ethical issues were cultural sensory perception, open-mindedness and adaptability, and it seems that all three are required in this area, in this order. Without the ability to recognise that cultural differences are in play and the ability to suspend judgement, one is not able to adapt. While this interplay is probably present in other areas to some extent, it seems particularly strong in this impact area, due to deeply held beliefs and values.


The study has provided a clear indication that CEOs working in a global business environment do perceive that cultural challenges impact their success in a number of strategic areas, and that specific intercultural competencies are needed. This has implications not only for current CEOs, but also for boards of directors and others involved in CEO selection and succession planning, and for HR and communication professionals responsible for executive development.

For those working in the relocation field, perhaps the most notable findings from the study are those related to how intercultural competencies are developed. The most frequently cited source of learning by the CEOs was living and working abroad, with several noting that it was essential to avoid living in an ‘expat bubble’.

Development appears to come frequently from informal relationships, and from the opportunity for mentoring moments as failures occur. This would indicate the need to move away from one-shot training and pre-move orientation toward programmes that provide ongoing support throughout an overseas assignment, and possibly to move away from expat enclaves toward full cultural immersion.

For an extended version of this article, see the Summer 2015 issue of our Europe digital magazine, out July

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This article was originally posted on the Relocate Global website and can be viewed here.


Govt must comply with court orders or face jail Ilse de Lange –The Citizen  17.7.2015

An urgent court order granted in the North Gauteng High Court this week made it clear judges will not tolerate government officials ignoring court orders.

Judge Segopotje Mphahlele granted an order which would have seen the director-general and deputy director-general of Home Affairs go to jail for three months unless they complied with a court order granted a month ago in favour of a Chinese academic who grew up in South Africa.

Dr Yingwen Zhang, a post-doctoral fellow at the CSIR National Laser Centre in Pretoria, last month obtained an urgent court order forcing Home Affairs to issue a South African passport or emergency passport to him.

When Home Affairs officials simply ignored the order, he asked the court to imprison Home Affairs director-general Mkuseli Apleni and deputy director-general Vusumuzi Mkhize unless they complied with it. Judge Mphahlele gave them 48 hours to comply, failing which she ordered the sheriff to arrest Apleni and Mkhize and hand them to Pretoria Central Prison to be detained for three months. She also granted a punitive costs order against them.

The two barely made the deadline and Zhang’s attorney only received a message yesterday that he could collect his passport. Zhang was born in China, but came to South Africa in 1994, was granted a certificate of naturalisation in 2003 and obtained a passport in 2004. But Home Affairs refused to let him apply for a new passport when it expired as he was “under investigation”.

His attorney Andries Stander said in an affidavit officials in the department were powerless to issue the passport because Apleni and Mkhize refused to provide them with the authorisation. “(Their) conduct … is yet another example of senior government officials who in a contemptuous manner flout the constitution and the laws of the Republic of South Africa by wilfully and without any justification failing to comply with a valid and binding court order. Public interest demands … that such unlawful behaviour be dealt with swiftly,” he said.

Zhang missed two major international conferences, was unable to visit his research collaborators in Canada and would miss the largest conference on laser technology in America next year unless he had a passport.

A sad indictment of heartless South African Home Affairs…

When a judge, writing in July 2015, says the treatment of an individual in a case he’s been hearing is one of the worst since the advent of democracy, you pay attention. Who is this person who has been treated so badly? What happened, and who was responsible for abuse that shocked even a hardened judge? Emeka Christian Okonkwo is a Nigerian trader. It’s an undisputed fact that he’s in South Africa quite lawfully. He had a little shop in East London where he sold cellphones and gold chains for which he was properly licensed. But on 3 August 2012 his world turned upside down: He was summarily picked up and detained by officials of the Department of Home Affairs, long a byword for high-handed abuse of individuals and of an equally high-handed disregard for the law.


They pretended that they had a warrant for his arrest – a blatant lie as it turned out. Then they locked him up in Fort Glamorgan prison, turned their backs and walked away. For 75 days he languished there, completely cut off from family and friends. No one except the officials who incarcerated him knew where he was. He wasn’t charged or taken to court. He wasn’t told why he was being locked up or what he was supposed to have done wrong. In fact, as Judge Phakamisa Tshiki said later, those who locked him up never had any intention to take him to court, and it was the clearest case he had seen of malicious arrest and detention. Okonkwo might still be there if it hadn’t been for an alert prison warden – someone who should be nominated for a human rights award – who took an interest in this man, imprisoned for no apparent reason. Thanks to that intervention Okonkwo was ultimately simply let go, without ever having appeared in court or being informed of what sin he was supposed to have committed. But the abuse of Okonkwo continued even after his release. Not surprisingly he sued the Department of Home Affairs, but did the department admit its officers were culpable and offer to make amends? No way. They fought the case as though some high principle were at stake, forcing Okonkwo to go through every legal hoop until the matter was about to be heard as a full trial. Only then, with court dates settled and the matter about to proceed, did they cave in and admit that his arrest and detention were unlawful and that they were liable to pay damages of whatever amount a court found appropriate, as well as his legal costs. When the question of the actual damages was argued, the two parties couldn’t agree on the appropriate compensation he should be awarded and the issue had to be decided via a full-blown trial. Okonkwo was the only witness. The department, despite fiercely defending the matter, led no evidence whatsoever. Okonkwo told a sorry tale of how his life as fallen apart as a result of his unlawful detention. His wife and child are both lost to him. She left him and his child has gone, too, because he couldn’t take care of them while he was locked up. The arrest in his shop was made more humiliating as it was witnessed by his family, neighbours and others. His experience in the cells was not only humiliating, it was terrifying as well, with other prisoners attempting to rape him.


