Zimbabwe is a source, transit, and destination country for men, women, and children subjected to sex trafficking and forced labor. Women and girls from Zimbabwean towns bordering South Africa, Mozambique, and Zambia are subjected to prostitution in brothels that cater to long-distance truck drivers on both sides of the borders. Some victims of sex trafficking are subsequently transported across the border to South Africa where they suffer continued exploitation. Zimbabwean men, women, and children are subjected to forced labor in agriculture and domestic service in the country’s rural areas, as well as domestic servitude and sex trafficking in cities and towns. Family members recruit children and other relatives to travel from rural areas to cities, where they are subjected to domestic servitude or other forms of forced labor after arrival; some children, particularly orphans, are lured with promises of education or adoption. Children are forced to labor in the agricultural and mining sectors or to carry out illegal activities, including drug smuggling. Additionally, the practice of ngozi, or giving of a family member to another family to avenge the spirits of a murdered relative, creates a vulnerability to trafficking. The individuals given to the wronged family, often girls, are sometimes forced to labor for, and/or marry a member of the new family.
Zimbabwean men, women, and children migrate to South Africa, where some are forced to labor for months on farms, construction sites, or in mines without pay before their employers report them to authorities for deportation. Much of this migration to South Africa is seasonal. Many Zimbabwean women and some children willingly migrate to South Africa, often with the assistance of taxi drivers who transport them to the border at Beitbridge or nearby. Some of the migrants are then transferred to criminal gangs that subject them to violent attacks, rape, deception, and, in some cases, forced prostitution in Musina, Pretoria, Johannesburg, or Durban. Zimbabwean women and men are lured into exploitative labor situations in Angola, Botswana, Mozambique, the United Arab Emirates, Malaysia, Nigeria, South Korea, and South Africa with false offers of employment in agriculture, construction, information technology, and hospitality; some subsequently become victims of forced labor, and some women become victims of forced prostitution. Women and girls are also lured to Zambia, China, Egypt, the United Kingdom, and Canada and subjected to sex trafficking. There has been an increase in reports of trafficking cases involving Zimbabwean women lured to China under the pretense of professional and hospitality-sector jobs; reports indicate some of these women are subjected to sex trafficking.
Men, women, and children from countries including Bangladesh, Somalia, India, Pakistan, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Malawi, Mozambique, and Zambia are transported through Zimbabwe en route to South Africa; some of these migrants are trafficking victims. Women and children from border communities in neighboring countries are subjected to trafficking in Zimbabwe for exploitation in prostitution and forced labor, including domestic servitude. Zambian boys are subjected to prostitution in Zimbabwe. South Asians are victims of forced labor in Zimbabwe and South Africa following fraudulent recruitment as part of mining investment schemes through which they become indebted to a trafficking ring. Chinese nationals are reportedly forced to labor in restaurants in Zimbabwe. Chinese construction and mining companies reportedly employ practices indicative of forced labor, including verbal, physical, and sexual abuse, and various means of coercion to induce work in unsafe or otherwise undesirable conditions.
The Government of Zimbabwe does not fully comply with the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking and is not making significant efforts to do so. During the reporting period, it acceded to the 2000 UN TIP Protocol, issued temporary regulations that criminalize certain human trafficking crimes, and initiated two prosecutions. Government efforts to investigate and prosecute trafficking offenses and convict traffickers remained weak. The government provided no law enforcement statistics on investigations of suspected forced labor and sex trafficking crimes during the reporting period and continued to lack laws that criminalize all forms of trafficking. Parastatal organizations were complicit in trafficking, and official corruption was rampant. The government made minimal efforts to protect trafficking victims, instead relying on non-governmental organizations to identify and assist victims. It has yet to create a national action plan to combat human trafficking as mandated by the January 2014 temporary regulations.
Recommendations for Zimbabwe:
Pass permanent anti-trafficking legislation consistent with the 2000 UN TIP Protocol that does not define trafficking as requiring movement; increase efforts to investigate and prosecute trafficking offenses; convict and punish trafficking offenders using existing legislation; formalize procedures for identifying victims and transferring them to the care of appropriate governmental or non-governmental service providers; train officials on victim identification and referral procedures and relevant legislation; provide financial or in-kind support to NGOs and international organizations offering victim services; develop and implement a national action plan to combat trafficking; incorporate trafficking crimes into police procedures for recording and reporting crime data; and raise awareness of human trafficking and the availability of assistance for victims.
The Government of Zimbabwe increased anti-trafficking law enforcement efforts by issuing temporary regulations to establish certain trafficking offenses and initiating prosecutions in two cases. In January 2014, President Robert Mugabe issued the Presidential Powers (Temporary Measures) (Trafficking in Persons Act) Regulations, 2014; this regulation has legal effect for a maximum of 180 days, through July 2014. The temporary measure prohibits some forms of sex and labor trafficking and mandates the establishment of centers for trafficking victims and an inter-ministerial anti-trafficking committee. The terms “trafficking in persons” and “exploitation” are not clearly defined in these regulations, which define some non-trafficking offenses as trafficking and, contrary to international law, transportation of the victim is a necessary element of the crime of trafficking. The regulations prescribe punishments of not less than 10 years’ imprisonment and, with aggravating circumstances, up to imprisonment for life, penalties that are sufficiently stringent and commensurate with those for other serious crimes, such as rape. In March 2014, Parliament began consideration of draft permanent anti-trafficking legislation; this legislation remained pending at the close of the reporting period.
