Ugly face of COS takes its toll in the UK Khumbulani Sibanda

Dr Masimba Mavaza

The ugly face of fraud and theft manifesting in the COS nightmare in the UK has claimed many Zimbabweans and many more are in the shadows of death.

Five people have been arrested in Barnsley, United Kingdom, after a 26-year-old Zimbabwean man was stabbed to death on February 21.

Lazarus Makono, who worked as a health care assistant, was found with serious injuries when police were called to a house on Cooperative Street at about 1.20am on February 21.

Makono was being hunted by scores of people he had scammed through the COS scheme.

He had taken millions of pounds from job seekers and those who are desperate to come to the UK.

Five people have been arrested, including another Zimbabwean, Terrance Mlotshwa of Ripley Avenue in Derby. Mlotshwa has been charged with the murder of Makono.

South Yorkshire police said they were holding another 27-year-old man on suspicion of murder. A 32-year-old man and two women aged 20 and 25 were arrested and later released on bail on suspicion of assisting an offender.

All these people have all been entangled in the COS deals.

Another person was sentenced to 15 years for raping a severely disabled vulnerable person. The man had come to the UK on a COS scheme.

While this looks different from the COS induced crimes, it is plastered with the mud from the COS.

Edson Munyikwa blamed stress and frustration for raping a disabled victim who ended up going through a surgery induced abortion.

The police have reported several arrests for drug and substance abuse by Zimbabweans who have come on COS scheme.

In their defence, almost all blame the stressful conditions they are enduring in the hands of those who brought them to the UK.

John Tengwere was banned from driving after he was caught with alcohol above the limit. The number of Zimbabweans being infamous for reasons beyond imagination is very high.

In a distressing case that has sent shockwaves through the community, a 43-year-old Zimbabwean man, Khumbulani Sibanda, was last year sentenced to 15 years in prison for the heinous crime of raping a child under the age of 13.

The conviction came after a trial in which Sibanda was found guilty of exploiting the innocence of a young child for his own perverse desires.

Described as a “dangerous offender” by the court, Sibanda was ordered to serve a minimum of 10 years behind bars.

The judge’s decision to impose such a substantial sentence reflects the gravity of his actions and aims to protect society from his potential future harm.

Sibanda’s actions have been characterized as a blatant exploitation of the child’s vulnerability and innocence for his own sickening satisfaction.

Beyond the prison term, Sibanda faces further repercussions. Upon his release, he will spend an additional three years on extended licence, although this could extend to eight years if he is granted release after a decade of incarceration.

Furthermore, Sibanda will be placed on the Sex Offenders Register for life, underscoring the lasting impact of his crimes.

The court’s ruling, which took place at Warwick Crown Court, also included concurrent sentences of 12 weeks each for sexual assault and exposure.

This comprehensive sentencing served as a stark reminder of the seriousness of these offenses and the imperative to shield society from individuals who pose such dangers. Sibanda’s arrived in the UK on COS.

Some Zimbabweans are committing suicide, with the reasons for prematurely taking life almost all attributed to COS.

Many people who have been brought into the UK through the COS scheme have suffered untold sufferings at the hands of those who have brought them in.

With such sufferings, a tricky situation where Zimbabweans are now treated differently because of their behaviour has ensured.

A couple which has conned several Zimbabweans promising them work in the UK was arrested for human trafficking and modern day slavery.

Within few days of being granted bail, they escaped UK back to Zimbabwe.

The British police are now pursuing them.

Modern slavery is surging in social care since ministers relaxed immigration rules to fill thousands of vacancies, with a growing wave of exploitation leading to workers being ripped off or living in squalor many of these workers are Zimbabwean nationals.

The Guardian reports that: “Unpublished figures show at least 2 800 people working in care homes or people’s residences were charted as potential victims last year, more than 10 times the number recorded before the government’s visa scheme.”

Some Zimbabwean workers who came through COS have reported sleeping in cold, cramped rooms or only receiving a fraction of their pay.

They are bonded to the gangsters which has seen them owing these heartless criminals thousands of pounds.

Others have paid exorbitant fees to agents for visa costs worth only a fraction of the price.

The mounting scale of abuse across the UK has been described by campaigners and care groups as “shocking”, “outrageous” and “utterly shameful” – with calls for councils and the NHS to carry out tighter checks on private care firms employing migrant workers.

“We have seen year-on-year rises in the number of cases indicating modern slavery – the most serious end of exploitation,” said Justine Carter, director of Unseen.

“Social care is fundamental to communities. You want to know, if you need care and support, that the people giving that care are not being exploited or, even worse, are victims of modern slavery.”

Many are finding no work or severely reduced hours, cramped and substandard accommodation.

Jane Townson, chief executive of the Homecare Association, which represents domiciliary care providers, also said there had recently been a rise in the number of new companies registering with the CQC and that some unscrupulous providers were “scamming [foreign workers] for thousands of pounds and putting them in cockroach-infested rooms and forcing them to sleep on the floor in this freezing weather.

Each of the case,s Zimbabweans are encountering crossed the threshold of one or more signs of modern slavery, including financial or physical control, debt bondage, being tied to accommodation and having passports impounded.

Reports of sexual abuse where the business owners demand sexual favours from their victims have become so rampant.

Tracy, who came to the UK in 2023 through COS, is now pregnant and the man responsible is her boss who has moved on the 10th victim.

Victims may not want to complain as they remain in debt and fear that family members back home may be vulnerable.

Melanie Weatherby, co-chair of the Care Association Alliance, who runs homecare services in Lincolnshire, said she had recently met a group of more Zimbabwean care workers brought to the UK on the sponsored visa scheme who had ended up with no work and were destitute.

“Some were scammed and for others there was no work when they got here,” she said, adding that too many sponsorship licences were issued to small companies that didn’t have enough work to offer.

Lyons, a former Downing Street adviser who took up the role of anti-slavery commissioner in December, said: “Every individual who works to provide such a valuable service in this country deserves to be paid a reasonable living wage and must be kept well informed about their employment rights. We must work together to ensure that nobody is allowed to slip through gaps in the system.”

Gavin Edwards, Unison’s head of social care, said: “Every week the union hears yet more horror stories involving migrant care workers. The increasingly hostile government rhetoric concerning overseas staff is only encouraging dodgy employers to ratchet up their exploitative behaviour.”

A Home Office spokesperson said: “Modern slavery is a barbaric crime and we are committed to ensuring that the necessary support is available to victims of modern slavery to help them rebuild their lives. We are bringing perpetrators of this heinous crime to justice and are working with the police and operational partners to drive up prosecutions.”

This is a welcome action, but for many Zimbabweans who are licking their wounds it is too late.

Before the ink dries on this paper, another life will be lost as victims of COS now start to take action and fight back.

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