The globalisation of trafficking and its impact on the South African counter-trafficking legislation

Ingrid Palmary and Thea de Gruchy (2019) The globalisation of trafficking and its impact on the South African counter-trafficking legislation. Critical Social Policy. [OPEN ACCESS]

This article was prompted by emerging and highly politicised debates in South Africa over the role of ‘foreign influence’ in policy-making. Whilst popular debates on this issue are often over simplified, it nevertheless seemed a relevant topic for migration policy-making given its cross-national focus. In this article, we therefore consider what influenced the development of South Africa’s 2013 Prevention and Combatting of Trafficking in Persons Act (TiP Act) as just one example of migration policy-making. Using qualitative methods, we map the influences on the South African TiP Act, and highlight how these shaped the passing of the Act, as well as the form that it took. We describe three pathways of international influence that shaped and constrained the possibilities for the Act: the global system for the governance of trafficking, the globalisation of knowledge around trafficking, and the nature of diplomatic relations. Exploring these pathways, we interrogate and unpack the idea that policy-making takes place in isolation and exclusively at a national level. Instead, this article illustrates how policy-making around issues of trafficking, and migration, takes place amidst complex and unequal global relationships.

About Thea de Gruchy

Thea de Gruchy is a postdoctoral researcher at the ACMS working on migration and health. Since the outbreak of the Covid19 pandemic in South Africa, much of Thea's work has pivoted to exploring the effect of the pandemic and implications of the South African state's response to the pandemic for migrant and mobile populations. As part of this work, Thea helps to coordinate the Migration and Coronavirus in Southern African group (MiCoSA).

Her PhD research, which was supervised by Jo Vearey, funded by the Wellcome Trust and part of the Migration and Health Project (maHp) at ACMS, centred on questions of policy process and asked how policy is made and influenced in South Africa. In 2015 and the beginning of 2016, Thea worked with Ingrid Palmary to answer some of these questions and inform a conceptual framework on how policy is made in South Africa using the Trafficking in Persons Act of 2013 as a case study. Her doctoral work uses a case study of health and occupational safety policy in the South African agricultural sector to elaborate on and develop this framework.

Thea’s MA, which was funded by the National Research Foundation (NRF), focused on the immigration industry and the relationship between the state, immigration intermediaries, and migrants. Part of this research explored the increasing precarity experienced by immigrants in South Africa as a result of changing and increasingly stringent immigration policy and regulations. Having received a Faculty of Humanities Ad Hoc Grant from the University of the Witwatersrand for 2016 to follow on with some of this research and as part of the Security at the Margins (SeaM) project – a collaborative project between ACMS and the Centre for African Studies at the University of Edinburgh – she continues to be interested in the relationship between policy, specifically policy framed in terms of security, and the precarity of marginalised and vulnerable groups.

Thea currently co-ordinates the PhD Work in Progress seminars at the ACMS.