This is the story of Kamilla Sambora, a very pretty young Ugandan woman, who was lured to South Africa by promises of a modeling career and untold fame and fortune. She was one of the many black African women who annually find themselves lured from different parts of the world for the express purposes of sex slavery and, to a lesser degree, domestic work.
Some of these girls (those destined for South Africa) are sold into various fraternities and have to obey their masters diligently. Those who do not toe the line consequently find themselves on the street, where life can be ten times worse than expected, especially in places like the rural areas of Johannesburg and the Cape Flats, in the Western Cape.
Kamilla was lucky. After initially being inducted into a sex ring in Johannesburg, she managed to escape her captors and landed up in Cape Town, where a Somali friend of mine brought her to our Madressa (Muslim Religious and Cultural institution) on the outskirts of Cape Town, commonly known as the Cape Flats.
She had told me what had happened to her, and that she was only interested in getting back to her parents and brothers in Uganda, but that she had no money and no passport(The modeling "Agency" in Kampala, Uganda, had said they would see to everything!)
She couldn't speak English very fluently, and on occasions she mispronounced certain words, but what she had told me had had me was shocking. My jaw had dropped when she had told me about Samantha, a sixteen year old girl, who had been raped by a Government official, then found dead in her room not long after that incident. The police had concluded that it was suicide, and, seeing that there was no next of kin to notify, they had left it at that. No one else had dared to say anything — the guest house (where she had stayed), and its staff were forbidden to speak to anyone. She was further victimized when she was labeled a whore. What else could you expect from someone coming from a foreign country, being bold enough to ply her trade in South Africa?
This attitude was something not uncommon in a land where the borders had been open to anyone (from the African States) since APARTHEID had been abolished. Day by day, whenever you watched the news on television, hordes of Zimbabweans and Angolans and anyone else could be seen making their way across the border, either by climbing over dilapidated fences or crawling under them.
But, I must confess, I was shocked to discover that there were people out there active in the sick practice of human trafficking and wholesale rape of unsuspecting young girls.
Kamilla cried bitterly when she told me about Samantha. I remember clearly the look on her face as she had pleaded with me. "Please, Sir..! You must help me. I do not want to die like Samantha did! I don't care what the police and everybody else says. She was murdered! I know she was murdered by that man! I AM A MUSLIM, SIR! I AM A MUSLIM!"
I had made up my mind, there and then, that something had to be done to help this girl, no matter what the cost! But let me continue Kamilla's story in her own words, and pray that this will serve as a warning to all those lured from foreign countries under the false pretext of coming for a modelling career or any career under the auspices of bogus organizations. MAKE SURE OF THE COMPANY'S CREDENTIALS AND REPUTATION FIRST!
Kamilla pulled the scarf around her neck tighter. It was not yet 7.00 pm, but already the evening breeze was biting into her flesh. It was strange, she frowned, as she watched a ramshackle horse-drawn cart making its way down Main Street, strange that Uganda was experiencing this kind of weather, she mused, especially at this time of year, when it was supposed to be the start of Summer. But never mind, she grimaced and shifted her weight onto the other foot where she was leaning against a pole, it wouldn't be long now, then she would be on her way to South Africa for a modeling career and a new life that was waiting for her. She couldn't wait to see what was on the other side.
Kamilla was tall and graceful, and, good looking with high cheek bones and the stance of a model. In fact, she had gotten the job from some agency that had advertised for models to work in Johannesburg and Cape Town. The man, a Nigerian, had said that she fitted the profile perfectly.
She frowned as she looked at her watch — it was getting late and she had been standing here for the past half an hour now. She was feeling worried because it was rapidly growing dark and Uganda wasn't safe after dark. Why couldn't they pick her up at their offices in Kampala, instead?
She wiped the perspiration from her brow and stared down the road. She had heard of the government soldiers patrolling the streets for rebels and any young woman, on her own, was fair game.
A car suddenly stopped by the curbside, and she cringed. Nervously she watched the driver get out and approach her. He was big and heavily built with a clean-shaven head and the car, a black BMW with dark, tinted windows seemed new. There were other occupants in it as well.
"Are you Kamilla?" The man wanted to know, his beady eyes scrutinizing her from top to bottom. He had a huge gold watch on his wrist and he reeked of an expensive male fragrance. "I am Josef and I have been sent by the modeling agency to accompany you to South Africa."
Kamilla gave a sigh of relief and nodded as Josef opened the rear passenger door for her.
"I'm sorry that I'm late," he said, after getting into the driver seat once again. "But I was held up at another appointment." He spoke with the accent of that peculiar to the Nigerians and he seemed anxious to be off again. Their was another man sitting next to him.
Kamilla had to squeeze in next to three other girls who all peered at her in the semi darkness of the car. They were all from the Jinja district on the north eastern side of Uganda, they told her, and they were all unmarried.
She shivered involuntarily as a sudden feeling of uneasiness swept over her. She sat still while the BMW weaved its way through a string of vehicles until it reached the freeway that led out of the city. At least she wasn't the only girl going to South Africa, she reassured herself. One of the girls, as a matter of fact, she had met at the agency's head office in Kampala; the other two she hadn't seen before, but they looked like, and acted like models themselves and, they were chatting and laughing non stop.
