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Accused denied bail

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The woman arrested on charges of human trafficking for sexual exploitation was denied bail.

THE WOMAN who was arrested on charges of human trafficking for sexual exploitation was denied bail in the Kimberley Magistrate’s Court on Friday.

Concern had been raised that young women were being sex trafficked on Samaria Road and that some were underage.

Witnesses reported that young women between the ages of 17 and 22 were being kept in a shack belonging to the accused – Ester Palesa Moshoeshoe, 27.

Two 17-year-old girls were rescued from a tavern, where they were being accompanied by the accused.

According to the Hawks, Moshoeshoe had questioned the police about where they were taking the girls and they informed her that they were underage and should not be frequenting a tavern.

One of these girls is a family member of Moshoeshoe and was residing with her.

She reportedly broke down and cried when she recalled that she had been raped “several times” and was too traumatised to provide a statement during an interview with the Hawks.

The Hawks arrested Moshoeshoe on December 17 after rescuing another 22-year-old woman on Samaria Road.

The Hawks are still searching for two more apparent victims.

Delivering judgment on the bail application, magistrate Celeste Nameka believed that Moshoeshoe was a flight risk and could attempt to evade her trial as she did not have a fixed address, nor did she have an identity document or a passport.

“While she maintained that she was born and bred in Kimberley, her mother indicated that she was born in Lesotho and came to South African when she was three months old. The investigating officer stated that the accused could enter Lesotho, in the same way that her mother entered South Africa, without an identity document,” said Nameka.

She noted that the State had yet to test Moshoeshoe’s legal status with the Department of Home Affairs, as she did not possess any particulars relating to her citizenship.

Nameka added that Moshoeshoe’s mother had indicated that her daughter had abandoned her children, where she had left them with her boyfriend in Snake Park and had gone to live in the Samaria Road area.

“Even if she was released on bail, the accused would not be given custody of her three children – aged nine, five and two years old – as she was charged with neglecting her children.”

She pointed out that Moshoeshoe could interfere with the investigation, as she knew her alleged victims, while there was a likelihood that she might also destroy evidence.

“The accused stated that one of the witnesses stays in the back street, while one was residing with her. There are also victims that need to be rescued.”

Nameka believed that Moshoeshoe was dishonest to the court regarding her children.

“She said that they were living with her, although two of her children were visiting in Windsorton. She advised the court that her nine-year-old disabled child was living with her mother since her incarceration. This is while, according to the State, her children were placed in the care of her mother and her boyfriend’s parents after they were taken out of her custody.

“The accused indicated that she was taking care of the victims in her home, as she ‘had a good heart’, while she was not able to take care of her own children.”

Nameka went on to say that the clients who had paid for the sexual services offered by the girls did not wish to be exposed, while their identities were known to the victims.

“The victims slept with these men, against their will.”

She added that the interests of the children and community outweighed those of the accused.

“The accused was released on bail of R500 for child neglect and is now facing another charge involving children.”

Nameka stated that according to Statistics South Africa, at the end of 2019, 55 percent of women in South Africa fell prey to human trafficking while 43 percent of these women were victims of sexual exploitation.

“Ninety-eight percent of these victims constitute women and children. Human trafficking could be related to poverty, a lack of education and a lack of job opportunities. South Africa has been noted as an active hub for human trafficking as a result of gender instability and political conflict.”

Moshoeshoe will appear in court via live television streaming on January 30 after the matter was postponed for further investigation.

She will remain in custody.