Of putrid politics, crocodile tears, trafficking of Zimbabwean women

May 18, 2016

By Mutsa Murenje

I am, first and foremost, a Zimbabwean. But I am also a social worker by profession. I would like to, therefore, believe that my views will be understood in the context of my professional training and personal disposition of an activist-practitioner, who seeks to put the highest standards of academic excellence in the service of humanity.

Mutsa Murenje
Mutsa Murenje

I have been trained to relieve distress, redress inequalities and promote social justice. To this end, it is not unusual for me to partake in processes of social change, which tackle structural disadvantage and create opportunities for people to realise fructification of their own goals.

Social work is notable for being a difficult and demanding profession albeit also a rewarding one. Of worth to note, however, is the fact that the profession’s rewards, unlike those of politics, are predominantly intrinsic. When I chose social work as a career, I was virtually assured of never attaining wealth or prestige.

I understood the demands of the profession: caring, sharing and social responsibility. These are undeniably values that cannot be rewarded by the economic system, let alone that of Zimbabwe. As social workers, we place emphasis on compassion and co-operation within an environment, where authoritarianism, bad governance, corruption, human rights abuses, competition and individualism are prevalent.

From its genesis, the social work profession has demonstrated special concern for those who are powerless, stigmatised, and devalued — the people who others tend to avoid or ignore. Because of this, I have thought of adding my voice to the issue of Zimbabwean women who were reportedly trafficked to Kuwait.

The Zimbabwean media is awash with such reports.

It is greatly heartening though to learn that some of these victims have already been assisted to return home while efforts are being made to locate and secure others so that they will also be helped to return and reunite with their families. It is quite surprising, however, that our leadership has suddenly become so caring and solicitous only now when this problem has been going on without notice.

In a helter-skelter dash to appear to be a responsible lot and in an attempt to avoid the hard questions, we now have reports of arrests being made. But the question is: What led us to this situation? This is what is missing in all the reports on the matter. What I see is putrid and fetid politics from our leaders. Their actions are, therefore, malodorous and can rightly be equated to simply crocodile tears.

This has to be especially when taking into account the fact that the supposed succour is coming from the very people who were supposed to have obviated this from happening. The enactment of the Trafficking in Persons Act (Chapter 10:20) in 2014 to domesticate the Protocol to Prevent, Suppress and Punish Trafficking in Persons has a minimal effect on society largely because the State authority’s legitimacy is in question.

This isn’t something specific to the present law, but applies to a number of them. We are still wondering if ever we have a new Constitution in our country. Its effect is yet to be felt because various laws have taken forever to be aligned with it.

Trafficked persons are people who are moved by deception or coercion for the purposes of their exploitation. Trafficking itself is a lucrative business, but also a vile and heinous violation of human rights. The profit in trafficking people lies not in their movement, but from the sale of their sexual services or labour in the country of destination.

Trafficked people are often physically prevented from leaving, or bound by debt or threat of violence to themselves or their family in their country of origin. Because of its clandestine nature, figures on the number of people being trafficked are extremely difficult to obtain.

However, we can be certain that theirs is a horrendous and horrific experience. A brutal experience that no single human being should ever be made to pass through. Our government has failed in many respects and this is the latest addition to its failures. Nothing will be gained by assuming or even wishing the contrary.

As David A. Feingold rightly observed, “Judging by news headlines, human trafficking is a recent phenomenon. In fact, the coerced movement of people across borders is as old as the laws of supply and demand. What is new is the volume of the traffic — and the realisation that we have done little to stem the tide. We must look beyond our raw emotions if we are ever to stop those who trade in human lives.”

The main causes of trafficking are flagrant violations of human rights, economic marginalisation, poverty and poor governance. The poorest and most marginalised are particularly vulnerable to abduction, forced military recruitment and trafficking.

Preponderant evidence exists of large-scale trafficking of persons within and between every continent by organised criminal networks. The evidence suggests that such trafficking is highly diverse and varied in terms of routes and destinations.

Some of it takes place within countries — as when women and children are forced away from rural areas into domestic work or prostitution in urban areas — and some takes place internationally across regions and continents.

Children and young women are disproportionally affected by international trafficking since much of it is linked to the sex industry. Such trafficking is also often associated with severe physical and mental abuse and exploitation.

Displaced people are also more vulnerable to trafficking due to their relative poverty and separation from homes, families, communities and livelihoods, with displaced children and women especially at risk.

Political violence and ill-planned programmes like the land reform and Operation Murambatsvina are some of the actions contributing to where we are today. It might be difficult to tell in terms of numbers of people affected by these evils, but there can be no doubt that the present regime has only succeeded in impoverishing the people and making them live miserable lives. This is an injustice we seek to reverse in our country.

There is dominance and oppression in Zimbabwe. Zanu PF tries to advance its own interests over our interests. Power is unequally divided and whatever social order we have is based on manipulation and control by the Mugabe regime. Lack of open conflict is a sign of our exploitation.

Most of our people are confronted by material hardship, psychosocial stress and sexual and gender-based violence. It is a fact that because of ruinous government policies and actions, many Zimbabweans have begun engaging in negative coping mechanisms and survival strategies such as prostitution, exploitative labour, illegal farming and substance abuse. It is these matters that we need to attend to.

In conclusion, our poverty is a consequence of political illegitimacy (instability), government corruption and lack of sustainable industrial and agricultural sectors.

If we fail to address these, individuals and families will continue to move from Zimbabwe to countries that have far greater opportunities to generate income.

Lack of options women have in Zimbabwe is behind the current trafficking. However, the ultimate blame lies on the government for failing not only these young women, but the nation as a whole.

– See more at: http://nehandaradio.com/2016/05/18/putrid-politics-crocodile-tears-trafficking-zimbabwean-women/#sthash.vvjP5nsE.dpuf

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