Two victims go on hunger strike, day four without food
Details of how 40 Ethiopians found themselves at a safe house in Botswana are beginning to emerge, painting a disturbing picture of a well connected human trafficking syndicate.
According to Assistant Minister of Local Government Mabuse Pule, this syndicate could be working with officials from relevant departments in government.
Pule revealed this in an interview with The Voice on Wednesday evening following his visit to the safe house where the Ethiopians are currently kept.
A cargo truck, transporting 40 illegal Ethiopian nationals to South Africa was intercepted by Botswana authorities at the Ngwasha gate near Nata village in August.
The suspected human trafficking victims were placed at a safe house in Francistown while authorities are still questioning the truck driver.
Speaking with The Voice, Assistant Minister Pule said it is highly possible that Botswana is being used as a conduit for human trafficking.
“It’s not a secret. It’s possible that trucks carrying people like the ones we have do pass through Botswana,” said Pule.
“Ït could be due to human error, or even corruption. Officials can be paid, we know these things,” Pule told The Voice.
The Assistant Minister said from the information he gathered during his visit to the victims, there’s enough evidence to suggest that there’s a booming business for human traffickers.
He said most of the 40, whose ages range between 16 and 35 are first born sons, who culturally have an obligation to take care of their families.
“They were sold a lie. Promised employment and a life of lavish the moment they arrived in South Africa,” Pule said.
The Assistant Minister said most of the victims sell what ever assets they have to finance such treacherous trips hoping to hit the jackpot.
“One of the victims sold his property worth USD 70,000, which is well over P900 000,” revealed Pule.
The Assistant Minister further revealed that four of the 13 victims who escaped last week are still at large.
“This was not the first attempt to escape. It was in fact the third time and in both incidents they were recaptured,” he said.
The Assistant Minister said the victims are demanding to go home.
“Two of them have been on hunger strike for four days. They want to leave,” he said.
He said while government pities them, there’s a process that needs to be followed, and that can only happen after completion of the court case.
He further said a suspect currently in custody has admitted to the charges of human trafficking, and trial will get underway next week.
Äs soon as this trial is over, government will decide how to repatriate them,” he said.
“Our biggest challenge is the amount of money we are spending on them. This is money not budgeted for, and it’s a lot,”Pule said without revealing any figures.
Tutume District Council Chairperson, Thatayaone Kehitile whose council is responsible for the psycho social support said he was worried by the victims welfare.
“We’ve about seven minors, who are now living with adults. They are exposed to sexual exploitation,” said Kehitile.