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ZIMBABWE: Tier 2 Watch List

The Government of Zimbabwe does not fully meet the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking; however, it is making significant efforts to do so. The government made key achievements during the reporting period; therefore, Zimbabwe was upgraded to Tier 2 Watch List. These achievements included increased efforts to investigate and prosecute alleged trafficking crimes. The government coordinated with Kuwait to repatriate and refer to care 121 female trafficking victims, and also repatriated five victims from Sudan. It conducted a training-of-trainers for police on victim identification interview approaches. The government launched its first national action plan and implemented several key activities in the plan. The Anti-Trafficking Inter-Ministerial committee developed terms of reference to guide front-line responders in a victim-centered approach and established two provincial taskforces to implement the national action plan at the provincial level. The government-funded and conducted awareness campaigns and trained journalists on responsible reporting of trafficking cases. Despite these achievements, the government did not convict any traffickers during the reporting period. It did not amend the 2014 Trafficking in Persons Act, which was inconsistent with international law. Prosecutors used non-trafficking laws to charge cases that were potentially trafficking due to a lack of training on application of the anti-trafficking law. The government did not monitor transnational borders adequately, where corruption and official complicity can facilitate trafficking with impunity.

Amend the 2014 anti-trafficking legislation to incorporate a definition of trafficking consistent with the 2000 UN TIP Protocol; investigate, prosecute, and convict traffickers, including complicit government officials; formalize procedures for identifying victims and referring them to the care of appropriate government or NGO service providers; expand training for law enforcement on investigative techniques; train officials on victim identification and referral procedures; train prosecutors and judges on trafficking and trafficking-related legislation; provide financial or in-kind support to NGOs and international organizations that provide victim services; establish safe houses for trafficking victims in each province; implement, and allocate sufficient resources to, the national action plan to combat trafficking; increase collaboration with NGOs and international organizations; and raise awareness of human trafficking and the availability of assistance for victims.

The government increased anti-trafficking law enforcement efforts. 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.” 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 investigated 72 potential cases of trafficking, an increase from one investigation in the previous reporting period. The government reported prosecuting 42 trafficking cases in 2016, after reporting zero prosecutions in 2015; it prosecuted 21 new defendants for alleged trafficking crimes, while another 21 defendants were involved in ongoing prosecutions. Like the previous year, the government did not convict any traffickers 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 was largely inactive and 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.

The government increased its efforts to identify and protect trafficking. The government reported identifying 72 child sex trafficking victims and of trafficking, an increase from zero victims reported identified by officials in 2015; however, it did not report whether it referred these victims to care. One NGO reported assisting 17 female and six male child victims and referring seven to state-run facilities. The government provided some funding support for the repatriation of 120 victims from Kuwait and five victims from Sudan and, with support from NGOs, coordinated efforts to provide protective services. The government initiated refurbishment of the Harare rehabilitation center for victims of trafficking; however, the government did not provide exact figures. Government officials traveled to Kuwait to assist in repatriating these victims, met victims at the airport, and provided them with safe transportation. Upon arrival at the rehabilitation center in Harare, the government provided medical screening and counseling with support from international organizations and NGOs. The government also provided food and $100 for each victim. Officials from the Ministry of Public Service, Labor and Social Welfare (MPSLSW) visited victims in their local communities to establish their immediate and long-term needs.

The MPSLSW established the technical steering committee on the protection of victims of trafficking to oversee the protection and provision of reintegration assistance and referral services to victims of trafficking. The committee developed a formal referral mechanism. The government conducted training-of-trainers for approximately 40 police on victim identification interview approaches. While the 2014 Trafficking in Persons Act required the government to establish centers in each of Zimbabwe’s 10 provinces to provide counseling, rehabilitation, and reintegration services, these centers had not been established at the end of the reporting period. Children had access to health services, counseling, and some educational services at these shelters. 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 increased efforts to prevent trafficking. The Anti-Trafficking Inter-Ministerial Committee (ATIMC) met twice and led the development of the country’s first national action plan, launched in July 2016, and implemented several key elements of the plan. Representatives from 13 government agencies undertook research to develop the national action plan. The ATIMC Secretariat developed terms of reference for the Protection Cluster, which provided guidance for front-line responders in the identification, referral, and protection of victims and potential victims of trafficking. The government rolled out two provincial taskforces, in Harare and Matabeleland South, in February and March 2017 to implement recommendations from the national action plan. Unlike the previous year, the government conducted awareness campaigns at the country’s two annual trade fairs, in Bulawayo and Harare. A government official spoke about trafficking on the national evening news, particularly regarding victim protection, prevention strategies for potential victims, and government efforts to prevent trafficking. An international organization printed a children’s book discussing the dangers of trafficking, which the government used in primary schools. The government conducted 866 labor inspections during the reporting period, and identified 376 potential trafficking crimes. The government trained media personnel on how to report on trafficking in persons, including the importance of confidentiality and victims’ rights. The government did not provide anti-trafficking training to its diplomatic personnel. It did not make efforts to reduce the demand for commercial sex acts or forced labor.

As reported over the past five years, 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 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. Women are exploited in domestic servitude, forced labor, and sex trafficking in Kuwait and Saudi Arabia. There were previous reports of Zimbabwean women lured to China and the Middle East for work, where they are vulnerable to trafficking. Many Zimbabwean adult and child migrants enter South Africa 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 businesses. 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 in Zimbabwe 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.

U.S. Department of State

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