Sold to labour exploitation in Oman: Zimbabwe charges trafficking kingpin

HARARE – The offer was hard to resist. A life-changing job opportunity in the United Arab Emirates with fully paid flights and visas to Dubai, its most modern capital. A route out of grinding poverty in Zimbabwe, they thought.

Within weeks, however, the dream had turned to a nightmare for Miriam Zihumo and Isabel Mushoriwa – and they could offer everything but their lives to return home.

Destination Dubai turned out to be Oman, the rich emirates’ south east neighbour, and the lucrative jobs promised a life of slavery and exploitation.

Details of the two women’s trafficking hell emerged at the Harare Magistrates Court on April 22 as prosecutors charged a woman allegedly at the centre of a cheap labour export ring.

Farisisai Mupeti, of Rusike Phase 3 in Marondera, was not asked to plead during a brief appearance before Harare magistrate Yeukai Dzuda. He was remanded in custody to June 1 and advised to apply to the High Court for bail.

Charging him under the Trafficking in Persons Act, the National Prosecuting Authority alleged that sometime in November 2021, Mupeti made false representations to Zihumo acting in connivance with one Lincell Allimonis, who is still at large and is believed to be in Oman.

Mupeti told Zihumo there was a job opportunity in Dubai while promising her a lucrative salary and favourable working conditions.

“Her accomplice Allimos went on to send Zihumo air tickets and a VISA,” the prosecution says.

Zihumo first knew something was wrong when her air tickets, written in Arabic, showed the destination as Oman, and not Dubai.

Mupeti, it is alleged, processed a fake medical examination report and polymerase chain reaction test for Zihumo.

When Zihumo landed in Oman, her apprehension only heightened when her passport was taken away by men acting in connivance with Mupeti, the charges say.

She was “sold” to a man who would be her “employer.”

“She was denied food, worked around the clock, and was kept indoors for three months,” the prosecution alleges.

Zihumo only managed to return home after lying to the man holding her that she had a wedding planned in Zimbabwe and that her family had bought her the tickets.

Mupeti allegedly used the same trick on Mushoriwa who was subjected to abuse for three weeks and only escaped after lying that her mother had died.

“She even stated that if she failed to attend her mother’s burial in Zimbabwe, she will suffer from a mental illness,” said the prosecution.

The “employer” allegedly demanded to see the burial order before releasing her. He also wanted her family to buy a return ticket, which they did to secure her freedom.

On Tuesday, Zimbabwe’s cabinet approved the principles of the Trafficking in Persons (Amendment) Bill which will offer more support to victims of trafficking by obligating the state to repatriate them and also provide counselling services.

Home Affairs minister Kazembe Kazembe said the Bill will also establish the criminal offence of trafficking in persons in line with the Parlemo Protocol. It will also include the definition of forced labour or service exploitation in relation to the crime of human trafficking, such as all forms of slavery or practice similar to slavery, sexual exploitation, prostitution, child and adult pornography, debt bondage, servitude, forced labour and services, child labour, unlawful removal of body organs, forced marriage and impregnation of female person against their will for the purpose of selling the child.

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