The man next to Josef turned round in his seat and stared at Kamilla. She frowned- he was a white man!
"Hello girls," he said, smiling, but keeping his gaze on Kamilla. "It won't be long now then you will be on a plane to South Africa. Isn't it exciting?" He was small and round and spoke with a South African accent. His name was Marius.
They all stared at him breathlessly. "Are we going by plane?" They exclaimed in unison. "Ugandan Airways?"
"No." Marius laughed. "We have our own charter plane. It's much quicker and much more exciting!" He took out a packet of chewing gum and stuffed a strip into his fat cheeks. He stared intently at Kamilla. "You'll be booked into a posh hotel in Johannesburg. What do you think of that?"
Kamilla didn't comment, she was thinking instead, of her mother and father and the scene she had had with them when she had told them about the modeling job in South Africa. Her father, a devout Muslim, had wanted to hear nothing about her plans. He had shouted at her that modeling was not for a decent Muslim girl, and, that if she persisted with her intentions, she would not be regarded as part of the Sambora family any longer. She had told them, in the end, that she had managed to secure a job in the Agency's Kampala office and as PA to the head director she would be required to travel to South Africa frequently to accompany the models. Also, there would be two mature ladies in attendance, acting as chaperones to those girls who may find it difficult to adapt in a foreign country.
She sighed unobtrusively, cringing at the lies she had told them that no one else, except the applicants, were allowed on the agency's premises at the time of departure when her two brothers had insisted on accompanying her to Kampala. She had managed to convince them that there were lots of other girls as well and that the manager had told them that the office couldn't accommodate so many people, especially relatives.
Now, as she sat, staring out of the window of the mini bus that had collected them from the airport, she still couldn't get over the feeling of guilt that stayed with her. If only Papa hadn't been so conservative, she thought. If only…
The other girls were all chatting excitedly about what they were going to do once they had settled in. Shopping, sight-seeing, nightclubbing, and boys, definitely! But for now a hot shower was first priority, they all agreed, because the flight to South Africa hadn't been a very comfortable one. They had had to squeeze in between large crates of merchandise, in a plane that looked more like something that came out of the Angolan civil war, which it probably was, and stank of hydraulic oil. Everywhere they touched were traces of sticky, black grease!
They passed many towns along the way. Places Kamilla tried to read the names on the signboards but in the dark was too difficult to discern. One name she remembered was Bertrams. It was here that the minibus stopped in front of a guest house that said: 'GRAND VIEW LODGE' and the driver told them to get out.
There was no wind, but it was cold as they followed Josef and Marius inside. The time was 2.15.
The 'Lodge' had an African theme, Kamilla saw, when they entered the building. There was matting and traditional African memorabilia that covered the walls while huge pictures of Zulu headmen adorned the reception area. Even the security personal were dressed in the familiar garb of the South African Border Patrol. Marius and Josef disappeared into an office.
Kamilla counted 50 bedrooms inside the complex. There were separate bathrooms and toilets scattered along the way but most of the rooms seemed to be en-suite. She wondered what room she was going to get, because she needed that hot bath and a good night's sleep after all the excitement and turmoil. She yawned unceremoniously.
Marius came back after a while, a slow smile on his podgy face. "Come!" he ordered, pointing down a long, dimly lit passage. "Let's get you settled in."
They all followed him down the passageway, tired, but excited, coming to stop at Room 49 where Marius opened the door.
"After you, Ladies." He gestured in a mock bow, not entering the room himself. "This will be your abode for tonight. Tomorrow we'll sort you out. Don't worry." And he locked the door after all four of them were inside, not giving them any chance to comment or protest.
"What the hell!" Jacintha swore. "Are we to sleep on this excuse for a bed- all four of us? And why does he lock the door?"
The room was very small, with only one bed, that stood opposite a window covered with African print drapes. Two pedestals, a single wardrobe, a dressing table and a chest of drawers completed the furnishing of the room. The bath room and toilet were in one with a shower that didn't allow any movement other than standing under the taps and wetting your body, as well as wetting the floor, because there were no curtains covering the shower cubicle entrance.
"This can't be right!" said Maria, the oldest of the four. "This must be a joke. They can't do this to us!" She was twenty seven and she had one child, which she had lied about, because one of the Agency's policies were that no girl applying for a modeling career should be burdened with children or family, for that matter. No girl should also be infected with the HIV/AIDS virus and were tested to that effect. Maria's child was staying with her parents in Kabali, but Maria had told them that she didn't know her parents and, had been raised in an orphanage. "I"m going to see the manager. RIGHT NOW! I'm not going to sleep in this room!" She was a fiery woman.
There was a sudden knock on the door and they all froze. It was Marius.
"Two of you must come with me," he said, still chewing his gum. "There's another room available." He looked from one to the other. "You and you." He pointed to Kamilla and Samantha, the youngest of the group. "Get your stuff. We must go!"
