The prevalence of underage prostitution and human trafficking is gradually getting out of hand in South Africa but it appears the South African Police Service are now equal to the task.

According to the mother of a 14-year-old Mpumalanga girl whom police took from a barber’s shop that allegedly doubled as a brothel, a 17-year-old girl has allegedly been used as bait to ensnare younger girls in a human trafficking ring operating out of Springs, on the East Rand.

The Barber Shop is allegedly run by a 42-year-old man who was arrested in a raid on Friday.

During the raid, five girls were reportedly found drugged.

The girls were aged between 14 and 19.

The youngest amongst the girls, 14,  had disappeared from her Balfour home on Thursday and was traced by police a day later.

The bait girl (17) and the man were both arrested and appeared in the Springs Magistrate’s Court yesterday.

They were charged with human trafficking, kidnapping, rape, sexual exploitation and possession of drugs and pornographic material.

A parent said the girls were found drugged and waiting for clients. It’s traumatic. A 14-year-old being forced into prostitution, it’s just horrifying.

The mother of the 17-year-old accused was in the public gallery of the court. She said her daughter is a problem child who started running away from home when she was 15.

The shop also operates as a tuck shop and a gold and diamond exchange.

Business owners and locals in Eighth Street, where the alleged brothel operated said that every day they see two girls standing outside the place. We knew what was going on but it doesn’t help if you phone the police – they don’t show up.

Other locals said the “brothel” was one of three on the busy street.

Several girls were seen entering and leaving the house. On Monday afternoon the barber’s seemed to be deserted.

Sex workers in the area told that they are not convinced that all the girls the police have taken from the premises were forced into the trade.

“Some girls come of their own free will,” said 23-year-old prostitute Palesa.

A report on human trafficking worldwide, released in June by the US State Department, said that South Africa is a source, transit and destination country for men, women and children subjected to forced labour and sex trafficking.

Nigerian syndicates dominate the commercial sex trade in several provinces [in South Africa], the report says.