…no political will to fight trafficking
…MPs, police complicit
A NEW report has exposed government complicity in human trafficking, with the authorities failing to act on several cases involving abuse of local and foreign nationals.
According to the United States State Department Trafficking in Persons report on Zimbabwe, there is no political will to fight human trafficking. Some officials are said to be protecting the culprits.
The report notes that there has not been any trial or conviction of government officials engaged in human trafficking, even amid allegations that some officials were facilitating for Zimbabweans to go into forced labour in countries like Oman and Kuwait.
“The government did not report any investigations, prosecutions, or convictions of government officials complicit in human trafficking crimes,” the report reads.
Corruption, the report added, was also a factor affecting Zimbabwe’s capacity to deal with human trafficking that is also rampant on farms and mines, many of them run by government officials.
“However, corruption and official complicity in trafficking crimes remained significant concerns, inhibiting law enforcement action during the year. Observers reported the government did not have a system to investigate and prosecute complicit officials.”
It also emerged that senior government officials obstructed investigations into allegations of child labour violations on farms in Mazowe district.
“For the fourth consecutive year, the government did not investigate serious, credible claims that complicit magistrates, judges, and senior government officials undermined judicial independence, including by bribing judges with farms and homes.”
“Military officers patrolling the Beitbridge border post received bribes to facilitate unauthorised crossings, including in past years from organised criminal groups likely transporting victims of human trafficking.”
“During the previous reporting period, an NGO assisted four potential labour trafficking victims allegedly exploited on a Member of Parliament’s farm; the government did not report any action to investigate the allegations by the end of the reporting period.”
The report reads: “The government of Zimbabwe does not fully meet the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking but is making significant efforts to do so.”
“The government did not amend its anti-trafficking law to criminalise all forms of trafficking. The government did not identify any trafficking victims or provide care for victims in its designated shelter. The government did not convict any traffickers. Therefore Zimbabwe remained on Tier 2 Watch List for the second consecutive year.”
It also emerged that despite calls by victims to take action on the alleged trafficking of 17 Zimbabwean women exploited in Kuwait in 2016 and the victims’ stated willingness to participate in trials, the government did not do so for the fifth consecutive year.
“The government arrested a Zimbabwean labour recruiter for recruiting Zimbabwean women to work in Oman, where they were allegedly exploited in domestic servitude; the case remained pending at the end of the reporting period. The government reported collaborating with the governments of South Africa, Botswana and Oman on investigations involving trafficking of Zimbabwean victims.”
According to the report, violent gangs forced workers into labour in some artisanal and defunct gold mines, operating with impunity due to their connections to police and local politicians who allegedly accepted bribes and allowed individuals to enter the mines and work without oversight.
“Trafficking victims reported law enforcement threatened and intimidated them when they tried to report their cases.”
Observers, the report said, reported the government lacked systematic procedures to effectively investigate cases and immigration officials lacked capacity to detect and investigate trafficking.
“The government demonstrated negligible victim identification and protection efforts. For the second consecutive year, the government did not report identifying any trafficking victims. NGOs reported the ministry of Public Service, Labour, and Social Welfare (MPSLSW) referred six trafficking victims for services.”
“The government continued to lack the political will to address child and forced labour, particularly in agriculture.”
“As reported over the past five years, human traffickers exploit domestic and foreign victims in Zimbabwe, and traffickers exploit victims from Zimbabwe abroad.”
“Internal trafficking is prevalent and under-reported. Traffickers exploit Zimbabwean adults and children in sex trafficking and forced labour, including in cattle herding, domestic service, and mining in gold and diamond sectors.”
“More than 71% of child labour occurs in the agriculture sector, including on tobacco, sugarcane, and cotton farms, as well as in forestry and fishing sectors, where children weed, spray, harvest, and pack goods. Some of these children are victims of forced labour, including some who work on small, unregulated farms.”
Due to pandemic-induced school closures and worsening economic conditions, observers reported child sex trafficking and child labour likely increased, particularly in agriculture, domestic service, informal trading, begging, and artisanal mining.
“Children ages 9 to 14 work as nannies, housemaids, and gardeners in urban areas and
mining communities; some employers force children to work by withholding wages, denying them access to school, and subjecting them to GBV [gender-based violence]”
Traffickers exploit women and girls from Zimbabwean towns bordering South Africa, Mozambique, and Zambia in forced labour, including domestic servitude, and sex trafficking in brothels catering to long-distance truck drivers on both sides of the border.
Due to economic conditions worsened by the Covid-19 pandemic, undocumented Zimbabwean women and children increasingly travel to South Africa for employment, where their lack of legal status increases their vulnerability to traffickers.”
Facilitators recruit and transport Zimbabwean migrants to South Africa, where international criminal syndicates subject them to sex trafficking in Musina, Pretoria, Johannesburg, and Durban.
Traffickers have exploited Zimbabwean women in domestic servitude, forced labour, and sex trafficking in Iraq, Kenya, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, Oman, China and Uganda, often under the guise of legitimate employment. Zimbabwean labour recruiters ensnare Zimbabwean women for exploitation in domestic servitude in Oman, where their passports are confiscated, and they are forced to work without pay.