Cape Town - Trafficking in persons has become one of the most lucrative criminal enterprises globally, Justice Minister Jeff Radebe said on Tuesday.
Briefing the media on the draft Prevention and Combating of Trafficking in Persons Bill - tabled in Parliament on Tuesday - he said people were trafficked mainly for sexual exploitation and forced labour.
Radebe dismissed suggestions the bill was motivated by the 2010 FIFA World Cup, saying South Africa was a signatory to the United Nations protocol to prevent, suppress, and punish trafficking in persons, especially women and children.
"We are therefore required to pass domestic legislation to fulfil our international obligations," he said.
Current law regarding trafficking in persons was fragmented, and the new bill provided for prosecuting those involved in trafficking and imposing appropriate sentences on them.
It addressed the shortcomings of existing legislative infrastructure on trafficking in persons in that it provided for more extensive domestic legislation to curb this crime, Radebe said.
The comprehensive bill created new offences, including trafficking in persons, debt bondage, the possession, destruction, confiscation, concealment of and tampering with travel documents of victims of trafficking, and conduct facilitating trafficking of persons.
Among other things, carriers transporting victims across South African borders also committed an offence if the victims did not have the required travel documents with them - a valid passport and visa, where applicable.
The offence of trafficking in persons was extended to include juristic persons and partnerships.
Internet service providers were obliged to report internet addresses on their servers suspected of containing information facilitating or promoting trafficking in persons.
"Given the global nature of the crime, South African courts will have jurisdiction in respect of acts committed outside South Africa if those acts would have been an offence under the bill had they been committed in South Africa.
"Extra-territorial jurisdiction is an important feature of the bill," Radebe said.
On protecting victims, the bill provided, among other things, for certain officials, professionals, health practitioners, traditional healers and leaders, and ordinary members of the public to refer victims to the SA Police Service for investigation.
Those not complying with their duties in terms of the bill would be held criminally liable.
Penalties for the various offences included life imprisonment and a R1m fine.
The bill will now go to the National Assembly's justice and constitutional development committee for processing.
Radebe said it had been made a priority bill and he was hopeful the measure would be approved by Parliament this year.
Read more on: jeff radebe