Tendai Rupapa Senior Court Reporter
A ZIMBABWEAN woman who fell victim to a human trafficking scam in Kuwait is reportedly battling for her life in that country after attempting to commit suicide following repeated abuse at the hands of her “employer” in the Arab emirate.
This was revealed on Wednesday during a bail hearing for James Tungamirai Maroodza (30), an employment agent accused of recruiting the woman and trafficking her to Kuwait, among other victims.
Hundreds of female job seekers were lured to Kuwait on the pretext that they would secure employment, but were sold into slavery and forced into prostitution and other menial jobs.
While in police custody, Maroodza reportedly received a phone call from his alleged accomplice in Kuwait informing him of the attempted suicide.
The investigating officer, Detective Sergeant Washington Museredza, told the court that the said accomplice asked Maroodza to send another woman to replace the one who had been hospitalised.
“Your Worship, there is a clear nexus linking the accused person to the offence. He facilitated the trafficking of several unsuspecting women to Kuwait using his company, Employment Engine Global Services.
“He knows all the women he sent there. As we speak, one of the victims is battling for her life in a hospital in Kuwait after she tried to end her life. She could not bear the abuse and attempted to commit suicide. I cannot reveal her name but can only do so if the court asks me to,” he said.
“While interrogating the accused person, he received a phone call and I ordered him to put it on loudspeaker. That is when I heard their conversation in which his accomplice in Kuwait was advising him to look for another woman saying the one he had sent was in hospital after she tried to kill herself.”
While giving evidence in support of refusal of bail, Det Sgt Museredza said people were flooding their offices with most of the reports on human trafficking pointing to Maroodza.
However, Maroodza denied the allegations arguing that he did not misrepresent facts to the complainants as he was doing his job as an employment agent to secure jobs for them. He said he was not aware of what happened to them once in Kuwait.
Maroodza further argued that his company was registered in accordance with the laws of this country.
He submitted that he was ready to abide by any bail conditions imposed by the court. Magistrate Mr Elijah Makomo granted Maroodza $400 bail yesterday.
Maroodza reportedly placed an advertisement in a local newspaper to the effect that maids were wanted in Kuwait at a salary of $600 per month.
Sylvia Chabikwa and her sister Agness responded to the advert and were advised by Maroodza to go for HIV tests, which they did.
Maroodza is said to have facilitated their visas and air tickets. On arrival in Kuwait, their passports were confiscated by immigration officials who handed them over to an agent identified as Hannan.
Hannan took them to a location where he forced them to remove their clothes and put on Muslim regalia which he provided.
According to the State, the two sisters were subjected to slavery and all sorts of abuse at the hands of their “employers”.
The pair was eventually rescued through the Zimbabwean Embassy.
Meanwhile, Brenda Avril May, the secretary to the Kuwaiti Ambassador to Zimbabwe, was on Wednesday released on $500 bail coupled with stringent conditions, among them reporting three times a week to the police.
Mr Makomo ordered her to surrender her passport, not to interfere with witnesses and to reside at her given address until the matter is finalised. She will be back in court on April 14.
In his ruling, Mr Makomo said she was not a flight risk adding that the State’s fears should be allayed by the stringent bail conditions.
“I am not convinced that she is a flight risk. An accused person is presumed innocent until proven guilty, hence the right to liberty should not be interfered with. Bail is a right, according to the Constitution.
“There is no single proof that she tried to abscond because when she was released on summons she never ran away. When the police re-arrested her, they did not have any difficulties in locating her. This is testimony enough that when wanted, she would be available.
“What I can say is that the accused person can be ordered by the court not to interfere with witnesses and investigations,” he said.
He said the seriousness of an offence on its own was not sufficient to deny an accused person bail, adding that even in murder cases, suspects were granted bail.
May reportedly connived with former Kuwaiti ambassador to Zimbabwe, Ahmed Al-Jeeran, and advertised for nurse aide vacancies in Kuwait and several female job-seekers responded to the advertisement.