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Human trafficking on the increase
Zimbabwe Human Rights Association (ZimRights)
February 08, 2011

Gangs known as Omalaitsha who are usually in South African registered vehicles at he Zimbabwe / South African border are preying on people who wish to leave the country without sufficient documentation.

The gangs charge a fee upfront in Beitbridge to transport their clients illegally into South Africa. However, soon after crossing over into South Africa they make more requests for ridiculously large sums of money they are aware the hapless passengers cannot afford. Failure to meet the demands results in confiscation of mobile phones and jewelry as part payment, after which victims are then detained in houses in outlying locations, sometimes with the knowledge of the South African Police (SAPS).

These shrewd Omalaitsha use victims' mobile phones to call relatives of the victim 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 and AIDS.

Killa Zivhu, President of Zimbabwe Cross Border Traders Association said the kidnappers usually demand R5,000. He added that the practice is now more widespread and the gangs are becoming well-organised and more vicious.

Meanwhil the International Organisation on Migration (IOM) has put up giant billboards warning people about the dangers of illegal migration. It has also set up reception centres for survivors, where most are tested for sexually-transmitted infections and assisted to return home and start a new life.

ZimRights calls 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.

Visit the Zimbabwe Human Rights Association (ZimRights) fact sheet

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