HARARE businessman Wicknell Chivayo has come to the rescue of 32 Zimbabwean women who were lured to Kuwait to work as housemaids but ended up being abused as sex slaves.
Chivayo bought air tickets worth US$58,900 for the stranded women who were rescued by a parliamentary delegation led by National Assembly Speaker Advocate Jacob Mudenda and chairperson of the portfolio committee on Foreign Affairs Kindness Paradza.
The delegation left for Kuwait at the weekend after it emerged that several Zimbabwean women were stuck in the Gulf country and were being abused as sex slaves.
Other members of the delegation are MDC legislator Priscilla Misihairabwi-Mushonga, Zanu-PF MP Sabbina Thembani and senator Chief Musarurwa.
Cde Paradza told our Harare Bureau yesterday that they met with Kuwaiti authorities to discuss the situation.
“Today we met the ruler of Kuwait His Highness, Sheikh Sabah Al Ahmad Al Jaber Al Sabah and acting Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs Sheikh Sabah Al-Khaled Al-Hamad Al-Sabah, where a directive was issued that the women should be repatriated in order to avoid the deterioration of relations between the two friendly nations through these criminal activities perpetrated by a syndicate of human traffickers in Kuwait and Zimbabwe,” said Cde Paradza.
“We also met the Speaker of the National Assembly of Kuwait Marzouq Ali Al Ghanem at his offices and had the opportunity of attending one of the live sessions.”
Cde Paradza said the first batch of the young women would start arriving on Saturday.
“The Speaker had to intervene following strong representations from families and relatives of the women that have been living under modern-day slavery in the Gulf state, rich in oil reserves.
“The women were located with the help of Zimbabwean Ambassador to Kuwait Mark Grey Marongwe.
“The actual number of the women still unaccounted for is unknown but it’s believed they number up to about 200. So far, the embassy has assisted the repatriation of 44 distressed women back to Zimbabwe,” said Cde Paradza.
He said the Ministry of Foreign Affairs indicated that the government did not have money at the moment to repatriate the young women.
“The Minister of Foreign Affairs Simbarashe Mumbengegwi told Adv Mudenda through his Deputy Edgar Mbwembwe that his ministry had no budget to bring the girls home.
“The Speaker then made frantic efforts to secure money for the air tickets and is grateful to Wicknell Chivayo who immediately rescued the situation and instructed his travel agent to issue one-way tickets for the women to come back home,” said Cde Paradza.
Contacted for comment, Chivayo said he felt duty-bound to respond to the request
“I bought the tickets whole-heartedly without thinking twice. As a patriotic Zimbabwean, it pains me to hear my fellow sisters are being abused and used as sex slaves.
“As captains of industry, it’s our obligation to respond expeditiously where there’s a worthy cause. We should all emulate President Mugabe who has sacrificed the greater part of his life to liberate others and has suffered for that.
“I was told that nine of the 32 women have passports while the Zimbabwean embassy in Kuwait is busy preparing emergency travel documents for the remaining ones.
“In view of the financial challenges (faced by) the government, I felt it necessary to chip in after the distress call from Cde Paradza from Kuwait on behalf of the Speaker,” said Chivayo.
The youthful businessman has also poured more than $600,000 into soccer, including paying the Zifa debt, to ensure Zimbabwe remained in the 2022 World Cup.
Cde Paradza said Adv Mudenda was appealing to relatives and families back in Zimbabwe to contact the embassy in Kuwait on cellphone number +965 65965310 or landline +96525621517/25620845 to inquire about the whereabouts of their loved ones.