I saw a young girl in a red jacket, standing on a dark and lonely street corner later that same night after meeting Sindiswa. The young girl turned out to be 15-year-old Elizabeth (a pseudonym) Sindiswa’s childhood friend. She desperately wanted to go home, but couldn’t leave because ‘Jude’ had her clothes, and explained that if she left them behind, “He will witch me”. It was the first time I came across the threat of witchcraft as a form of manipulation to entrap victims. Church outreach workers managed to retrieve her stuff and get her out of the house that night. We drove her to Queenstown the next day to put her in the care of police and social workers.
At 11, Elizabeth had to leave school to care for her mother who was ill. Upon recovery her mother went to get a job in Cape Town and left Elizabeth in the care of her much older sister, who treated her badly. Her friend Sindiswa’s offer to join her and go to Bloemfontein sounded like a great opportunity.
The day after her rescue, a social worker said she was never trafficked because she went willingly – a clear sign that the issue was not largely understood. A victim is often not initially forced into being trafficked, coercion & fraud are the most common methods used; also under South African law, as a minor, her ‘willing’ consent was irrelevant.
Like her friend Sindiswa, Elizabeth was also pregnant. Her beautiful baby girl was born in the December after her rescue. Elizabeth wanted to return home to her mother in Eastern Cape after she had her baby.
The woman who recruited the girls was found and gave evidence which led to the apprehension of “Jude”.