What role can labour inspectors play in countering human trafficking?


Durban, South Africa – 27 February 2018 – UNODC in collaboration with the National Prosecuting Authority convened a Trafficking in Persons training workshop focusing on labour exploitation, with the participation of Labour inspectors, Bargaining Council Designated Agents for the Clothing and Manufacturing sector and the Southern Africa Clothing and Textile Workers Union (SACTWU) members. Labour inspectors observe and monitor compliance with national law in various enterprises in different economic sectors. Through various consultations with the National Prosecution Authority, it was identified that labour inspectors come across many suspicious cases of trafficking in persons for labour exploitation. However, they are ill-equipped in the identification of potential TIP cases and thus many cases are not reported. It is under this backdrop that, UNODC/ GLO.ACT convened a TIP training workshop for labour inspectors to build their capacity in the identification of trafficking in persons cases. The Global Action to Prevent and Address Trafficking in Persons and the Smuggling of Migrants (GLO.ACT) is a four-year (2015-2019), €11 million joint initiative by the European Union and the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC).

The decision to engage with labour inspectors was further supported by the positive outcome of a similar workshop held under the framework of GLO.ACT in Colombia in 2017. The main objectives of the workshop in South Africa were: To facilitate discussion on TIP and the Smuggling of Migrants (SOM) and challenges hindering the identification of potential TIP victims during labour inspections and to build the capacity of Bargaining Council Designated Agents, SACTWU members and labour inspectors at provincial and national level on identifying TIP cases and on the associated referral mechanisms.

Opening the workshop, Advocate Kombiza Mbakaza, Deputy Director, Public Prosecutions in KwaZulu Natal said that: “A recent matter involving a factory in the Newcastle area of KwaZulu Natal, where a Lesotho and a Swazi national were trafficked into South Africa and exploited, shows us that we have only touched the tip of an iceberg, and that we need to focus far more intensely on cases of trafficking for labour exploitation”.  He went on to say that, “these cases remind us of the important role labour inspectors, visiting factories and farms, play in identifying potential victims, most often women and children, who go missing from our communities on a daily basis never to be seen again”.

The workshop was highly interactive in nature and incorporated many best teaching practices such as working through several real TIP and SOM case studies in small group settings. Speaking about the content of the workshop and how this can be used in his work, Mr. Jonas Mahlatsane, labour inspector, Provincial Department of Labour said, “The content of the workshop has been spot on. I really liked the case studies and how I was able to determine the case of labour exploitation”. He also said, “As I embark on my daily responsibilities as a labour inspector in factories, I will surely look out for potential TIP cases, especially on labour exploitation so that cases can be detected and properly referred through the mechanisms that we were taught”.

Some of the outcomes of the workshop included setting up an informal network for labour inspectors to share information on identified potential TIP cases. This informal network will address and refer through correct referral mechanisms any potential TIP cases for labour exploitation that have been identified by labour inspectors as they carry out their duties in various businesses. Secondly, a meeting between the Department of Labour and Department of Trade and Industry will be pursued to deal with issues around registration of cooperatives, because currently labour inspectors are not allowed to inspect any cooperatives and some of the cooperatives have been identified as potential places where TIP for labour exploitation can take place.


For more information, please contact:


Banele Kunene, National Project Officer,


Twitter: @glo_act.