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By Tendayi Madhomu
January 10, 2009 / Sunday News
A YOUNG girl from Nkulumane in Bulawayo narrated the cruel patch she went through when she migrated illegally to neighbouring South Africa.
The 16-year-old was taken to Johannesburg, her intended destination, by some unscrupulous cross-boarder commuter omnibus operators (omalayitsha), with the understanding that upon arrival, her uncle would pay for the journey.
There are so many young people, mainly girls, who have been assisted to illegally cross to South Africa with the hope that some relatives in that country would help them settle the exorbitant fares.
“We had an arrangement that when we arrived, they would then phone my uncle who would come and pay the required amount and then take me home. Unfortunately, when we arrived I was told that they were not getting through to my uncle’s phone, so I would have to stay at some house they own, until they managed to communicate with him,” she explained.
Upon arrival at the house, the young girl met a group of others in a similar predicament — relatives not accessible.
The group of young people, mainly girls were working tirelessly as servants for a woman who happened to be a wife to one of the commuter omnibus operators.
“When I got to the house, I found out that there was a group of girls in my unfortunate situation, working for this lady, a wife to one of the commuter omnibus operators. We would work tirelessly daily, scrubbing the floors, doing laundry, cooking, all for nothing, worse still there was nothing one could do to escape from the situation,” she said in tears.
Her mother, who made an effort to find her daughter, rescued her at last.
The unscrupulous commuter omnibus operators are alleged to be conspiring with Nigerians they sell these young girls to who are used as sex workers.
Asked why she decided to run away from home, the 16-year-old explained that her family was having financial problems and she thought she would help by doing what others were doing.
“I thought going to South Africa would solve all the financial problems at home,” she said.
A number of people have been caught up in such unfortunate situations and they have often ended up as victims of human trafficking.
Human trafficking is the sale, transporting and profiteering from human beings who are forced to work for others for nothing.
Against their will, millions of people around the world are forced to work for the profit of others, for example by begging, prostitution and basically servitude. According to Internet website http://www.notforsalecampaign.org, 27 million people are enslaved the world over for various reasons.
According to experts, trafficked persons are often enslaved or in situations of debt bondage that are fraudulent and exploitive.
The traffickers will take away or abuse the basic human rights of their victims, who would have most likely been tricked and lured by false promises or physically forced into their situation.
As stated by a social expert, human trafficking works like this: “It is common practice to persuade a young woman to leave home and move to a wealthier neighbouring country where she can work in domestic service, child or adult care, or as a waitress in a restaurant or bar, or perhaps as a dancer. Upon arrival, her passport, visa and return tickets are taken away from her and, effectively, she is imprisoned, either physically, financially or mentally. She is made to work as a domestic slave or as an agricultural or factory worker, under slave-like conditions, or in a brothel. She sees virtually none of the money that she earns, and eventually she will be sold.”
Women and children are trafficked for domestic labour and sexual exploitation, including in brothels, along both sides of the borders with Botswana, Mozambique, South Africa and Zambia. Some are exported to Asian countries where there is reportedly massive child labour and sexual exploitation.
Young men and boys are trafficked to South Africa for farm work, often labouring for months without pay before the “employers” have them arrested and deported as illegal immigrants. There are so many young men and women who narrate heart-rending stories of the humiliation they suffer at the hands of their would-be helpers.
Young women and girls are also lured to South Africa, China, Egypt, the United Kingdom, the United States or Canada with false employment offers that result in involuntary domestic servitude or commercial sexual exploitation.
The causes of human trafficking are various.
Men around the world profit in pleasure and in price from the exploitation of women and children.
In poorer regions of the world where education and employment opportunities are limited, the most vulnerable in society — runaways, refugees, or other displaced persons — are the most common victims of human trafficking.
People who are seeking opportunities and entry to other countries may be picked up by traffickers and misled into believing that they will be free after being smuggled across the border.
Trafficking of children often involves exploitation of the parents’ extreme poverty.
The latter may sell children to traffickers in order to pay off debts or gain income or they may be deceived in relation to the prospects of training and a better life for their children.
According to the International Organisation of Migrations (IOM), trafficking in persons is an under-reported crime. This is due to the low priority given by authorities in many countries to the problem of human trafficking.
Legislation is often lacking, inadequate or not implemented — in some countries, the authorities do not recognise that such practice exists.
This makes the prosecution of traffickers very difficult and often impossible because the majority of them are very rich and they can possibly buy their freedom.
Apparently Zimbabwe has no law against human trafficking.
Police spokesperson, Superintendent Andrew Phiri, said the Government had allowed the IOM to operate against human trafficking in Zimbabwe.
“We do not have a law against human trafficking, because it is a recent crime. The Government has allowed the IOM to operate in Zimbabwe in respect of human trafficking. As the police, we have not received any cases and even if we were to receive them, we would not pursue them as the country does not have a law against the crime,” he said.
On its website, the IOM has stated that trafficking convictions are often based on witness and or victim testimony, which is hard to obtain because trafficking victims are either deported as illegal immigrants or, if identified as trafficked persons, are often too frightened to testify.
The traffickers are so powerful that they can pay mafias to liquidate evidence.
“Inadequate legislation means that the law enforcement authorities often prefer not to prosecute traffickers since the effort expended seldom results in a conviction,” the organisation said.
The organisation further stated that trafficking in persons is a serious violation of human rights and that trafficking works on the basis of debt bondage imposed on the victim not to have the capacity to escape and denounce the system that has trapped them.
“Trafficking in persons may or may not involve the crossing of international borders. In contrast to migrant smuggling, trafficking can occur within the borders of one country as internal trafficking,” said the organisation.