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. There are continuous reports of Zimbabwean women lured to China and the Middle East for work where they are vulnerable to trafficking. 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 surrounding towns. Family members recruit children and other relatives from rural areas for work in cities where they are often subjected to domestic servitude or other forms of forced labor; some children, particularly orphans, are lured with promises of education or adoption. Reports indicate that adults have recruited girls for child sex trafficking in Victoria Falls. Children are subjected to forced labor in the agricultural and mining sectors and are forced to carry out illegal activities, including drug smuggling. There were increased reports of children from Mozambique being subjected to forced labor in street vending in Zimbabwe, including in Mbare. 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 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. Many Zimbabwean adult and child migrants in South Africa often enter with the assistance of taxi drivers who transport them to the border at Beitbridge or nearby unofficial crossing locations and are subject to labor and sex trafficking. Some of the migrants are transferred to criminal gangs that subject them to abuse, including forced prostitution in Musina, Pretoria, Johannesburg, or Durban. Some Zimbabwean men, women, and children in South Africa are subjected to months of forced labor without pay, on farms, at construction sites, in factories, mines, and other business. 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 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.
The Government of Zimbabwe does not fully meet the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking and is not making significant efforts to do so. 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. The government made limited efforts to collaborate with NGOs on the issue of trafficking. The government began investigation into the trafficking of 200 women to Kuwait during the reporting period; however it did not prosecute or convict any trafficking offenders during the reporting period. The government appointed the permanent secretary of home affairs to chair the Anti-Trafficking Inter-Ministerial Committee (ATIMC) in December 2015. It developed its first national action plan in September 2015, which remained pending cabinet approval at the end of the reporting period.
RECOMMENDATIONS FOR ZIMBABWE:
Amend the 2014 anti-trafficking legislation to incorporate a definition of trafficking consistent with the 2000 UN TIP Protocol; investigate, prosecute, and convict trafficking offenders, including complicit government officials; formalize procedures for identifying victims and referring them to the care of appropriate government or non-government service providers; train officials on victim identification and referral procedures; establish and actively promote collaboration with Zimbabwe-based international officials on issues of trafficking; train the judiciary, including prosecutors and judges, on trafficking and trafficking related legislation; provide financial or in-kind support to NGOs and international organizations that provide victim services; implement, and allocate sufficient resources to, the national action plan to combat trafficking; fully implement and use the Southern African Development Community database to track trafficking cases; increase collaboration with NGOs and international organizations; and raise awareness of human trafficking and the availability of assistance for victims.
The government made little anti-trafficking law enforcement effort. Inconsistent with international law, the 2014 Trafficking in Persons Act defines trafficking in persons as a movement-based crime and does not adequately define “exploitation”—a key element of effective trafficking laws generally defined under international law as forced prostitution or other forms of forced labor. The 2014 act criminalizes the involuntary transport of a person, and the voluntary transport for an unlawful purpose, into, outside or within Zimbabwe. The focus on transport and the inadequate definition of “exploitation” 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; this penalty is not sufficiently stringent. The Criminal Law (Codification and Reform) Act prohibits and prescribes penalties of up to two years’ imprisonment for procuring a person for unlawful sexual conduct, inside or outside of Zimbabwe; this penalty is not sufficiently stringent when applied to cases of sex trafficking. 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 to compensate for the death of a relative or to settle any debt or obligation is punishable under the act, with penalties of up to two years’ imprisonment. These penalties are not commensurate with penalties prescribed for other serious crimes, such as rape.
The government reported investigating a case of over 200 trafficking victims identified in Kuwait; however, the government did not vigorously prosecute, or convict any trafficking offenders during the reporting period. 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 report investigating trafficking cases during the year.
Corruption in law enforcement and the judiciary 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 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 October 2015, in partnership with an international organization, the government participated in a training of trainers for over 50 provincial criminal justice officials on the 2014 Trafficking in Persons Act, how to identify and investigate trafficking cases, and measures for assisting trafficking victims.
The government made inadequate efforts to protect trafficking victims, and did not report the total number of trafficking victims it identified or assisted during the reporting period. The government has not developed formal guidelines to proactively identify or refer victims to protective services, and it relied almost exclusively on NGOs and an international organization to identify and assist victims. One NGO reported assisting 280 child victims of forced labor subjected to domestic servitude. Reports indicated that 39 victims of sex trafficking, including children, sought assistance. An NGO reported assisting 11 children exploited in street begging. Additionally, an estimated 200 trafficking victims were identified through the use of social media in Kuwait during the period. While the Trafficking in Persons Act required the government to establish centers in each of Zimbabwe’s 10 provinces to provide counseling, rehabilitation, and reintegration services for trafficking victims, these centers had not been established at the end of the reporting period. Five existing government 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 legal alternatives to their removal to countries where they might face retribution or hardship.
The government made minimal efforts to prevent trafficking. The government appointed the permanent secretary of home affairs to chair the ATIMC in December 2015. ATIMC met twice and led the development of the country’s first national action plan in September 2015, which was pending cabinet approval by the end of the reporting period. The national action plan provides for a review of the current anti-trafficking legal framework. The government did not conduct public awareness campaigns during the reporting period. The government provided anti-trafficking training to its diplomatic personnel. It did not make efforts to reduce the demand for commercial sex acts or forced labor.