We are enslaved abroad by our own brothers

Dr Masimba Mavaza

Dreams of riches are wiped out as reality sinks in. At times it takes just a week to realise that your slave master is your own brother.

You might think that slavery is something you only read about in history books. Unfortunately, the sad and shocking truth is that slavery exists today in our country and around the world.

It is known now as human trafficking, and it is a growing evil of major proportions. The avarice gives enormous amounts of money to the “slave masters”— those who facilitate the migration from Zimbabwe of care workers or farm labourers.

The slavery is hidden in the Certificate of Sponsorship (COS). Sadly, not many people have raised any awareness of human trafficking, or taken appropriate steps to eliminate this evil.

This evil is prevalent among Zimbabweans in the UK who bring their relatives from home and make them work as care-givers and house maids for no pay and dump them once they raise questions of fairness. This is the most common form of human trafficking practiced by many Zimbabweans in the UK.

Though the two terms are often used interchangeably, human trafficking is not human smuggling. Trafficking is the recruiting, transporting, harbouring, or receiving of a person through force or through deception in order to exploit him or her for forced labour.

Human smuggling, on the other hand, is the transportation of an individual from one destination to another, usually with his or her consent —for example, across a border.

Zimbabweans in the UK have smuggled people through the Republic of Ireland until COS happened. Now the trafficking is dressed in some form of legality with devastating evil implications.

Trafficking is done by giving false pretences of employment or tourism. The most affected group are people from low income backgrounds and simple-minded people. Trafficking is done by the Zimbabweans in UK and they make large profits by charging for a free service. To offer a Certificate of Sponsorship, which is supposed to be free, many Zimbabweans have charged tens of thousands, making a killing from the desperate citizens who are keen to leave the country. Those who are brought over to the UK are forced to give cheap labour in the care and housekeeping industry or to work as maids.

Mostly women who have been subjected to discrimination, social pressure, abuse, etc and children as well as people looking for foreign employment, are the ones who are deceived and told of greener pastures in England. Little do they know that they are being plugged out of their comfort and planted into the crocodile’s mouth.

Zimbabwean survivors of human trafficking share their plight in a heart wrenching way.

Moses Maparara responded to an advert for care workers in the UK. A tempting 5 000 pounds monthly salary was waved as a bait. Moses was asked to pay 10 000 pounds into a given account as an interview fee with assurances of getting the COS.

Things seemed to be working to plan. The owner of the agency was a church owner of a Madzibaba shrine in Luton.

Since Moses was a member of the church he did not see anything wrong, neither did he even begin to imagine that anything could go wrong.

When he arrived in the UK the man of God changed his colours. He became a devil in white robes.  Satan in church clothes.

He was told that there was not enough shifts so he had to come and work in the house of the man of God. He was told not to use the heating system and that he could not eat anything without permission. At some point, he was caught chewing something and he was ordered to spit it or get deported. His passport was held by the Agency director who continuously threatened him if he complained.

Moses was told that food was expensive so they survived on one meal a day.

A little lunch flicked through like a flash in the darkness. Some shifts opened up and Moses worked three jobs a day. When pay day came, he was shocked when he was told that he owed the boss for the food so he was on minus 2 000 pounds. When he tried to reason, he was lambasted at church and humiliated in front of the congregation. He lived under insults.

His passport was never returned and he could not even think of going back home. His stay became a prison. The dreams of good life collapsed before his own eyes. Moses became a slave of his church brother. Embarrassed bruised and insulted, it reduced him to nothing. his worst enemy was his own countryman. Sadly, this church leader had been his role model.

Mandie, another Zimbabwean victim of abuse, shared this. She recalls: “They held us in an apartment and took away our passports. They told us that we’d be photographed again for our new employment documents to be registered as carers. It felt strange, but we believed them.”

Then Mandie and the other women were put on a plane to Republic of Ireland. On arrival they were taken out of the airport then asked to look for their way to England. It was easy to walk across the boarder into Northern Ireland as it is an open border. Once you are in Northern Ireland you are in England.

“When I got to England, I was to go and stay with a man who was the Agency owner.”

She was quickly given a job. She would   work in an industry. Going to any job in England is called a shift.

“They offered me work. I wasn’t sure that I would fit in, but slowly I began to trust them,” she says.

The organisation assisted Mandie until she got her right to stay and remain in the UK.

Now, she works to prevent the exact situation in which she found herself. As an outreach worker she tells the girls in Zimbabwe not to jump at job offers which look lucrative. England is not an answer to all our challenges that we must abandon Zimbabwe on promises of an easy life.

She does not want fellow Zimbabweans’ lives to unfold in the same way hers did. Mandie provides women with health and safety resources and information about legal aid.

“To stop trafficking of women and girls, we have to inform people about the full consequences of human trafficking and how to detect the signs. It is critical to start raising awareness about this in schools, starting young, so that they do not become victims.”

The Home Office of the United Kingdom must start to intervene. Humanity has turned wild and inhumane. Slavery has been legalised. Suffering in the house of your kinsman normalised. Money breaks all relations.

The most painful thing is that Zimbabweans have turned against their own. They have unleashed cruelty on their own countrymen. The irony of it all is that it is being done in England under the King’s nose.

Thousands of Zimbabweans are roaming the streets of England and Wales with no future and no hope. Their chances of a good life crushed.

Reduced to slaves by their own, they bleed profusely from the heart.

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