Judge acknowledges that young people in the Northern Cape are desperate to escape joblessness and poverty
Helena Boswell* was only 19 years old when she and at least another three young girls were lured from their homes in Upington in the Northern Cape with promises of employment in Johannesburg.
There they became part of a human trafficking ring.
Boswell’s detail testimony recently resulted in the conviction of two members of the human trafficking ring while the Hawks’s human trafficking unit is still hunting others in the same underworld organisation.
Frank Anako and Ilo Samadino were convicted on eight criminal charges in the Johannesburg High Court after trafficking at least four women from Upington and forcing them into sexual slavery.
However, while three of the women did not testify, or fled after Anaku and Samadino’s arrest, it was the testimony of Boswell that resulted in their conviction.
Judge Cassim Moosa’s damning judgment, which was handed down loast week, went into painstaking detail of how Boswell had been physically, emotionally and sexually abused by her captors.
She was 19-years-old when she met a member of the trafficking ring – a man called Jerry who has has not been arrested – who had offered her employment in Joburg.
Judge Moosa acknowledged that young people in the Northern Cape were desperate to escape joblessness and poverty, which was why the offer had been so tempting.
But when she arrived in Gauteng, the young woman was brought to the home rented out by Anako and Samadino.
Three other women, two of whom claimed to be the men’s girlfriends, convinced Boswell to listen to the two men or face severe beatings.
She was forced to take crystal meth and other drugs, pose nude for an “escort” website, and taken to the homes of men who paid to have sex with her.
For three months this continued, including an incident where Anako raped and assaulted her after an argument.
Boswell said she felt trapped because not only was she almost always under the influence of drugs, Anako threatened to “slaughter” her child and kill her relatives if she tried to contact them.
The women in the home were given only the most basic food, usually custard, Cremora and bread, supposedly meant to keep them sexually ready for the clientele.
Eventually, in April 2016, Boswell worked up the courage to contact her adoptive mother, a member of the SAPS, and another relative after managing to secure a cellular phone.
The phone was tracked to the Fourways home, where the four women were rescued, and the two men arrested.
Throughout the lengthy trial, Anako and Samadino claimed Boswell and the other women had willingly become prostitutes, and they had no influence on who they chose as clients. They could not explain the cellular phones registered in their names that linked them to a series of clients who solicited sex from Boswell.
They also denied threatening the other women so they would not open criminal cases against them.
Judge Moosa said the two men were poor witnesses, who never presented information that could possibly convince the court they were telling the truth. He praised Boswell for her solid testimony, despite her severe trauma. “She was genuinely distressed. This was no performance,” he said.
The judge noted that even though there had been some contradiction in her testimony, he had to take into account the impairment of her mind from months of sustained and forced drug use.
“The abuse she suffered led her to believe she had no alternative but to submit,” he said, stating it took numerous people to rescue her from the men who claimed she still had freedom of movement during her time in Fourways.
He found the pair guilty on six different human trafficking charges, as well as kidnapping, with Anako additionally found guilty on a count of rape.
The men’s lawyer, advocate Moleko Ratau, indicated he would recommend the men appeal the conviction and inevitable sentence, though he was unsure if he could continue to serve his clients beyond the sentencing process.
The pre-sentencing proceedings will continue this month.
While the conviction has been seen as a solid victory for the Hawks’s specialised human trafficking unit, a source linked to Anako’s case said other members of the alleged ring were still on the loose.
However, two recent arrests might link investigators to the remainder of the ring.
* Not her real name