Often township girls leave home for days without telling their parents where they are going and don’t realize the repercussions of their actions and at times black parents accept this behavior and never alert authorities when it happens. This was the case with Portia who at 17-years-old in 2008 left home for what her mother thought was her usual search of a good time.
Portia would normally leave on Fridays and not return until the weekend was over and on this particular day she had been in an argument with her mother, Mapule. This was normal behavior in this home and Mapule had accepted that her teenage daughter would sleep wherever she wanted on weekends and would always return to her Mamelodi home when the good time had ended and all the adults she’d party with would be returning to work on Monday But on a certain weekend Portia never came back home as usual.
Mapule then went to the police who sent out a search party for her daughter and there were no clues of what had happened to her. “The longer it took to find her, the less interested the police seemed in assisting me further because every lead led to a dead end,” explains Mapule.
One July Friday in 2010 a relative who was in Cape Town phoned. “She had seen Portia on the streets of Cape Town in the Western Cape on long street. At first I was a little hesitant to believe her because I could not comprehend how in the world she could end up at a place so far away from home.”
With this clue there was a bit of optimism, but then the hopeful mother remembered how she’d been disappointed by police clues several times before. “ I just listened and finally agreed to meet up with her as soon as I had gathered enough money for a bus fare because I am a single and unemployed mother of three.”
On arrival in Cape Town Mapule walked around with the photo of her daughter showing it to people until one day someone told her where she had been seen. She also found out that her daughter had been spotted working as a prostitute in the Mother City. She ran to the Cape Town police with the information who found her addicted to a drug called Tik.After she had been taken to hospital Portia told a story that sounds like a movie script. She explained how she had been in a Pretoria flat with a friend and a man she’d never met before. She says she was knocked out and injected with a drug she didn’t know and gained consciousness on a minibus to Cape Town. She says she was then repeatedly injected with this drug she believes was heroin.
“I was eventually addicted to the stuff and had to make money to support my habit. The man I was given to told me that the easiest way I could make money was to offer my services to his clients by having sex with them. I was scared but had no choice," says Portia.That is how Portia says she entered a life of prostitution.
After talking to Portia and her mother, Mapule, I realise that as Africans we know very little about human trafficking and often some parents neglect their children thinking teenagers can take care of themselves. This was a clear case of human trafficking within South Africa’s borders.