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ZIMBABWE: Tier 2

The Government of Zimbabwe does not fully meet the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking but is making significant efforts to do so. The government demonstrated overall increasing efforts compared to the previous reporting period; therefore Zimbabwe remained on Tier 2. These efforts included investigating and prosecuting more traffickers and increasing training for law enforcement and the judiciary. The government identified and referred to care more victims, including one internal trafficking victim exploited in Zimbabwe, and coordinated with international organizations and civil society to ensure all victims received services. In partnership with an international organization, the government coordinated with two foreign governments to facilitate the repatriation of three trafficking victims. The government approved and adopted a national action plan to combat trafficking and conducted awareness-raising activities throughout the country. However, the government did not meet the minimum standards in several key areas. The draft amendments to the 2014 Trafficking in Persons Act to bring the law in line with international standards, remained pending at the close of the reporting period. The government convicted fewer trafficking cases compared to the previous year, and the backlog of trafficking cases from 2016 remained, as the government reported no progress on those investigations. The government did not provide adequate funding to its NGO partners on which it relied to provide protective services to victims. Women, men, children, and migrants may have been victims of forced labor or sex trafficking, and North Koreans working in Zimbabwe may have been forced to work by the North Korean government.

PRIORITIZED RECOMMENDATIONS:

Amend the anti-trafficking law to criminalize all forms of trafficking in line with the 2000 UN TIP Protocol.Provide financial or in-kind support to NGO service providers.• Expedite trafficking cases to address the significant backlog of cases dating back to 2016.Implement and allocate sufficient resources to the National Action Plan (NAP) to combat trafficking.Increase efforts to investigate and prosecute trafficking crimes proactively, including complicit government officials.Train officials to proactively identify trafficking victims among vulnerable populations such as migrant workers and foreign nationals including North Koreans, and refer them to appropriate services.Expand law enforcement training on investigative techniques and victim identification within Zimbabwe.Allocate adequate funding for law enforcement to carry out investigations proactively.Train prosecutors and judges on trafficking and trafficking-related legislation.Establish safe houses for trafficking victims in each province.Develop mutual legal assistance treaties (MLATs) and other agreements to facilitate information gathering and sharing with foreign governments.

PROSECUTION

The government had mixed anti-trafficking law enforcement efforts. Zimbabwean law criminalized some forms of sex trafficking and labor trafficking. Inconsistent with international law, the 2014 Trafficking in Persons Act defined trafficking in persons as a movement-based crime and did not adequately define “exploitation.” The 2014 act criminalized 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” left Zimbabwe without comprehensive prohibitions of trafficking crimes. The law prescribed penalties of 10 years’ to life imprisonment, which were sufficiently stringent and, with respect to sex trafficking crimes, was commensurate with penalties for other serious crimes, such as rape. Zimbabwe’s Labor Relations Amendment Act criminalized forced labor and prescribed penalties of up to two years’ imprisonment, which were not sufficiently stringent. The Criminal Law (Codification and Reform) Act criminalized procuring a person for unlawful sexual conduct, inside or outside of Zimbabwe and prescribed penalties of up to two years’ imprisonment; these penalties were not sufficiently stringent when applied to cases of sex trafficking. The act also criminalized 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. During the previous reporting period, the government, in partnership with an international organization, finalized a draft Trafficking in Persons Act Amendment Bill; however, it made no progress in advancing the bill during the reporting period.

The government investigated seven potential trafficking cases, compared with investigating two potential cases of forced labor in the previous reporting period. The government initiated six prosecutions, compared with two in 2018. One case involved an alleged trafficker facing more than 20 counts of trafficking for luring victims to Kuwait and exploiting them in forced labor and sex trafficking; the defendant absconded during his trial and remained at large at the close of the reporting period. The other five prosecutions remained pending. An international organization reported the government charged traffickers in three additional cases with rape and assault rather than trafficking due to a lack of familiarity with the anti-trafficking law. The government did not convict any traffickers, compared with one conviction during the previous reporting period. The government did not report making progress on any additional cases during the reporting period despite the willingness of many trafficking victims to testify, including the possible 20 cases initiated in 2016 involving Zimbabwean victims exploited in Kuwait, of which the government has only prosecuted three.

The government trained 264 detectives on the anti-trafficking law and victim protection. The Zimbabwe Republic Police incorporated a module on the anti-trafficking law for police recruit training in September 2019 and delivered the training to six classes of new officers. In collaboration with an international organization, the government trained 50 immigration officials on trafficking. The government trained magistrates on trafficking in November 2019. Despite these trainings, observers continued to report the government lacked a systematic procedure to investigate cases, and immigration officials lacked capacity to detect and investigate trafficking. In addition, many investigations lacked sufficient evidence to build strong cases. Unlike sexual offense cases, which were typically expedited in the courts, trafficking cases were not treated with the same urgency and often languished on the docket for years. The government did not report any investigations, prosecutions, or convictions of government officials complicit in human trafficking offenses; however, observers reported widespread corruption during the previous reporting period, including magistrates, judges, and senior government officials who allegedly undermined judicial independence including by giving farms and homes to judges.

