Zimbabwean human trafficking victims in Kuwait were paraded na_ked and auctioned to “se_x merchants”, it has been revealed, while others were tortured by their slave masters resulting in several commiting suicide.
This has seen President Mugabe tasking three Cabinet ministers to repatriate those Zimbabwean women still in the Arab emirates.
Over the years, many Zimbabwean women have been lured to Kuwait on the pretext of lucrative jobs, only to be forced into virtual slave labour and se_x work.
Kuwait has the fourth-highest per capita income in the world and the sixth-largest oil reserves, and its currency – the dinar – is the highest valued currency across the globe.
Such statistics entice, thousands of Africans, especially women, to move to that country.
The Sunday Mail has established that several human trafficking cartels are piggybacking their shenanigans on Kafala laws which are generally used to regulate migrant labour in the Gulf Co-operation Council of which Kuwait is a member.
The system cedes oversight of foreign workers to private citizens and prohibits contracted employees from quitting their jobs or migrating to other countries.
Breach of contract invariably attracts imprisonment.
Gulf nations previously depended on cheap migrant labour from Asian countries like India, but this ended following economic growth in that region and cartels now target Africans.
Thirty-two Zimbabwean women returned home from Kuwait about a week ago, while 23 were rescued last week in joint operations between Zimbabwean and Kuwaiti authorities.
Sixteen of the latest survivors of the ordeal are living at the residence of Zimbabwe’s chief diplomat to Kuwait, Ambassador Mark Marongwe.
President Mugabe has arranged for their care and repatriation, with the Foreign Affairs, Public Service and Women’s Affairs ministries leading the assignment.
Public Service, Labour and Social Welfare Minister Prisca Mupfumira told The Sunday Mail that President Mugabe was visibly moved when briefed about the matter – and has demanded swift action.
“We are taking action as Government to ensure we repatriate those who remained behind. Initial estimates show that around 200 local women are there, but we believe there are more than that.
Treasury has also been directed to immediately release funds to take care of the rescued girls before they are repatriated.”
Speaking from his Kuwait City base, Ambassador Marongwe said, “At the residence we have 16 girls, but there are also others staying at a shelter that we have set up where we are still processing their papers.
“We have established that human trafficking syndicates offer fake employment vacancies to our girls and help facilitate visas for them. Once they arrive, their documents are confiscated and they are forced to sign three-year contracts to work as maids.”
Women’s Affairs, Gender and Community Develolment Minister Nyasha Chikwinya said some recruiting agents based in Harare were intimidating the rescued victims not to reveal what they had been through.
Minister Chikwinya related the horrors the victims encountered in Kuwait.
“Some of the girls have been receiving death threats since they returned and are now living in fear. This has in some way stalled police investigation into the matter. But we are doing all we can to ensure the girls have all the necessary protection.
“We are also confident that those responsible for this heinous crime against humanity will be brought to book. An employer of one of the girls inflicted burns all over her body as a way of waking her up in the morning.
“Other girls were paraded na_ked and then auctioned to slave drivers before being sold to men involved in fetish se_xual rituals. It was similar to how it was done during the slave trade when bidders would pick the person they wanted from a line of people.
“One of the girls who came last week has sufferred a nervous breakdown due to the trauma. This problem has become a regional problem. I will propose a meeting with my counterpart ministers from Sadc countries affected by this problem to discuss the way forward.”
In March 2016, Brenda Avril May, a secretary at the Kuwait Embassy in Harare, was arrested on allegations of facilitating the processing of visas for the victims who are now stuck in the emirate.
In 2014, Government enacted the Trafficking in Persons Act (Chapter 10:20) to domesticate the Protocol to Prevent, Suppress and Punish Trafficking in Persons.