SAHRC Report Confirms Human Rights Violations at Mavericks
The SA Human Rights Commission (SAHRC) has now submitted a report to the High Court following an investigation into the Cape Town “strip club” Mavericks. The report confirms the suspected human rights violations that were exposed in the Cape High Court battle, but we are disappointed that the report was not conclusive on whether these abuses constituted human trafficking.
In 2012 the Western Cape High Court ordered the SAHRC to probe Mavericks’ inhumane employment conditions. In the final section of judgment, Judge Desai said there was some concern about the living conditions and arrangement of these so-called “exotic dancers”, which could constitute human trafficking.
This was after Mavericks had taken the Department of Home Affairs to court over their refusal to grant certain corporate visas to Mavericks.
Modern-Day Slave Traders
Like most other so-called strip clubs, it is suspected that Mavericks traffics foreign women into South Africa, mostly from Eastern Europe, for the purposes of sexual exploitation, under the guise of “exotic dancers”. The women are usually deceptively recruited and once in South Africa, their passports are removed, effectively trapping them in the country. Not being able to speak English, black mailed and with no job skills, they are forced into a life of sexual slavery.
An important incident cited in the report that adds to the allegations of trafficking is an incident given by ANEX, who mans the national anti-trafficking helpline, on which they received a phone call from a Mavericks dancer in 2011 to report that she felt threatened by the control over her by Mavericks employees. In particular she complained about a Russian male who collected her and dropped her at home. She did not want the matter to be followed up.
Paying to ‘Work’
A Home Affairs report submitted to the court said Mavericks regarded its corporate workers as independent contractors, rather than employees. The dancers were required to pay R2 000 a week to “dance”. This was viewed as a violation of the authorisation certificate, which requires an employment contract.
Anti-trafficking groups believe this is why women exploited by Mavericks are expected to resort to prostitution in order to pay this fee. They are also often expected to pay back their flight costs, resulting in further debt bondage.
The report states that the “conditions and terms under which women work at Mavericks are inconsistent with their status as ‘independent contractors’”. As independent contractors, the dancers should be able to determine their own working hours, yet they are required to be at the club from 7pm to 4am, 6 days a week. This is in excess of the Basic Conditions of Employment Act. They are fined for late arrivals or for not looking their best. R650 of the R2000 that dancers must pay each week to Mavericks, goes towards the recruitment agencies that ‘recruited’ them.
Disappointingly, the report does not pay much attention to how dancers’ passports are kept by their bosses or how they are kept in debt bondage to the club.
Exploitation is Not Work!
Whilst the report recommends that the Department of Labour prosecute Mavericks for these violations of labour laws, Mavericks should be prosecuted for allowing prostitution on their premises, including ‘lap dancing’, which are both illegal according to the Sexual Offences Act. What the women are required to do at Mavericks is abuse and exploitation and should not be considered ‘work’.
Immigration and law enforcement officials argue that in requiring a “booking out fee” or “fine” if a dancer leaves early (usually with a patron), Mavericks is acting as a “pimp” as the fine against the dancer amounts to payments for prostitution (which is paid by the patron) which accrues to Mavericks. (The dancers however, deny that they are engaged in prostitution, probably out of fear. Mavericks staff also deny this).
Should be Prosecuted
Some of the recommendations in the report include: the Hawks and the police must work together to investigate and prosecute the suspected trafficking and prostitution and the links club bosses may have to crime syndicates; and The Department of Home Affairs must monitor compliance with immigration laws, especially corrupt officials who illegally grant visas to Mavericks’ agents.
"Have nothing to do with the fruitless deeds of darkness, but rather expose them." Ephesians 5:11
"They promise them freedom, while they themselves are slaves of depravity…" 2 Peter 2:19
Upcoming Anti-Trafficking Outreaches in Malls – 9 August
On Saturday, 9 August, Women’s Day, Africa Christian Action will be setting up literature tables in different shopping malls in the Cape Town area. This is also a great opportunity to reach people who are unlikely to step inside the four walls of a church. If you are in Cape Town, sign up to help out at one of our tables. We need lots of volunteers!
Why don’t you consider doing a similar outreach in your area? Click here to get some advice on running your own Women’s Day outreach.
Africa Christian Action
PO Box 23632
Tel: 021-689 4481
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