New twist in human trafficking saga as . . .Ex-Kuwait housemaid intimidated, flees court

Fungai Lupande Court Reporter—
A Kuwait human trafficking victim yesterday fled court after she was intimidated by relatives of a 30-year-old woman accused of recruiting her and seven others before exporting them to the Arab country. The victim was set to testify as the first State witness in a case in which Norest Maruma is suspected to be part of an organised human trafficking syndicate.They would lure their victims by promising them well-paying jobs in Kuwait.

Prosecutor Ms Francesca Mukumbiri told the court that the witness was willing to testify and had attended court.

“I asked her to sit outside while the accused gave her defence. I talked to her before court and she was keen to testify,” said Ms Mukumbiri.

“It was during that break that a relative of the accused threatened her. She disappeared. She was called three times and she was nowhere to be found.

“The police inquired if she was suffering from any illness but it was said that someone threatened her and she became scared to testify.

“As we speak, the police are looking for the person who threatened her.”

Ms Mukumbiri told the court that she made arrangements with the Department of Social Welfare for the protection of the victims.

Harare magistrate Mr Lazini Ncube postponed the matter to March 9.

She warned Maruma not to interfere with witnesses.

“If the accused threatens or uses her relatives to instil fear in the complainants again her bail will be revoked,” said Mr Ncube.

Maruma pleaded not guilty.

“I went to work in Kuwait as a housemaid and I was earning $250 per month. I told my friends and they started spreading the information,” she said.

“The complainants knew about me through their friends and all they allege are lies. No one worked 22 hours in Kuwait.”

Ms Mukumbiri alleged that between December 2015 and March last year Maruma unlawfully and intentionally recruited unsuspecting victims to Kuwait using WhatsApp on mobile number 0096 550 728 695.

It is alleged that soon after the victims arrived in Kuwait, their passports were confiscated by their employers.

They were reduced to slaves.

They would work for more than 22 hours a day without rest.

They were called “khadama”, which means “slave”.

They were also not allowed to communicate with anyone.

One of the victims was sexually abused by her employer’s son.

It is alleged that the victims fled their employers and were repatriated back to Zimbabwe by the Government.

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