ZIMBABWE has been named alongside Sadc peers Zambia and Malawi as having the highest prevalence of modern slavery in the region due to rising levels of poverty and corruption, a new report has revealed.
While many Zimbabwe nationals have been subjected to inhumane treatment in predominantly Arab countries, it has been established that the southern African nation has high cases of modern slavery.
Modern slavery refers to situations of exploitations that a person cannot refuse or leave because of threats, violence, coercion, deception or abuses of power.
It takes many forms and is known by many names — forced labour, forced marriage, debt bondage, sexual exploitation, human trafficking, slavery-like practices, forced or servile marriage and the sale and exploitation of children.
Experts say modern slavery permeates industries that are characterised by informality, with high numbers of migrant workers, and where there is limited government oversight.
According to the 2023 Global Slavery Index, Zimbabwe is ranked 21 on the continent with an estimated number of people in modern slavery at 74 000. Zambia and Malawi are ranked 19 and 22 respectively.
Africa, the report shows, has the highest vulnerability to modern slavery of all regions and is home to the four most vulnerable countries: South Sudan, Somalia, Central African Republic and the Democratic Republic of Congo.
The report shows that Eritrea and Mauritania top the list while Mauritius, Lesotho and Botswana have the least prevalence.
The report shows that at position 13, Zimbabwe’s level of vulnerability to modern slavery is at 75% while South Sudan is at 100%. Mauritius has the lowest level of vulnerability at 20%.
Zimbabwe’s government response to modern slavery, the report further revealed, is lowly ranked, alongside countries such as Sudan, Chad, Gabon, Equatorial Gunea, Somalia, Libya and Eritrea.
“No country in Africa has fully criminalised all forms of modern slavery, yet legal frameworks have improved in Africa over the last four years,” the report reads.
“Corruption and complicity also impede efforts to combat modern slavery in 36 out of 51 countries. In Libya, officials working for coastguard, defence, immigration and security authorities commit modern slavery without fear of investigation or consequence. In addition, state-imposed forced labour reportedly occurs in Libya, Eritrea, Egypt, Mali, Rwanda and Zimbabwe.”
The report also noted that risk factors such as attitudes, social systems and institutions that enable modern slavery are weakly addressed in the region.