People for Sale: Tracing the Historical Roots of Slavery and Human Trafficking in Early Colonial South Africa

Author Nina Mollema

ISSN: 2411-7870
Affiliations: D Litt et Phil LLB LLM LLD (Unisa). Associate Professor, Department of Criminal and Procedural Law, University of South Africa
Source: Fundamina, Volume 29 Issue 2, p. 85-111


Some researchers assert that trafficking in persons is a contemporary form of slavery that has existed for at least a century between Africa and Europe in the form of the trans-Atlantic slave trade. Other scholars, who only regard human trafficking as trafficking done for the purpose of sexual exploitation, maintain that the origins of modern trafficking dates to the end of the nineteenth century. However, the history of trafficking in South Africa goes back even further. This contribution outlines the history of human enslavement in South Africa from its conceptualisation as slavery through to its evolution as human trafficking. In this investigation, the similarities and differences between slavery and human trafficking are highlighted. By analysing the annals of human trafficking, it is shown that the original form of human exploitation – slavery – has a long-standing tradition in South Africa. It is contended that learning from past human-bondage injustices may contribute positively to a more comprehensive understanding not only of contemporary slavery, but also of the challenges affecting the present success of anti-trafficking efforts.