Two Nigerian men have been found guilty of human trafficking by a high court judge in Pretoria.
The judgement by the high court which is being considered was the first of its kind in the court’s history was handed down on the two Nigerians on Thursday.
Judge Ronel Tolmay found the Nigerian brothers Obioma Benjamin Abba, 32, and Chinedu Obasi, 38, who ran a brothel from a Sunnyside flat, guilty on two counts of human trafficking, but acquitted them on charges of money laundering and keeping a brothel.
Obasi was also found guilty of contravening the Immigration Act by marrying a South African woman to get citizenship, but never living with her.
Obasi married Nolwazi Mkhonto, the South African woman who subleased the flat to the Nigerians. She was, however, acquitted on all charges, including one of facilitating human trafficking. The judge said that the state has not yet proven that she knew her flat was being used for that purpose.
Meanwhile, two former prostitutes testified against the two Nigerian men saying that they are often stacked up with drugs and were often tied up in the flat, only to be let out at night to work as prostitutes. After the night business, the former prostitutes had to submit all their earnings to the men.
Judge Ronel Tolmay also said that although the women were already prostitutes and had decided to join the Nigerian men willingly, they were given housing, basics and drugs on condition they worked as prostitutes.
They were not allowed to leave the house when they wanted to and the brothers had ruthlessly exploited their extreme vulnerability caused by their drug addiction, personal problems and the fact that one of them was an illegal immigrant.
In her conclusion, the judge Ronel said that the men had wrongfully exploited the women against the South African constitution on slavery and sexual exploitation and that they had worked as slaves for their masters, who had no concern for their dignity, freedom of movement and security of person.
The two women, now in a safe house, urged others trapped in prostitution and drugs to testify against traffickers.