There are an estimated 155,000 people living in modern slavery in South Africa (GSI 2018). South Africa remains a source, transit and destination country for men, women and children subjected to forced labour and sex trafficking. South African children were recruited from poor, rural areas to urban centres, such as Johannesburg, Cape Town, Durban, and Bloemfontein, where girls were subjected to sex trafficking and domestic servitude and boys are forced to work in street vending, food service, begging, criminal activities, and agriculture. Local criminal rings organized child sex trafficking, Russian and Bulgarian crime syndicates facilitated trafficking within the Cape Town commercial sex industry, and Thai and Chinese nationals often organized the sex trafficking of Asian men and women. Nigerian syndicates dominated the commercial sex industry in several provinces. To a lesser extent, syndicates recruited South African women to Europe and Asia, where some are forced into prostitution, domestic servitude, or drug smuggling.
Grizelda was 18 when she moved from Cape Town to Johannesburg on the promise of a friend she would have somewhere to stay. However, upon arrival, Grizelda’s friend took her to a house and after she left, Grizelda never saw her again. After a few hours, men began to arrive. Grizelda was subjected to physical abuse and forced in to prostitution.
My name is Grizelda Grootbroom, erm I grew up in Cape Town, the Western Cape in District 6 and in that we met a lot of people that came through, and I made a friend that came from a normal household, a normal environment. She was just one of those girls who would go out clubbing and she used to hang out with us. She left for Johannesburg to go and study at UJ, and then I turned 18 and the state offered houses, like ok well you’re 18 now and you didn’t do much with your life while you were here, where the opportunity, and you gotta go because it’s too overcrowded. And then I remember her being in Johannesbury and I called her up and I said look things are really abd for me and I really want a change. You know Cape Town, I don’t wanna be here anymore, and I just want to be out. Do you see where we stay can you help me out and you know your parents are great and you enjoy it and you probably have your own place can you help me I promise I can I will do anything and she said yeah of course and, you know, come through, get yourself here and you can do that. And I got to Johannesburg a day and a half later, in Park station. She picked me up and I was so excited to see her because she was a friend to me, that’s one thing I knew. Erm, she let me in the house and just walking through comfortably and she’d like this is gonna be a room, it looks very very empty, and I was like ok, you didn’t hook me up with anything or something? And she’s like well this is Jo-burg you can find something in two days’ time. And I said okay, I’m just gonna pass out for a minute and get some rest, and she’s like oh okay cool, no problem. Um, I felt safe, I felt okay, and I said okay, and that was the last time I saw her. In there a couple of hours, it didn’t take long, a couple of guys walked in, erm. First thing I felt was a punch in my face which really shocked everything in me. But not the punch, but I think I was confused. What’s happening? And the more I felt confused, the more smacks and kicks and punches I got and while that was happening I was being undressed. In my mind the only thing I was thinking was, where is she? What’s going on? The more more more I thought about that the more I went numb. In my mind I mean I just say her, I was getting angry and angry and angry. But the more I got angry the more I thought I was getting helpless because they tied my hands up and they undressed me. Then they covered my eyes with cellotape and that’s the only sound I had in my head
That was it. And then for a couple of two weeks, all I could do was smile and hear the sound of money and men coming in, but I don’t know how many in a day. That went on for about two weeks because I counted days, and then was exchanged with another, a younger girl. When they grabbed me at my neck and dragging me out around the night, and they kicked me out. And she was still screaming I could hear, she’s being punched too. I got in the street and I was completely dirty. I didn’t think about going to the police station because I smoked like drugs. First place I went to was in the truck area, did what I did there, sexually. For me it was just to get drugs so I can get away from the pain and anger.
So at the escort agency I was working at in Port Elizabeth, I was pregnant with Summer, I was pregnant Summer for about six months, and then they said it’s not acceptable, and so that forced it into abortion. And as I laid there, seeing my unborn baby’s legs in a sink, I just knew something was going to change.
I was held in the house for two weeks, but it held me in bondage for eight years. My so-called friend used the money for me being trafficked for her university and education. This person I see them all the time, and they see me all the time. They see the work I’m doing all the time. So now I work for an organisation called Embrace Dignity. The word really captured me on ‘dignity’. Erm who’s embracing my dignity? And so I wanted to find out what they do. So I go ahead and find a lot of fulfilling when I tell a story or my story. I think the most fulfilling part is when people really have heard the story and come back to me and say thank you so much, I mean, you have said something that really helped me. It might not have been on human trafficking but it really opened my eyes that it could happen right next door, and it could happen right with me. So it’s a very very beautiful organisation just going back and feeling safe in the organisation, and knowing that your, my dignity being restored.
Narrative produced and provided by Trulife South Africa