Human trafficking and sex slave rings on the rise in Southern Africa

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Human trafficking between Zimbabwe and South Africa has reached alarming proportions as an average of 7000 people per month are said to be involved. Most victims are been forced into prostitution by gangs of human traffickers.

According to a report released by Zimbabwe Human Rights (ZimRights), traffickers are said to be preying on people, particularly women, who wished to leave the country without sufficient documentation.

Also women and children fleeing the political and economic problems in Zimbabwe are said to be the most affected group of people, over the years, after being lured with the promise of jobs. A high number of this group has been forced into prostitution by a network of human traffickers.

The report says traffickers mostly use South African-registered vehicles at the Zimbabwe/South African border post at Beitbridge, where they charge a fee upfront to transport their clients illegally into South Africa, the report says.

However, soon after crossing into South Africa they make requests for large sums of money, which they are fully aware the hapless passengers cannot afford.

Reads part of the report, “Failure to meet the demands results in confiscation of mobile phones and jewellery as part payment, after which victims are then detained in houses in outlying areas, sometimes with the knowledge of the South African Police Service (SAPS)”.

“These shrewd traffickers use victims’ mobile phones to call relatives of the victims demanding more money, or use the victim as sex or manual labour slaves. Some witnesses revealed men are forced into crime while women are often forced to commit sexual acts with various men as payment, exposing them to deadly diseases such as HIV/Aids.”

Fees averaging R5000 (about $700) is charged for getting into South Africa.

A two week Zimbabwe passport cost $250 of which “most people are not prepared to apply for claiming that it is too expensive. However they are risking their lives by engaging in risky trafficking practice”.

ZimRights director Okay Machisa said his organisation called on all Zimbabweans to travel with adequate documents and to be on the lookout for unscrupulous people who want to exploit their vulnerability.

“In as much as people are in pursuit of greener pastures each one of us must prioritise the security of our lives. ZimRights also urges government to focus its attention on this problem of human trafficking, which is fast becoming a global crisis.”

However, Zimbabwean government rejects reports that human trafficking is a growing phenomenon in the southern African country, despite the existence of enormous evidence on the ground.

Read More: South Africa’s deliberate move to deport Zimbabwean immigrants?

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