Zimbabwe’s Labor Relations Amendment Act prohibits forced labor and prescribes punishments of up to two years’ imprisonment; these penalties are not sufficiently stringent. The Criminal Law (Codification and Reform) Act prohibits procuring a person for unlawful sexual conduct, inside or outside of Zimbabwe, but prescribes less than stringent penalties of up to two years’ imprisonment. The Act also prohibits coercing or inducing anyone to engage in unlawful sexual conduct with another person by threat or intimidation, prescribing sufficiently stringent penalties of one to five years’ imprisonment. Pledging a female for forced marriage or to compensate for the death of a relative or any debt or obligation is punishable under the Act, with penalties of up to two years’ imprisonment. None of these penalties are commensurate with penalties prescribed for other serious crimes, such as rape.
The government did not vigorously investigate and prosecute trafficking offenses. The Zimbabwe Republic Police’s Victim Friendly Unit (VFU) has responsibility for investigating cases involving women and children and referring victims to support services; however, the VFU did not provide information on the number of trafficking investigations it conducted during the year. In January and March 2014, the government initiated its first two prosecutions under the temporary regulations. The first case involved a woman charged with fraudulently recruiting 22 Zimbabwean women for employment as housemaids in Saudi Arabia. The second case involved a defendant who allegedly recruited two women for employment as cross-border merchandise traders in Angola and forced them into prostitution after arrival. In March 2014, media reported a potential third case involving two women who forced two Zimbabwean girls into prostitution; however, the two women were not charged with trafficking crimes. The government reported no trafficking convictions during the reporting period.
Corruption in law enforcement and the judiciary remained a serious and unaddressed problem that impairs the effectiveness of anti-trafficking efforts. Media report that parastatal organizations were complicit in trafficking; the government failed to investigate or otherwise address such allegations during the reporting period. For example, in a high profile case, a government-affiliated company failed to pay 366 workers for three months of work and subjected them to various forms of abuse—indicators of forced labor. In January 2014, a Zimbabwean court ordered the company owners to provide the workers with back pay. A separate government-owned company failed to pay wages to coal workers for several months in 2013, and the workers did not receive their back pay. The government did not initiate any prosecutions in that case. Victims reportedly refused to report or pursue cases of trafficking out of fear that their traffickers could bribe police or judges. Anecdotal evidence indicated a limited government involvement in, and tolerance of, trafficking on a local level and at border crossings. The government did not report any investigations, prosecutions, or convictions of government employees complicit in human trafficking. The government did not provide anti-trafficking training to law enforcement officials. The Ministry of Labor and Social Security had a taskforce that was charged with investigating Chinese construction companies suspected of abusive employment practices—possibly including forced labor—and ensuring overall compliance with Zimbabwean labor law. This taskforce failed to take concrete action during the year.
The Zimbabwean government made inadequate efforts to protect trafficking victims, instead relying on NGOs and IOM to identify and assist victims. The government did not report the total number of trafficking victims it identified or assisted during the reporting period. Government officials reported identifying 22 potential victims related to one ongoing trafficking prosecution and two potential victims in another; however, it was unclear what services the government provided these victims. It was also unclear what services the government provided victims identified by NGOs. Law enforcement authorities did not employ procedures—such as formal written guidelines—to proactively identify victims or refer them to protection services. Under the temporary regulation, police have primary responsibility for identifying victims.
The temporary anti-trafficking regulations call for the establishment of a center for victims of human trafficking in each province of Zimbabwe; however, the government has yet to fund or create the centers. Five existing government-run shelters offered long-term accommodations to vulnerable and orphaned children, including an unknown number of potential child trafficking victims. Children had access to health services, counseling, and some educational services at these shelters. The government referred two potential child labor trafficking victims from the Democratic Republic of Congo to NGOs that provided the victims shelter. It facilitated the return of a Zimbabwean sex trafficking victim from China by assisting with her travel documents, interviewing her, and conducting an investigation of her case, which remained ongoing at the end of the reporting period. The government may have detained and deported potential trafficking victims due to a lack of proactive victim identification procedures. The government did not provide foreign trafficking victims with temporary or permanent resident status or any other legal alternatives to their removal to countries where they might face retribution or hardship.
The government increased efforts to prevent trafficking, taking initial steps to reorganize and confront the crime. Zimbabwe acceded to the 2000 UN TIP Protocol in December 2013. The Ministry of Home Affairs is the lead government agency to combat human trafficking; in October 2013, the government also established a position in the President’s Office to focus on trafficking issues. An inter-ministerial committee tasked with advancing anti-trafficking legislation was ineffective, meeting only once during the reporting period. The January 2014 temporary regulations call for the establishment of a new inter-ministerial anti-trafficking committee to draft a national action plan to combat trafficking; this new committee had yet to meet or create such a plan at the end of the reporting period. The government did not fund any training on ways to combat human trafficking for government officials during the reporting period, though government officials participated in trainings sponsored by civil society and international organizations. In May 2013, government officials participated in a two-day technical workshop organized by an international organization to help draft anti-trafficking legislation. The government launched no trafficking awareness campaigns during the reporting period. The government did not provide information on any efforts it may have made to ensure that its military personnel deployed abroad on international peacekeeping missions did not facilitate or engage in human trafficking. It did not make efforts to reduce the demand for commercial sex acts or forced labor.