“Mandisa” (a pseudonym) was either 12 or 13 when she was first trafficked from a township outside of Port Elizabeth; initially to work in downtown PE, then later sold and taken to Bloemfontein. Because of her years of trauma she struggled to remember the small details and the timeline of her experiences over the years. I met her in a safe house near Port Elizabeth in 2009; she was then 17.
Mandisa was at one point taken to Bloemfontein, where she was kept and forced to work alongside numerous other girls whose names she remembers, but whose stories she cannot exactly recall. Her life for many years was one of violence and trauma, she was raped and brutalised, beaten, stabbed and shot at, she helped another girl give birth to her baby and also witnessed another have an abortion. Upon arrival at the safe house, Mandisa suffered from severe psychological trauma and breakdowns. Her road to recovery was never going to be an easy one.
The successive investigation led police to uncover a larger syndicate operating in the country.
Her childhood was robbed from her; the hope is that her future will eventually be restored.