Zimbabwe is a source, transit, and destination country for men, women, and children subjected to forced labor and sex trafficking. 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. The number of prostitution rings in Zimbabwe continued to rise, with many young women and girls sold into prostitution by their parents. 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 or to marry a member of the new family.
Zimbabwean men, women, and children migrate illegally 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. Reports indicate employers use the pretense of regularizing the workers’ immigration status to withhold passports. 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, and South Africa with false offers of employment in agriculture, construction, information technology, and hospitality; some subsequently become victims of forced labor or forced prostitution. Women and girls are also lured to China, Egypt, the United Kingdom, and Canada under false pretenses, where they are subjected to forced prostitution.
Men, women, and children from 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 trafficked to Zimbabwe for forced labor, including domestic servitude, and prostitution. 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 reportedly are 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. Although senior government officials continued to voice interest in trafficking issues, including the deputy prime minister who launched a national awareness campaign on trafficking in November 2012, tangible efforts to investigate and prosecute trafficking offenses, including those allegedly involving government officials, and to protect victims remained minimal. The Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) advocated for the ratification of the 2000 UN TIP Protocol and convened stakeholders to develop an updated version of draft anti-trafficking legislation and began inter-ministerial coordination. Law enforcement training and victim identification and protection efforts were conducted by an international organization.
Recommendations for Zimbabwe: Finalize and pass draft anti-trafficking legislation consistent with the 2000 UN TIP Protocol; 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, as well as relevant legislation; provide financial or in-kind support to NGOs and international organizations offering victim services; incorporate trafficking crimes into police procedures for recording and reporting crime data; continue the broad awareness-raising campaign on the nature of trafficking and the availability of assistance for victims; and accede to the 2000 UN TIP Protocol.
The Government of Zimbabwe made minimal anti-trafficking law enforcement efforts during the year. It did not investigate or prosecute trafficking offenses, and neither finalized nor introduced a comprehensive anti-trafficking bill to the cabinet. Zimbabwean law does not prohibit all forms of trafficking in persons. The 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, however, are commensurate with penalties prescribed for other serious crimes, such as rape. The MHA made efforts to engage various government stakeholders in developing an updated draft anti-trafficking bill.
The government failed to vigorously investigate and prosecute trafficking offenses during the reporting period, but did undertake some law enforcement efforts in potential trafficking cases. For example, officials in Beitbridge reported several convictions of mini-bus drivers involved in the illegal transport of children across the border into South Africa, and increased border patrols for criminal gangs, some of which are responsible for transporting persons to South Africa for the purpose of sex trafficking. In one case, the government convicted and fined a man on migration charges for his transport of 19 potential trafficking victims into South Africa. It is unclear whether these children were intended for exploitation upon arrival there. The Zimbabwe Republic Police’s ZRP Victim Friendly Unit has responsibility for investigating cases involving women and children and referring victims to support services; however, the VFU did not report investigating any trafficking cases or identifying trafficking victims during the year. In May 2012, the Ministry of Labor and Social Security established a taskforce to investigate Chinese construction companies suspected of abusive employment practices—possibly including forced labor—and to ensure overall compliance with Zimbabwean labor law; however, the government did not report its investigation or prosecution of labor trafficking offenses in 2012. In addition, several Zimbabwean security sector officials served on the managing board of a Chinese-owned company accused of using physical and sexual abuse and other forms of coercion—factors indicative of forced labor—against its workers. At times, police and military officials, part of the company management, instructed the police not to respond to abuse cases. In July 2012, the company fired 1,500 striking workers; 1,000 of those workers filed a lawsuit alleging labor and human rights violations, but lost the case in what may have been a politically motivated decision. Overall corruption in law enforcement and the judiciary remained a serious and unaddressed problem. Victims reportedly refused to report or pursue cases of trafficking out of fear that their traffickers could bribe police or judges. There was anecdotal evidence of limited government involvement in, and tolerance of, trafficking on a local level and at border crossing points. The government did not provide funding or in-kind support for anti-trafficking trainings held by international donors and made minimal efforts to train independently its staff. The government supported an IOM-sponsored trip for parliamentarians to Zambia to study its anti-trafficking efforts and successes, to help prepare Zimbabwe for similar legislative efforts.
The Zimbabwean government made minimal efforts to protect trafficking victims during the year, continuing to rely on NGOs and IOM to identify and assist victims without support for such work. In 2012, IOM and NGOs identified and assisted trafficking victims, providing them initial shelter and resources as well as counseling about options for further assistance. Government-run shelters and programs were in place to offer counseling and long-term shelter to vulnerable and orphaned children, including child trafficking victims. The government reported its provision of shelter to four child trafficking victims in 2012. At its centers at Beitbridge and Plumtree border crossings, trained Department of Social Services (DSS) staff worked closely with IOM and NGOs to ensure the protection of vulnerable children. Immigration officers reportedly referred 19 potential child trafficking victims—intercepted by South African authorities after crossing the border at Beitbridge—to DSS staff, who assisted the children in returning to their families. However, it is unknown whether the government referred these or other potential victims for additional care and longer-term assistance. The Department of Immigration continued to encourage deportees from South Africa and Botswana to attend an IOM briefing on safe migration, which includes a discussion of trafficking. With the exception of deportees from South Africa and Botswana, the government’s law enforcement, immigration, and social services authorities did not have formal procedures with which to proactively identify victims of trafficking among vulnerable populations, such as women in prostitution and irregular migrants. As a result, potential adult trafficking victims were often briefly detained and deported. For instance, in August 2012, following its failure to screen for trafficking victimization, the government sentenced 16 Bangladeshi nationals to 30 days’ imprisonment, in advance of their deportation, for entering Zimbabwe with forged documents.
The government modestly increased its efforts to prevent trafficking during the reporting period. In March 2013, the Permanent Secretary of the MHA, in partnership with UNODC, organized a workshop to increase the understanding of trafficking and coordination among the inter-ministerial working group, established in March 2013. In November 2012, the deputy prime minister launched an anti-trafficking awareness campaign in cooperation with IOM, through a donor-funded project; attended by the deputy minister of justice, the minister of labor and social services, immigration and police officers, NGOs, and international organizations, the launch event allowed officials and NGO-stakeholders to jointly discuss the trafficking problem affecting Zimbabwe and served to raise awareness among Zimbabweans. 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. Zimbabwe is not a party to the 2000 UN TIP Protocol.