Kamilla was only too happy to at least have just one person to share a room with; Samantha smiled eagerly. She was sixteen years old.
They followed Marius outside into a courtyard where there were more apartments surrounding a swimming pool. Marius took them down a stairway where there were two rooms, opposite each other, hidden away from view.
"You can sleep here," he said to Kamilla, unlocking the door for her. "Make yourself at home." There was a sly smile on his fat face. "And you can sleep here," he said to Samantha after he had opened the door of the other room. "Enjoy yourselves, Ladies." And he left. The two girls stared at each other.
"Wow!" exclaimed Samantha when he was gone. "Can you believe it? We've got our very own rooms! Our very own rooms!" She pumped her fists into the air. "Jacintha and Maria are going to be so jealous. I promise you! Look at these rooms…They are so BIG! Oh! I can't wait to tell them!
Kamilla pulled a face at her. "Don't make such a noise, Silly! Do you want them to put us back with the other two again?"
"I'm sorry." Samantha looked contrite. "But wait till I tell the others…Ooh La La..!" Her joy knew no bounds and she waltzed into her room. Kamilla went into hers and unceremoniously dumped her baggage on the carpeted floor. She felt like collapsing on the bed and just sleep to her hearts content. But her body felt sticky and she reluctantly started to undress herself. She would take a quick shower, she promised herself and perhaps have a cup of coffee…Someone had run her shower for her too, she noticed as she stared at the closed shower curtain and she smiled appreciatively. She yawned. Why on earth she had been beating herself up by being so full of misgivings, UNNECESSARILY! she didn't know. But she would put it all behind her and start a new life here in South Africa. And, perhaps, once she earns enough money, she will let Mama and Papa, and, her brothers come and join her. She opened the shower curtain…And she would buy a big house for them all. And…"
She nearly fell backwards from shock. She saw a black man, in his thirties or forties, standing naked under the shower, smiling at her broadly.
She instinctively covered her breasts and her private parts with her hands as the man closed the taps. He didn't bother to cover himself. "Hello," he said, still smiling at her. "What's your name?" And he stepped out of the shower.
Kamilla was speechless with shock. She wanted to scream, but her throat felt so dry that all she could get out was a hoarse croak. "Don't touch me!" She finally uttered. "DON'T TOUCH ME!
The man laughed. "I'm not touching you! He grabbed a towel. "I'm not doing anything to you!"
Kamilla hastily put on her clothes. "What are you doing in my room?"
He was still smiling at her. "This is my room!"
"NO! IT'S MINE! GET OUT!
He laughed. "I can't do that. I'VE paid for this room. Here, let me show you…" He went over to the dressing table picking up a receipt "And besides, where would I go to at this time of the night?" He spoke a very good English.
"Then I will go!" Kamilla spat out the words. "I'll go next door to my friend. You and I can't stay together in this room! I will…"
There came a stifled scream from Samantha's room at that precise moment and Kamilla froze. There was another scream and Kamilla heard Samantha moaning. She made a move towards the door.
"Don't do that!" Richard cautioned, grabbing her arm."
Kamilla glared at him. "TAKE YOUR HANDS OFF ME!"
"As you wish." He let go of her arm. "But I'm surprised they didn't tell you…" He lifted his hands in the air.
"Tell me what?" She kept glaring at him.
"That you have been paid for!"
"Paid for? For what?"
"To be nice to us!"
Kamilla could only gape at him in complete astonishment. "You mean were are to sleep with you?"
"OH MY GOD! You can't be serious!
"I am! This is how it's supposed to be.
"But…But…How can it be? The Agency…They never said anything about this?"
Richard pulled a face. "What agency are you talking about?"
"The modeling Agency in Kampala!"
Richard grimaced. "I don't know anything about any modeling agency. But this is how it has always been- we reserve a room here and it comes together with all its perks. If you know what I mean…" He gave her a slow smile.
Kamilla had to sit down. Her knees suddenly felt very weak and she began to tremble. "But surely, this is illegal! How can they do this?"
Richard came to sit next to her. "You see, it works like this…" he stared at her in earnest. "We are from the South African Government. I'm from the Diplomatic Core and my partner, next door…" He indicated with his head towards where there were only pathetic moans coming from Samantha's room now. "We're both from the same Department and we come here from time to time and there's always a girl waiting for us. We get to choose from photographs what kind of girl we prefer."
Kamilla could now understand why they had been subjected to all kinds of medical tests as well as to their sexual preferences. They had been photographed in various outfits as well as in the nude. She had thought it was all part of becoming a model. She had felt very proud of her body at the time, but now she felt sick to her stomach. Papa had been right after all. She should have listened to him. Oh, why hadn't she listened to him? She burst out crying.
Richard pulled her to him. "Don't worry. I won't do anything you don't want me to do. I'm a happily married man!"
She kept on crying. She was thinking of how she was ever going to get back home to Mama and Papa and to Hakim and Salih, her two brothers- she had no passport and no money (the "Agency" had said that they would see to everything). She was trapped in a strange land where the only way out was to sell her body and her soul.