Last Updated: Friday, 27 May 2016, 08:49 GMT

2012 Trafficking in Persons Report - Zimbabwe

Publisher United States Department of State
Publication Date 19 June 2012
Cite as United States Department of State, 2012 Trafficking in Persons Report - Zimbabwe, 19 June 2012, available at: [accessed 27 May 2016]
DisclaimerThis is not a UNHCR publication. UNHCR is not responsible for, nor does it necessarily endorse, its content. Any views expressed are solely those of the author or publisher and do not necessarily reflect those of UNHCR, the United Nations or its Member States.


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 and Zambia are subjected to prostitution in brothels that cater to long-distance truck drivers. Some victims of forced prostitution are subsequently transported across the border to South Africa where they suffer continued exploitation. Zimbabwean men, women, and children are subjected to forced labor in agriculture and domestic service in rural areas, as well as domestic servitude and sex trafficking in cities and towns. Family members often 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. 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. Children are forced to carry out illegal activities, including drug smuggling. Although security forces still control access to the diamond-producing Marange district, NGO sources indicate that forced labor abuses have ended, including previously reported allegations of Zimbabwean security services forcing young men and boys to mine for diamonds.

Zimbabwean men, women, and boys migrate illegally to South Africa, where some are forced to labor for months on farms, in mines, or in construction without pay before their employers report them to authorities for deportation; reports indicate employers use the pretense of regularization 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 transferred to criminal gangs that subject them to violent attacks, rape, deception, and, in some cases, sex trafficking in Musina, Pretoria, Johannesburg, or Durban. Zimbabwean women and men are lured into exploitative labor situations in Angola, 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 prostitution. Men, women, and children from Bangladesh, Somalia, India, Pakistan, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Malawi, Mozambique, and Zambia are trafficked through Zimbabwe en route to South Africa. Chinese nationals reportedly are forced to labor in restaurants and mines in Zimbabwe. Women and children from border communities in neighboring countries are trafficked to Zimbabwe for forced labor, including domestic servitude, and prostitution. Also, one Chadian child in domestic servitude was identified in Zimbabwe.

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 high-level officials, including the president, showed increased interest in trafficking issues during the year, tangible efforts to combat trafficking in persons remained minimal. The government failed to finalize or submit its draft anti-trafficking legislation to the cabinet, which is the first step in introducing it for parliamentary consideration. As trafficking is not defined by Zimbabwean law, the government lacks a legal framework to anti-trafficking law enforcement efforts. The government did not provide evidence that it investigated or prosecuted trafficking offenses in 2011. It continued to rely on IOM to provide law enforcement training, identify and protect victims, and lead prevention efforts.

Recommendations for Zimbabwe: Finalize and pass draft anti-trafficking legislation in line with the 2000 UN TIP Protocol; prosecute, convict, and punish trafficking offenders under existing legislation; formalize procedures for identifying victims and transferring them to the care of appropriate governmental or non-governmental service providers; incorporate trafficking crimes into police procedures for recording and reporting crime data; and launch a broad awareness-raising campaign on the nature of trafficking and the availability of assistance for victims.


The Government of Zimbabwe undertook no discernible anti-trafficking law enforcement efforts during the year. It did not investigate or prosecute trafficking offenders, 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 also 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. If the victim is under 16, the sentence can be up to 10 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 Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) and Ministry of Justice failed to finalize or submit the draft anti-trafficking bill to the Cabinet, which is the first step in introducing it for parliamentary consideration.

The government did not investigate or prosecute forced labor or forced prostitution offenses during the reporting period. The Zimbabwe Republic Police's (ZRP) Victim Friendly Unit (VFU) has responsibility for investigating cases involving women and children, which may include trafficking victims, and the referral of victims to support services. Although NGOs and IOM referred the cases of eight trafficking victims to authorities, the VFU did not report investigating these cases. The January 2011 appeal to the high court by a Chinese construction company which allegedly exploited seven Zimbabweans in forced labor in Angola was not finalized during the reporting period. In December 2011, IOM held a three-day anti-trafficking workshop for 10 legislators from the Portfolio Committee on defense and home affairs. Following the workshop, the legislators conducted a fact finding mission at the Beitbridge and Plumtree border posts. The government did not provide funding or in-kind support for anti-trafficking trainings held by international donors and did not make efforts to independently train its staff. IOM and the MHA began drafting a memorandum of understanding to establish cooperation on training and capacity building on a variety of issues, including trafficking. Overall corruption in law enforcement and the judiciary remained serious and unaddressed problems. Victims refused to report or pursue cases of trafficking because they fear that their traffickers could bribe police or judges. There was anecdotal evidence of limited government involvement in or tolerance of trafficking on a local level and at border crossing points. There were no reports of trafficking offenses committed by Zimbabwean peacekeepers deployed abroad.


The Zimbabwean government made negligible efforts to protect trafficking victims during the year, continuing to rely on NGOs and IOM to identify victims and provide care. During the reporting period, IOM and NGOs identified and assisted at least eight trafficking victims, providing them with safe shelter, psycho-social support, family tracing, and reunification. Despite the existence of a government process for referring trafficking victims, the Zimbabwean police and department of social services again failed to refer any victims to IOM or NGOs for care in 2011. Government-run shelters and programs were in place to assist and provide counseling and long-term shelter to vulnerable and orphaned children, including trafficking victims; it is not known whether they provided any services to trafficking victims during the year. At its centers at Beitbridge and Plumtree border crossings, trained Department of Social Welfare staff worked closely with IOM and NGOs to ensure the protection of vulnerable children. The department of immigration continued to require all 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. The lack of systematic victim identification procedures impaired the government's ability to ensure that trafficking victims were not inappropriately incarcerated or otherwise penalized for unlawful acts committed as a direct result of being trafficked. For example, the Department of Immigration reported the arrest and deportation of 100 Nigerian and Chinese nationals, some of whom may have been trafficking victims. However, in 2011, the department of immigration offered temporary residency to one victim and assisted in their repatriation during the year.


The government demonstrated minimal efforts to prevent trafficking during the reporting period. The inter-ministerial task force on trafficking, made up of senior government officials, did not meet during the reporting period, did not execute any anti-trafficking programming, and continued to lack a national plan of action. The government did not launch any anti-trafficking awareness campaigns during the reporting period. 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. The government did not make efforts to reduce the demand for commercial sex acts. In his September 2011 speech at the opening of Parliament, President Mugabe emphasized the need for Parliament to become a party to and domesticate the 2000 UN TIP Protocol. The cabinet sent a motion to accede to the protocol to Parliament in December 2011, where it was reviewed and later returned to the MHA for revision; however, the cabinet has not submitted a revised motion to Parliament.

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