Two South Africans allegedly involved in a human trafficking network last week played into the hands of a sting operation as they were busted while trying to smuggle two Ethiopian women into South Africa.
In a dramatic swoop last week, an operation comprising of officers from Interpol, Narcotics Fauna and Flora Investigators (NFFI), Directorate of Public Prosecutions (DPP), Social Welfare and Directorate of Intelligence and Security Services (DISS), nabbed South African citizens Hanamantsi Lekena and Antoinette Nthoba at the Tlokweng border gate.
The pair that was arrested separately had been trying to smuggle Ethiopian victims aged 20 and 24, who had allegedly been lured into the country with a false wedding invitation.
The whole drama began on Thursday when the two women arrived at Sir Seretse Khama International Airport in a Kenya Airways flight from Addis-Ababa.
They were allegedly intercepted by police officers who, together with Immigration officials, also discovered that their visas were fake.
The documents allegedly bore the issuing signature of an officer who was deployed back in 2014 from the Botswana Embassy in Ethiopia.
The police suspected that something was amiss when they found out that the two women did not have any money despite their claims that they came for a wedding and that they would be staying at a lodge.
The two women were detained for the night and the following day the investigating team set them free but put them under surveillance after dropping them off at the airport.
They were later picked by a Mazda cab that was driven by a Motswana man who took them to the Tlokweng border where they waited until midnight when Lekena who had illegally jumped the border into Botswana was arrested.
The police noticed that Lekena who had come to collect the victims had been communicating with the cab driver.
They also found out that the driver was communicating mostly with Nthoba who had instructed him to check the victims in at a lodge so that she could pick them up the following morning.
At that point the police are said to have taken over the communication with one of them disguising himself as the cab driver.
The police together with the rest of the sting operation team are said to have met Nthoba at the Tlokweng border the following morning and handed her the victims but she was arrested while trying to cross back into South Africa.
On Monday the two South Africans appeared before a Village Magistrates court charged with a single count of promoting human trafficking.
It was established that Lekena works as a cleaner at Palms Hotel while Nthoba operates a butchery at Pimville Zone 5 in Soweto.
The two were remanded in custody and will appear again in court on March 14th.
Assistant Superintendent Unoziba Rari of Sir Seretse Khama International Airport confirmed that they are handling the case and that investigations are underway.
The Ethiopian women have in the meantime been kept at a secure place by Social Welfare officers.
Human trafficking is said to be rampant in South Africa with claims by anti-trafficking campaigners and NGOs estimating that 30,000 children are trafficked into the country annually as part of the sex trade.
The same figure has been used by South Africa’s Department of Home Affairs to justify recently introduced visa regulations aimed at combating child trafficking.