As reported over the past five years, human traffickers exploit domestic and foreign victims in Zimbabwe, and traffickers exploit victims from Zimbabwe abroad. Internal trafficking is prevalent and underreported. Traffickers exploit Zimbabwean adults and children in sex trafficking and forced labor, including in cattle herding, domestic service, and mining (gold and diamonds). More than 71 percent of child labor occurs in the agriculture (tobacco, sugarcane, and cotton), forestry, and fishing sectors, where children weed, spray, harvest, and pack goods. Some of these children are victims of forced labor, including some who work on small, unregulated farms. Due to pandemic-induced school closures and worsening economic conditions, observers reported child sex trafficking and child labor likely increased, particularly in agriculture, domestic service, informal trading, begging, and artisanal mining. Children ages 9 to 14 work as nannies, housemaids, and gardeners in urban areas and mining communities; some employers force the children to work by withholding wages, denying them access to school, and subjecting them to gender-based violence. Several traditional practices rendered young girls vulnerable to forced labor and sex trafficking, including the practice of trading daughters for food or money; as “replacement” brides for a deceased family member; and to avenge the spirits of a murdered relative. 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.
Traffickers exploit child laborers working as gold-panners and ore couriers by providing inadequate compensation, stealing their income, exacerbating food insecurity, and forcing them to take drugs to perform strenuous tasks; these practices are indicative of forced labor. Near gold and diamond mines, traffickers increasingly force children to sell illicit drugs. Illegal mining syndicates exploit Zimbabweans in trafficking. Experts estimate thousands of children have joined illegal diamond mining syndicates in the Marange fields in Chiadzwa since March 2020; some syndicates target illiterate people and transport them to the mines at night so they do not know their location. Armed gangs known as “Mashurugwi” lure young men to abandoned gold mines on the promise of self-employment but force them to work the artisanal gold mines with threats of violence and death. Child vendors, some of whom walk more than 25 kilometers per day to sell goods, are exploited by sex traffickers in illegal mining areas. Adult women increasingly exploit girls as young as 12 in sex trafficking in gold mining communities in Mashonaland East, Mazowe, and Shurugwi. During the pandemic, organizations and media identified hundreds of children in sex trafficking near the Mazowe mines. Miners force girls to enter into coercive “relationships” where they have sex in exchange for money and food and sometimes assist with mining operations. In Chiredzi, sex traffickers recruit girls as young as 11 from surrounding areas.
Traffickers use false promises of legitimate employment opportunities, including through social media and messaging applications, to lure Zimbabwean adults and children into sex trafficking and forced labor in neighboring countries, particularly South Africa. In South Africa, traffickers exploit Zimbabweans for months of labor without pay in agriculture, construction, factories, mines, information technology, and hospitality businesses. South African gangs fraudulently recruit undocumented Zimbabwean migrants with promises of legitimate employment in mining and force them into labor in the illegal mining industry. Due to the pandemic, Zimbabwean women and children increasingly travel illegally to South Africa for employment, where their lack of legal status increases their vulnerability to traffickers. International criminal organizations have intercepted some Zimbabwean migrants in South Africa and subjected them to sex trafficking, including in Musina, Pretoria, Johannesburg, and Durban. Traffickers have exploited Zimbabwean women in domestic servitude, forced labor, and sex trafficking in Iraq, Kenya, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, and Uganda. In previous years, traffickers lured Zimbabwean women to China and the Middle East for forced labor. Traffickers have used fraudulent scholarship schemes to lure Zimbabwean students to Cyprus ostensibly for educational purposes and exploited them in forced labor and sex trafficking. Media has reported Zimbabweans living abroad, particularly in the United Kingdom and Ireland, trick Zimbabweans to travel abroad under the pretenses of tourism or legitimate employment and force them into domestic work. Traffickers have recruited Zimbabwean girls into neighboring countries with promises of marriage and, during marriage, forced them into domestic work.
Zimbabwe is a transit country for Somalis, Ethiopians, Malawians, and Zambians en route to trafficking in South Africa. Zimbabwe is a destination for forced labor and sex trafficking. Traffickers subject Mozambican children to forced labor in street vending, including in Mbare. Mozambican children who work on relatives’ farms in Zimbabwe are often undocumented and cannot enroll in school, which increases their vulnerability to traffickers. In prior years, there were reports refugees from Somalia and Democratic Republic of the Congo traveled from Zimbabwe’s Tongogara Refugee Camp to Harare, where traffickers exploited them and, in some cases, coerced them into commercial sex. Traffickers force some 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 coercion to induce work in unsafe or otherwise undesirable conditions. Cuban nationals working as doctors in Zimbabwe may have been forced to work by the Cuban government.