South African research report on trafficking flawed
South Africa’s premier social science institute, the Human Sciences Research Council, released a report in March 2010 on human trafficking in South Africa. A consortium of researchers and academics compiled the report, Tsireledzani: understanding the dimensions of human trafficking in Southern Africa, claiming it to be ‘the first comprehensive assessment of human trafficking in South Africa’. A recent article by me (Marlise Richter) and Chandré Gould* discusses problems with the HSRC report, including unrealistic and unreasonable terms of reference, problematic research methods and unsubstantiated claims.
- Very little information is provided about methods used,
- No clear presentation of the data,
- No indication of whether information has been verified for accuracy.
It is therefore difficult to know what one can trust in the report and what is mere scare-mongering. Through over-generalised claims that support popular and often xenophobic perceptions, the report provides the illusion that the researchers have uncovered a clear and comprehensive picture of the situation of trafficking in South Africa. This was misleading and dangerous at a time when people were worried about trafficking to the 2010 FIFA World Cup – an opportunity to shape meaningful legislation for victims of trafficking.
We called on the HSRC to retract the report and its findings but have had no response.
Marlise Richter is PhD Candidate, International Centre for Reproductive Health, Dept. of Obstetrics and Gynaecology, Ghent University, Belgium and Visiting Researcher: Forced Migration Studies Programme, University of the Witwatersrand, South Africa
* ‘Of Nigerians, albinos, satanists and anecdotes: A critical review of the HSRC report on human trafficking.’ Chandré Gould, Marlise Richter and Ingrid Palmary. SA Crime Quarterly , No 32, June 2010, pp 27-45.