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 in gold and diamond sectors. More than 71 percent of child labor occurs in the agriculture sector, including on tobacco, sugarcane, and cotton farms, as well as in 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 children to work by withholding wages, denying them access to school, and subjecting them to GBV. Several traditional practices rendered young girls vulnerable to forced labor and sex trafficking, including the practice of trading daughters for food or money, using them as “replacement” brides for a deceased family member, and for ngozi, a reconciliation process where a family gives a family member to another family to make amends for 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. Near gold and diamond mines, traffickers force children to sell illicit drugs, which increased during the pandemic. 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 vulnerable populations, including illiterate individuals, and transport them to the mines at night to disorient potential victims and prevent their escape. Armed gangs known as “Mashurugwi” lure young men to abandoned gold mines through promises 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 or offer cooking and cleaning services to miners, are exploited by sex traffickers in illegal mining areas or by long- distance truckers who transport coal and minerals. Girls as young as 12 are exploited in sex trafficking along the Harare-Chinhoyi highway, in the informal settlement of Caledonia, and in gold mining communities in Mashonaland East, Mazowe, Bindura, 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 are sexually exploited in exchange for money and food and sometimes forced to assist with mining operations. In Chiredzi, sex traffickers recruit girls as young as 11 from surrounding areas. Children were forced to engage in sexual acts in exchange for water in Chitungwiza.
Traffickers use false promises of legitimate employment opportunities, particularly in nursing, including through social media and messaging applications, to lure Zimbabweans into sex trafficking and forced labor in neighboring countries, particularly South Africa, and the Middle East. In South Africa, traffickers exploit Zimbabweans for labor without pay in agriculture, construction, factories, mines, information technology, and hospitality businesses. Syndicates operating in South Africa recruit undocumented Zimbabwean migrants with promises of legitimate employment in mining and force them into labor in the illegal mining industry. Due to economic conditions caused by the pandemic, undocumented Zimbabwean women and children increasingly travel to South Africa for employment, where their lack of legal status increases their vulnerability to traffickers. Facilitators recruit and transport Zimbabwean migrants to South Africa, where international criminal syndicates subject them to sex trafficking 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, Oman, the People’s Republic of China (PRC), and Uganda, often under the guise of legitimate employment. Zimbabwean labor recruiters recruit Zimbabwean women for exploitation in domestic servitude in Oman, where their passports are confiscated, and they are forced to work without pay. Traffickers use fraudulent scholarship schemes to lure Zimbabwean students to Cyprus ostensibly for educational purposes and exploit them in forced labor and sex trafficking. Media 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 servitude. Traffickers recruit Zimbabwean girls into neighboring countries with promises of marriage and, during marriage, force them into domestic work.
Zimbabwe is a transit country for Somalis, Ethiopians, Malawians, and Zambians en route to exploitation in South Africa. Zimbabwe is also a destination country for forced labor and sex trafficking. Traffickers subject Mozambican children to forced labor in street vending, including in Mbare, the largest informal market in Harare. Mozambican children who work on relatives’ farms in Zimbabwe are often undocumented and cannot enroll in school, which increases their vulnerability of trafficking. In prior years, there were reports of refugees from Somalia and the Democratic Republic of the Congo traveling from Zimbabwe’s Tongogara Refugee Camp to Harare, where traffickers exploited them. Refugees and asylum-seekers are not permitted bank accounts and experience difficulties in obtaining identification documents, which limits employment opportunities and increases vulnerability to trafficking. Traffickers force some PRC nationals to work in restaurants in Zimbabwe. Construction and mining companies owned by both PRC nationals and PRC parastatal entities 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.