PROTECTION

The government demonstrated mixed protection efforts. The government identified 52 victims for assistance, compared with 10 victims identified by officials, international organizations and NGOs in the previous reporting period. The government referred all 52 victims to international organizations for reintegration support, including 29 females and three males, 28 of whom had been exploited in forced labor, three in sex trafficking, and 21 in unreported types of trafficking. Traffickers exploited the forced labor victims primarily in Kuwait, but also in China, Saudi Arabia, South Africa, and Botswana. An international organization reported that in addition to these 32 victims, the government referred one Zimbabwean victim to an NGO shelter that operated 11 shelters for women in eight of 10 provinces throughout the country, two children to a children’s home for protective services, including counseling and medical care, and two cases to the government-run shelter in Harare. Another international NGO reported the government referred an additional 15 victims to its shelter in Rutenga. This NGO also reported identifying 522 potential victims through its work monitoring transit points, including bus stations, rail depots, and border areas. South African law enforcement officers reported identifying 30 Zimbabwean women in brothels in Mpumalanga province as potential sex trafficking victims. NGO shelters provided shelter for both male and female victims of gender-based violence, trafficking, and domestic violence. The NGOs that provided protective services did not receive funding from the government for at least the second consecutive year and struggled to operate without such support. 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 have not been established. In partnership with an international organization, the government facilitated the repatriation of three trafficking victims from Nigeria and South Africa. The Government of Botswana facilitated the repatriation of one Zimbabwean victim exploited in Botswana.

The government, in partnership with an international organization and other stakeholders, adopted and launched a National Referral Mechanism (NRM), which outlined standard operating procedures in the identification, referral, and assistance of trafficking victims. The Anti-Trafficking Inter-Ministerial Committee (ATIMC) drafted and adopted implementing regulations, which gave legal force to key procedures set out in the NRM, empowered provincial operational task teams, and defined clear roles and responsibilities for front-line responders. During the reporting period, the technical steering committee on the protections of victims of trafficking, led by the Ministry of Public Service, Labor, and Social Welfare (MPSLSW), did not meet. The MPSLSW had a system whereby each potential trafficking case reported was handled jointly by an NGO and a Department of Social Welfare caseworker. The government encouraged victims to cooperate in the investigation and prosecution of trafficking cases. The government implemented a comprehensive system for victim-witnesses, which included police units, courts, health services, and a referral system that were more victim-centered. Courts had a separate room for victims to testify separately from their alleged perpetrators, and victims could choose to testify via video; however, observers reported not every court had access to the necessary equipment, especially in rural areas, and the government did not report whether any victims utilized these services during the reporting period. The government trained prosecutors, probation officers, and magistrates to treat victims sensitively, handle cases quickly, and refer victims to post-trial support services. In addition, the government trained health service providers to collect evidence for criminal investigations, prepare medical affidavits, and offer immediate and long-term psycho-social support and health care. The government did not have legal alternatives to removal to countries in which victims would face retribution or hardship; however, the government did not identify any foreign victims during the reporting period.

PREVENTION

The government maintained efforts to prevent trafficking. In coordination with international organizations, the ATIMC approved and adopted the Trafficking in Persons National Action Plan (NAP) 2019-2021 in July 2019. However, the government had not launched the NAP at the close of the reporting period. The government did not include civil society actors in the development of the NAP. The ATIMC met only once during the reporting period. In 2018, the ATIMC adopted guidelines for engagement between the government and civil society actors, which will establish a National Coordinating Forum to provide a platform for such engagement. In partnership with international organizations, the ATIMC developed the capacity of its seven provincial task teams with targeted trainings. In partnership with an international organization, the government set up anti-trafficking booths at the annual Zimbabwe International Trade Fair and the Harare Agricultural Show, which drew thousands of participants; officials distributed educational materials and hosted focus group discussions. In partnership with an international NGO, police officers conducted two awareness-raising workshops with communities within Rutenga and Beitbridge. In addition, the Victim Friendly Police Unit carried out extensive awareness campaigns educating communities against child labor, human trafficking, and sexual exploitation. Although the government funded awareness-raising activities, it did not allocate adequate resources to fully implement the NAP during the reporting period and relied on funds from international organizations to implement some of the activities. The government continued to participate in the Southern African Development Community’s (SADC) regional data collection tool by uploading information about trafficking cases, victim and trafficker profiles, and sharing information with countries in the region. The government continued to screen companies that employed foreign nationals and prohibited proxy employment permit applications. The government did not provide anti-trafficking training to its diplomatic personnel. The government did not make efforts to reduce the demand for commercial sex acts.

TRAFFICKING PROFILE

As reported over the past five years, human traffickers exploit domestic and foreign victims in Zimbabwe, and traffickers exploit victims from Zimbabwe abroad. Traffickers exploit women and girls from Zimbabwean towns bordering South Africa, Mozambique, and Zambia in forced labor, including domestic servitude, and sex trafficking in brothels catering to long-distance truck drivers on both sides of the border. Zimbabwe is also a transit country for trafficked Somalis and Ethiopians en route to South Africa. There were reports of traffickers subjecting children from Mozambique 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. North Korean workers may have been forced to work by the North Korean government.

Traffickers lure Zimbabwean women and men 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 sex trafficking. Traffickers exploit women 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. There were reports of traffickers luring Zimbabwean students to Cyprus and elsewhere with false promises for education via scholarship schemes, where they are exploited in forced labor and sex 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, where traffickers exploit them in labor and sex trafficking. Some migrants are transferred to criminal gangs that subject them to abuse, including sex trafficking in Musina, Pretoria, Johannesburg, or Durban. Traffickers exploit some Zimbabwean men, women, and children in South Africa to months of forced labor without pay, on farms, at construction sites, in factories, mines, and other businesses. Traffickers transport men, women, and children, predominantly from East Africa, 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 traffickers exploit them and, in some cases, coerce them into prostitution. Traffickers force Chinese nationals to work in restaurants in Zimbabwe. Chinese construction and mining companies in Zimbabwe reportedly employ practices indicative of forced labor, including verbal, physical, and sexual abuse, as well as various means of coercion to induce work in unsafe or otherwise undesirable conditions.

U.S. Department of State

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