ZIMBABWE: Tier 3
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 forced labor, including domestic servitude, and sex trafficking in brothels catering to long-distance truck drivers on both sides of the borders. 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 from rural areas for work in cities where they are subjected to domestic servitude or other forms of forced labor; 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, giving a family member to another family to avenge the spirits of a murdered relative, creates a vulnerability to trafficking.
Zimbabwean men, women, and children migrate to South Africa, where some are forced to labor for months, often seasonally, on farms, at construction sites, in factories, or in mines without pay. 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 transferred to criminal gangs that subject them to abuse, including forced prostitution in Musina, Pretoria, Johannesburg, or Durban. Zimbabwean women and men are lured into exploitative labor situations in agriculture, construction, information technology, and hospitality largely in neighboring countries; some subsequently become victims of forced labor, and some women become victims of forced prostitution. Reports continue of trafficking cases involving Zimbabwean women lured to China under the pretense of professional and hospitality-sector jobs, some of whom are subjected to sex trafficking.
Men, women, and children predominantly from East Africa are transported through Zimbabwe en route to South Africa; some of these migrants are trafficking victims. Refugees from Somalia and the Democratic Republic of the Congo reportedly travel from Zimbabwe’s Tongogara Refugee Camp to Harare, where they are exploited and, in some cases, forced into prostitution. 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. There were increased reports of children from Mozambique being subjected to forced labor, including in street vending.
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. While the government passed the “Trafficking in Persons Act” in June 2014, it failed to ensure prohibitions under the law were consistent with the international definition of trafficking in persons under the 2000 UN TIP Protocol; rather, contrary to international law, the 2014 act serves in effect to prohibit transportation-based crimes. The government did not report any anti-trafficking law enforcement efforts during the reporting period. Official complicity in trafficking crimes remained a concern. The government made minimal efforts to protect trafficking victims, instead relying on NGOs to identify and assist victims. In January 2015, it established an inter-ministerial anti-trafficking committee; however, it did not report on any actions conducted by the committee during the year. In November 2014, the government participated in a national action planning workshop; however, it has yet to create a national action plan to combat human trafficking.
RECOMMENDATIONS FOR ZIMBABWE:
Amend the 2014 anti-trafficking legislation to incorporate a definition of trafficking consistent with the 2000 UN TIP Protocol; increase efforts to investigate and prosecute trafficking offenses, including those allegedly involving officials; convict and punish trafficking offenders; 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 continue to raise awareness of human trafficking and the availability of assistance for victims.
The government demonstrated negligible anti-trafficking law enforcement efforts. In June 2014, the government passed its “Trafficking in Persons Act.” Contrary to international law, which defines trafficking in persons as a crime of exploitation, the 2014 “Trafficking in Persons Act” defines trafficking in persons as essentially a crime of transportation. Therefore, the 2014 act fails to capture the key element of the international definition of trafficking in persons—the purpose of exploitation—generally defined as forced prostitution or other forms of forced labor. The 2014 act criminalizes the involuntarily transport of a person into, outside or within Zimbabwe—or voluntary transport for an unlawful purpose. The inaccurate definitions leave Zimbabwe without comprehensive prohibitions of trafficking crimes. 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, prosecute, or convict 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. The government reported its acquittal in April 2014 of a woman charged with the fraudulent recruitment of 22 Zimbabwean women for employment as housemaids in Saudi Arabia.
Corruption in law enforcement and the judiciary remained a serious concern that impaired the effectiveness of anti-trafficking efforts. Victims reportedly refused to report or pursue cases of trafficking due to fear 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 officials complicit in human trafficking offenses. In August 2014, in partnership with an international organization, the government provided anti-trafficking training for criminal justice practitioners. The Ministry of Labor and Social Security had a taskforce charged with investigating Chinese construction companies suspected of abusive employment practices—possibly including forced labor—and ensuring overall compliance with Zimbabwean labor law; however, it was unknown whether they took concrete action during the year.
The Zimbabwean government made inadequate efforts to protect trafficking victims, instead relying on NGOs and an international organization to identify and assist victims. The government did not report the total number of trafficking victims it identified or assisted during the reporting period. Law enforcement authorities did not employ procedures—such as formal written guidelines—to proactively identify victims or refer them to protection services. While the newly enacted “Trafficking in Persons Act” required the government to establish centers in each of Zimbabwe’s 10 provinces, providing counseling, rehabilitation, and reintegration services for “trafficking victims,” it remained unclear if child and adult victims of forced labor and sex trafficking would benefit from protections under the law, given its inaccurate definition of trafficking crimes; requiring executive action, these centers remained unestablished at the end of the reporting period. Five existing government-run shelters offered long-term accommodation 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 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 made minimal efforts to prevent trafficking. In January 2015, the government established an inter-ministerial anti-trafficking committee, under the leadership of the Ministry of Home Affairs; however, the committee remained without a designated chair and it was unclear whether the committee met or initiated anti-trafficking activities during the reporting period. While the government established a position in the president’s office to focus on trafficking issues during the previous reporting period, it did not report on efforts made by this entity in 2014. In November 2014, officials participated in a national action planning workshop; however, the government remained without a national action plan to address trafficking in persons. In August 2014, at the Harare Agricultural Show, the government funded an anti-trafficking information booth, targeting potential trafficking victims and distributed anti-trafficking materials. The government did not provide anti-trafficking training or guidance to its diplomatic personnel. It did not make efforts to reduce the demand for commercial sex acts or forced labor.