For 75 days he had no bed, he couldn’t eat the food provided, there was competition for the toilets. The whole place stank. Perhaps the most outrageous part of the whole story, however, is the two-part argument put up on behalf of the department to explain why Okonkwo should be paid far less in damages than he claimed: The court was ‘dealing with public funds’, said counsel for the department; moreover the court had to weigh up what was appropriate to award as damages considering Okonkwo’s ‘standing in society’. The implication of the second part of the argument was that he was a nobody, a mere Nigerian trader, and he should therefore be satisfied with less compensation than would be awarded to an important person. Such an argument speaks volumes about the department’s understanding of the Bill of Rights and the guarantee of equality in our Constitution. As for the first part of the argument, that public funds that would be used to pay damages to Okonkwo – there is a solution to the problem, namely that the responsible officials pay the damages out of their own pocket. In the end Judge Tshiki, who heard the case in the High Court, East London, called the way the department handled the litigation ‘reprehensible in the extreme’, awarded Okonkwo damages of R750 000 plus legal costs. There’s deep irony to the timing of judgment in this case. It was delivered 800 years, to the very month, after the signing of the Magna Carta, that charter which has so fundamentally shaped our views of human rights over the centuries, and which is one of the influences that led ultimately to such other documents as South Africa’s Constitution. Here, for example, is Chapter 39 of the Magna Carta: No man shall be taken or imprisoned, or dispossessed or outlawed or exiled or in any way ruined, nor will we go or send against him except by the lawful judgment of his peers or by the law of the land. For 800 years that has been a touchstone by which a government could be judged. In the case of Okonkwo, however, you see a man taken and imprisoned, dispossessed of his family not to mention his financial losses, completely without sanction by the law of the land.


It’s a damning indictment of the Department of Home Affairs, its officials and the broader government that continues to allow this department to behave as though the Constitution did not exist. Actually, since our money will pay for this atrocity, it’s also an indictment of the public.


Unless we speak up, urging that officials who flagrantly defy the law pay for their misdeeds out of their own pockets, and that legal action is taken against them where appropriate, we are unavoidably complicit in their crimes. That, at any rate, is my view. and in this, the first of what will be a fortnightly column, I put it forward for debate. My intention in A Matter of Justice is to highlight judgments and other legal issues through which we can see more clearly where we’ve come from and where we’re going. My hope is that these columns, with the discussion that hopefully follows, will help contribute to a better understanding and appreciation of our Constitution as well as the democratic society, founded on the rule of law, that we want to create.


Okonkwo v Minister of Home Affairs & another

Article written by Carmel Rickard


Research shows impact of new visa laws

The new South African visa regulations implemented last year and the recent child visa laws are indeed affecting the local tourism industry and GDP, according to research.

The research, done on the behalf of the Tourism Business Council of South Africa (TBCSA), is published in a report prepared by Grant Thornton entitled “TBCSA’s Report on the Impact of the New Immigration Regulations on the Travel and Tourism Industry”.

So what were the findings?

The report found that the new immigration regulations are in fact negatively affecting South Africa’s tourist industry and GDP.

“The total direct, indirect and induced impact on the South African economy in 2014 was a negative R2.6-billion and a potential loss of more than 5 800 jobs,” the report said.

This includes a R886-million loss of direct tourist spend for the tourism industry.

However, the true impact of the regulations remains to be seen.

” In 2015, the number of lost foreign tourists due to changes in the immigration regulations is likely to increase to 100 000, with a direct tourism spend of R1.4-billion and the total net loss to the South African GDP of around R4.1-billion and a loss of 9 300 jobs,” the report said.

“The amendments to the visa regulations have had, and will continue to have, a significant negative impact on South Africa’s tourism industry and the economy as a whole.”

The researchers suggested that the regulations for the collection of biometric data be put on hold and that a “biometrics on arrival” system rather be implemented.

The report also recommends that a visitor-friendly visa regime be implemented.

Original article on