Members of Parliament from the Southern African Development Community (Sadc) region have unanimously adopted a motion condemning the reported slave trade of asylum seekers and migrants in Libya.
By Moses Magadza
A video clip that went viral showing an auctioneer apparently auctioning off migrants at $400 apiece has incensed the region’s lawmakers, prompting them to take a stand.
South African MP Santosh Vinita Kalyan moved a motion at the just-ended 42nd plenary assembly session of the Sadc Parliamentary Forum demanding decisive action from the African Union and other regional blocs to bring the perpetrators “of such heinous crimes” inside and outside Libya to justice.
Kalyan condemned the emergence of modern day slavery in which migrants fleeing corruption, oppression and poverty were trying to reach Europe via Libya, only to fall into the clutches of smugglers and being subjected to heinous abuses.
Reports say the smugglers extort a large amount of money from the illegal migrants in order to get them across the Mediterranean Sea.
Kalyan said Libyan coast guards were reportedly arresting the migrants and taking them to Libyan detention centres where many have been raped, beaten and tortured. Others were being reportedly set upon by smugglers and sold off as either work slaves or sex slaves.
“The European Union is as complicit in violating the human rights of those migrants and they turn their heads the other way when the coast guard returns them to Libya. Finding a solution is indeed complex. What is very sad that this is a brother upon brother crime,” the tough-talking MP said.
MP Ally Saleh from Tanzania said it was “saddening” that slave trade had reared its ugly head in Africa, centuries after it was officially abolished.
Noting that Zanzibar was a focal point on slave trade a few centuries ago, Saleh blamed the United Nations and the “imperialistic world” for the reported ongoing slave trade in Libya.
Jessie Kabwila, an MP from Malawi, who chairs the Regional Women’s Parliamentary Caucus of Sadc PF, called for a media strategy to amplify the region’s s indignation over the reported slave trade in Libya.
Swaziland’s Jomo Mfanawemakhosi Dhlamini said what was happening in Libya was tantamount to a vote of no confidence on Africa.
“Have we not failed to do the right thing? Why should somebody subject themselves to that situation? The lack of opportunity, education and so on eventually leads to people subjecting themselves to this. I condemn the slave trade. Africa must look within. Africa must stop blaming others,” Dlamini said.
Zimbabwe’s Samuel Mukanduri said it the story of modern day slavery was sad reading.
Nowadays we sell goods on the market, but in Libya we hear stories that people instead of goods, human beings are being sold like goods. Like tomatoes! Why?” Mukanduri asked.
“It is because we have let the imperialists devastate our economies. People are going to Europe because they know that our resources have been looted in Africa and they want to go and benefit from their sweat.”
He called for political systems that create economic opportunities that benefit people.
“We should not let people loot. Those people in positions should desist from corrupt activities because this will disadvantage the citizens of our countries,” Mukanduri said.
Another MP from Swaziland, Sikhumbuzo Ndlovu appealed to the AU, the EU and the UN to come on board “so that this modern-day slavery is fought with everything at our disposal”.