College of Humanities

Masters Graduate with Cerebral Palsy explores human trafficking in South Africa

Mr Nkululeko Muthwa, who uses a wheelchair due to cerebral palsy, was thrilled to graduate with his Masters in Social Sciences for his research that looks at South Africa’s ability to combat human trafficking.

Due to his physical impairment, Muthwa required full-time assistance at his residence on campus. Muthwa’s mother Tina stayed with him intermittently on campus, taking care of him so he could focus on his studies. He also utilised a helper through the National Student Financial Aid Scheme (NSFAS) funding allowance for human support.

‘As a mother, it wasn’t easy. Nkululeko is my first child, born with a disability. I had to enrol him at St. Raphael’s School in Yellowwood Park. Due to his inability to type fast (he can only use one finger to type), his grade 4 teacher advised that he needed to break the class into years. He did the same grade for two years. Nkululeko had to take half of his subjects for a year and continue with the remaining subjects, the next year. He persevered. His marks were always good.’

‘With the help of my late grandmother, we were always by his side. After passing his matric, he started at UKZN. For a time, I had to leave home and stayed with him at the Residence, helping him dress up, cooking and preparing food for him. I am proud to have a son like him. I cry tears of joy when I see how hard my son has worked and his achievements,’ said Tina.

Muthwa strived for excellence in all that he did. He was a Residence Assistant (RA) responsible for 100 – 150 students at Townley Williams Hall residence on Howard College campus and served on the Differently Abled Students Association (DASA).

Muthwa is grateful to his mother, family, friends and supervisor Dr Lubna Nadvi. ‘The attainment of my Masters would not have been a reality without their tireless efforts and unwavering support.’

The study revealed that there are many policy instruments at the disposal of South Africa to tackle human trafficking, however they are under-utilised. ‘One of the challenges of policy implementation is due to the state officials and other relevant personnel being incapacitated to deal with human trafficking. Some of the police officers are unable to determine what

constitutes as a human trafficking criminal conduct,’ said Muthwa.

The social factors that lead to people being vulnerable to human trafficking include high level of unemployment and urban migration. The study shows that sexual exploitation as well as domestic servitude are the most prevalent type of human trafficking.

‘In the recent years there are signs of slow progression in prosecuting cases related to human trafficking. We should be capacitating the public, officials, and servants on human trafficking through education. The Department of Higher Learning and Technology can play a pivotal role in encouraging and supporting research on human trafficking,’ he suggested.

Muthwa believes his study will give society an opportunity to do an introspection on how the country can deal with human trafficking but also create awareness about the magnitude of human trafficking and the types of trafficking that occurs. This could take the form of public hearings.

He now plans to pursue his PhD.