Chelsea Pieterse
4 minute read
16 Nov 2015

Duo target trafficking

Chelsea Pieterse

Marketed for sex by their own families, hundreds of children in South Africa are being sold into the sex trade and exploited daily by strangers.

Pietermaritzburg – Marketed for sex by their own families, hundreds of children in South Africa are being sold into the sex trade and exploited daily by strangers.

This terrifying reality comes from an organisation dedicated to saving these children from a life of prostitution, abuse and drugs, one case at a time.

The Unchain Our Children organisation, founded eight months ago by ex-policemen Owen Musiker and Wayne van Onsellen, was formed after the two spent over 25 years working on child abuse and neglect cases in Pretoria.

Now the pair want to expand their net of expertise and assistance to KwaZulu-Natal and help locals affected by human trafficking.

With an estimated 30 000 children trafficked into South Africa each year, the two former policemen decided to put the skills they had learned during their many years in the force to making a difference and saving children’s lives.

Musiker said the number of children trafficked into SA, although devastating, did not surprise him.

“I think there are more children than that being trafficked and, if you think about it, the number of children trafficked in South Africa every year is almost enough to fill up all the seats in Kings Park Stadium,” he said.

The organisation is run without any external funding, and is driven by the team’s “passion and need to help the children”.

“This was fuelled by our passion. I was with the police for 30 years in child protection and saw first hand the effects of trafficking and abuse on children,” said Musiker.

“It is horrifying to see what these children go through, but one can only imagine what it must be like for them.

“Drugs, trafficking and prostitution are all linked and it is a huge problem that is only getting worse.”

He said he had seen too many cases to count in which a father or mother had sold their daughter to make ends meet, and had seen some instances in which grandmothers had marketed both their daughter and grandchild for sex.

“This is not only confined to a certain class group. Rich, poor and middle class people can be involved, each with a different motivator.”

He said the rich had the means to operate under the radar because of their money and the middle class were often driven by greed, while the poor were driven by poverty.

Musiker said the organisation had passionate people volunteering as well as dedicated partners, both national and international, looking to support the cause.

“We have such a great team who are so passionate about the cause and are dedicated and devoted to helping in any way they can.

“Although we are based in Pretoria, we go wherever we are needed and are trying to branch out to other provinces, including KZN.”

He said the team was backed by the police who helped in their free time as well as picking up cases handed to them by the team during work hours.

He said there were many dedicated judges and state prosecutors who also supported them as well as doctors and organisations such a LifeLine.

“They are all dedicated, they all have helped us to make a difference and we have had some phenomenal successes through their help and devotion.”

He said the team often received tip-offs from older prostitutes about children being trafficked and drugs being sold and were able to shut down these exchanges before they happened.

“We are declaring a war on trafficking and are hoping that it will have its own judiciary court. At the moment, what is happening is that a person commits a crime in one province but unbeknownst to the court, has committed crimes in other provinces.

“We want to create a system where the perpetrators can be linked to other crimes through the system by the court and police,” he said.

“We need to gather all the information and evidence so we are able to link persons to other cases in other provinces.”

He said many people chose to ignore that child trafficking was a problem in the country and by ignoring it, let the abuse and exploitation continue.

“People need to change their attitudes toward child trafficking. Just because you ignore it does not mean it will go away.”

He said anyone could volunteer or donate to the organisation and help in the war against child trafficking.

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