Last Updated: Monday, 22 January 2018, 12:53 GMT

2011 Trafficking in Persons Report - Zimbabwe

Publisher United States Department of State
Publication Date 27 June 2011
Cite as United States Department of State, 2011 Trafficking in Persons Report - Zimbabwe, 27 June 2011, available at: [accessed 23 January 2018]
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 (Tier 3)

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 sex trafficking in brothels that cater to long-distance truck drivers. Recent reports indicate that young women from rural areas are recruited into forced prostitution through the guise of beauty pageants held in cities. 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. Children are also utilized in the commission of illegal activities, including gambling and drug smuggling. Although security forces still maintain control of Marange district, sources indicate that forced labor abuses, including Zimbabwean security services forcing young men and boys to mine for diamonds, have ended.

Zimbabwean men 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. 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 given to thugs, who 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, the United Arab Emirates, Malaysia, Nigeria, and South Africa with false offers of employment in agriculture, construction, information technology, and hospitality, and some subsequently become victims of forced labor. Young women and girls are also lured to China, Egypt, the United Kingdom, and Canada under false pretenses, and then 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. Women and children from border communities in neighboring countries are trafficked to Zimbabwe for forced labor and prostitution. A small number of South African girls are exploited in Zimbabwe in domestic servitude.

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 showed an increased interest in trafficking issues, others denied the existence of a trafficking problem in Zimbabwe. The government did not report investigations, prosecutions, or convictions of trafficking cases. The government continued to rely on an international organization to provide law enforcement training, coordinate victim care and repatriation, and lead prevention efforts. During the year, draft anti-trafficking legislation was finalized and introduced to the Council of Ministers for debate; at the time of this report, the draft legislation had not yet reached Parliament for consideration. Reports indicate that the exploitation of children and adults in forced labor in the Marange diamond fields has ceased.

Recommendations for Zimbabwe: Prosecute, convict, and punish trafficking offenders; finalize and pass draft anti-trafficking legislation; formalize procedures for interviewing 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 did not record or release information on the number of trafficking investigations, prosecutions, or convictions it pursued over the year and the country remained without a comprehensive anti-trafficking law. Zimbabwean law does not prohibit all forms of trafficking in persons, though existing statutes prohibit forced labor and sex trafficking. The Labor Relations Amendment Act prohibits forced labor and prescribes punishments of up to two years' imprisonment, a fine of between $5 and $400, or both; 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, prescribing insufficiently stringent penalties of up to two years' imprisonment, a fine up to $5,000, or both; if the victim is under 16, the sentence is increased to up to 10 years' imprisonment. The Act also prohibits coercing or inducing another person to engage in unlawful sexual conduct with another person by threat or intimidation, prescribing sufficiently stringent penalties of one to five years' imprisonment, a fine, or both. Pledging a female for forced marriage or to compensate for the death of a relative or any debt or obligations, is punishable under the Act, prescribing penalties of up to two years' imprisonment, a fine up to $5,000, or both. None of these penalties are commensurate with penalties prescribed for other serious crimes, such as rape. In 2010, the attorney general and the Ministry of Home Affairs finalized draft anti-trafficking legislation and, in September 2010, it was introduced in the Council of Ministers for debate; however, neither the Ministry of Home Affairs or the Council of Ministers have transferred the bill to the Cabinet, which is the first step in introducing it for parliamentary consideration. The Prime Minister's Office, however, identified the draft anti-trafficking bill as priority legislation and it was included on the 2010-2011 legislative agenda. Despite these legislative plans, high level officials in the Ministry of Justice, including the minister, publicly denied the existence of the trafficking problem in Zimbabwe.

The government did not 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 referred several trafficking victims to the Department of Social Welfare for assistance, the VFU did not report investigating any of these cases. In August 2010, the Zimbabwean Labor Court ruled in favor of seven Zimbabweans, recruited in Zimbabwe by a Chinese national for forced labor in construction in Angola. The employers refused to pay the back wages, and filed an appeal to the High Court in January 2011. The government did not pursue criminal charges against the recruiters in this case. In 2010, there were no investigations or prosecutions of cases involving forced child labor. In February 2010, the newly formed Border Control Unit within the Criminal Investigating Department (CID) of the Zimbabwe police organized a number of trainings for its officers on human trafficking to raise awareness ahead of the 2010 World Cup; the training was provided and funded by an international organization. Overall corruption in law enforcement and the judiciary remained serious problems. Victims refused to report or pursue cases of trafficking because they feared that their traffickers would 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 are no reports of trafficking among Zimbabwean peacekeepers deployed abroad.


The Zimbabwean government provided trafficking victims with some protection and continued to ensure victims' access to shelter and care services provided by NGOs and international organizations. Although the government sustained its employment of a formal process for referring some types of trafficking victims to international organizations and NGOs for services, it continued to rely on these organizations to identify most trafficking victims. During the reporting period, IOM and local NGO partners identified and assisted at least eight Zimbabwean trafficking victims during the reporting period with safe shelter, psycho-social support, family tracing, and reunification; in contrast to 2009, the Zimbabwean police and Department of Social Services did not refer any victims to these organizations for care in 2010. IOM and NGO partners referred six alleged child trafficking victims to the Department of Social Welfare for care and case evaluation. Government-run shelters are in place to assist vulnerable and orphaned children, including trafficking victims, through their provision of longer-term shelter; it is unknown whether they provided such services to trafficking victims during the year. The Ministry of Labor and Social Welfare operates programs in three districts to provide orphans and vulnerable children with counseling, as well as other services; it is unknown whether they provided such services to trafficking victims during the year. During the reporting period, partnerships between the police and NGOs and international organizations enabled the establishment of one new one-stop drop-in center for victims of gender-based violence, where victims can receive examinations, file police reports, and receive psycho-social counseling; it is unknown if any victims of sex trafficking were assisted by these centers. At its centers at Beitbridge and Plumtree border crossings, trained Department of Social Welfare staff referred identified victims to safe houses where short-, medium-, and long-term assistance could be provided, and worked closely with IOM and other NGOs at these centers to ensure the protection of vulnerable children. The government encouraged child and adult victims of exploitation, including trafficking, to testify in court and established Victim Friendly Courts specifically to support such testimony; however, due to resource constraints, their ability to operate as intended is limited. 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 formal 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. Victims could have received relief from deportation while their cases are being investigated, though none were known to have received such temporary residency.


The government demonstrated minimal efforts to prevent trafficking. The inter-ministerial task force on trafficking, made up of senior government officials, met at least once during the reporting period, did not execute any anti-trafficking programming, and continued to lack a national plan of action. The government did not conduct any anti-trafficking awareness campaigns during the reporting period; however, NGOs and international organizations developed and aired an anti-trafficking information campaign around the World Cup in South Africa on state-run television and radio. State-run media continued to print and air stories about the dangers of illegal migration, false employment scams, underage and forced marriages, engaging in prostitution, and exploitative labor conditions. Information regarding any potential measures adopted by the government to ensure its nationals deployed to peacekeeping missions did not facilitate or engage in trafficking was unavailable. The government did not make efforts to reduce the demand for commercial sex acts. Zimbabwe is not a party to the 2000 UN TIP Protocol.

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