Mugabe inadvertently providing slave labour to other countries

Zimbabwe President Robert Gabriel Mugabe’s rabid economic policies – which have led to the untold suffering of millions of Zimbabweans – as well as, a very repressive political landscape, have forced about a quarter of the population into emigration, where they are treated inhumanly – thereby, inadvertently providing other countries with slave labour.

Source: Mugabe inadvertently providing slave labour to other countries – The Zimbabwean 25.08.2016

Temporary labour migration, especially to South Africa, has long been a feature of this country’s history, as, according to a 2002 survey by the Southern Africa Migration Project, about 25% of adult Zimbabwean’s parents and grandparents have worked in that country at some point in their lives.

Furthermore, during and soon after Zimbabwe’s liberation war, a number of White people left the country, mainly for South Africa.

However, the phenomenon of Zimbabweans permanently emigrating, on a large scale, is relatively new – as this has been a direct consequent of Mugabe’s economic and political policies.

The fact that during the Rhodesia days, our parents or grandparents only temporarily migrated to South Africa, as opposed to the more permanent emigration that is being witnessed in independent Zimbabwe, clearly attests to the fact that both the political and economic situation has drastically worsened for the people of this country.

The first extensive wave of permanent emigration was that of the Ndebele population during the 1980s, as a direct result of the Mugabe government’s deployment of the North Korean-trained Fifth Brigade on a genocidal mission in the Midlands and Matabeleland regions that massacred nearly 50,000 mostly Ndebele people.

Most of those that permanently fled the country settled in South Africa.

The second wave of permanent emigration began in the 1990s, when the Mugabe regime introduced the immensely unpopular Economic Structural Adjustment Programme (ESAP), which led to massive retrenchments, which significantly increased the number of the unemployed and suffering people of this country – again, South Africa being the choice destination.

Nevertheless, the coming of a democratic dispensation in South Africa in 1994, resulted in the new government displaying increased hostility towards immigration of skilled labour into the country from the rest of Africa, resulting in a large number of Zimbabweans seeking greener pastures elsewhere in the world, especially in Botswana, United Kingdom (UK), Australia, United States of America (USA), and Canada.

It is reported that in Australia, as of 2011, the Zimbabwean community numbered over 30,000, with one in three of Australia’s Shona and Ndebele-speakers living in Sydney.

There were estimated to be between 40,000 and 10,000 Zimbabweans in Botswana as of 2009.

The Zimbabwean community in Canada is concentrated in Toronto; Calgary; Edmonton;

Hamilton, Ontario and Kitchener- Waterloo in

Ontario, Vancouver; Victoria, and British Columbia.

Their numbers have been slowly but steadily increasing since 2000.

There are estimated to be between one and five million Zimbabweans in South Africa as of 2008.

The UK Zimbabwean community is said to be close to 100,000, who are mainly concentrated in London and other urban areas.

There are various conflicting unofficial figures about the number of Zimbabweans in the US – with the RAND Corporation estimating that in 2000 there were 100,000 in the state of

New York alone.

In contrast, a 2008 estimate from the Association of Zimbabweans Based Abroad put the population of Zimbabweans in the whole US at just 45,000.

This permanent emigration of Zimbabweans was further exacerbated when Mugabe embarked on his ill-conceived and ill-fated violent land grabs and an intensified brutal campaign against opponents from the year 2000, shortly after the formation of the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC), when he lost in a February 2000 referendum on a new constitution, and was poised to lose in the June parliamentary elections.

This resulted in an unprecedented economic free fall – which the country is still reeling from – leading to the largest flow of permanent emigration in this country’s history.

It is estimated that there are millions of residents outside of Zimbabwe’s borders who were either born in the country or are descended from immigrants – all thanks to Mugabe’s brazen economic and political policies.

This has, however, led to millions of Zimbabweans residing in other countries both illegally and legally – creating a very conducive environment for them to be easily exploited by unscrupulous people.

Both documented and undocumented immigrants in those countries are being exploited due to their desperate situation, virtually reducing them to slave labour.

Most recently, there were reports of a large number of Zimbabwean women who were allegedly trafficked to Kuwait, only to be abused in various dehumanising work environments.

Although, it is very fortunate that most of these women managed to escape and return home, these incidents highlighted the extent to which Mugabe’s flawed policies have driven millions of Zimbabweans into modern day slavery.

In fact, quiet a large number of people have succumbed to human trafficking as they seek to flee the suffering inflicted upon them by the ZANU PF government – resulting in most of them being sex slaves in foreign lands, and men usually being forced to work on plantations.

Most Zimbabweans in the diaspora that I communicate with have the same sad stories: they are sick and tired of being abused and humiliated in the countries in which they moved to, and would have so readily returned home, had it not been for Mugabe and his regime.

A trained hotel chef, who used to be employed by a government-owned diamond mine – which made billions of dollars, but never paid its employees even a single cent – has now been reduced to a domestic servant in a foreign country, where he works for a meagre wage, and yet has to do all manner of degrading work.

However, he has no choice, as getting a paltry wage in a degrading environment is much better than working for nothing in  Mugabe’s Zimbabwe.

This is by far not an isolated case, as that is a common feature of life in the diaspora.

Having resided in South Africa myself for a couple of years, I still can not get out of my mind the disturbing images of hundreds of suffering fellow Zimbabweans whom I witnessed on a visit to the Johannesburg Central Methodist Church in 2008 – cramped in the filthiest of conditions, both men and women, and their babies sleeping mixed together in halls.

Where all dignity was lost as women could just bath exposed in the presence of men and children, as there were hardly any bathrooms.

Neither can I get over seeing hordes of Zimbabweans sleeping either in drainages or plastic shacks in Marabastad in Pretoria.

As I worked for a Non-Governmental Organisation (NGO), which dealt mostly with people in such impoverished settlements as Olievenhoutbosch in Pretoria, I witnessed first hand the unbelievable suffering of Zimbabweans who stayed in those areas – something that I will never get over.

Zimbabweans who stayed in the most appalling shacks, scrounging around for the most demeaning and menial jobs, just so that they take care of their families back home.

On several occasions, I also witnessed sick impoverished Zimbabweans dying, but without anyone to bury them or return their bodies to their families back home.

And why did all these people leave their homes in Zimbabwe to suffer like that in a foreign land?

They did that because anything was better than what they had been subjected to by the Mugabe regime.

Other Zimbabweans in the diaspora are reportedly never provided safety working gear, as they are simply told that if they are not happy, the door is always open for them to leave, and as such, due to their desperate situation, they are forced to continue working under the most dangerous of conditions.

All this is happening in spite of the Zimbabwean diaspora having a 95% literacy rate in English and a very highly educated adult population.

However, all that is put to waste, as these people, who are an asset to Zimbabwe, and should be helping develop the country, are forced by circumstances to be under-utilised, exploited, and unappreciated in foreign lands.

Admittedly, there is a significant portion of Zimbabweans in the diaspora who are doing pretty well, but compared to those reduced to glorified slaves, they are just but a drop in the ocean.

Furthermore, this pushing away of Zimbabweans into the diaspora by the ZANU PF regime has led to an unprecedented breakdown of the family institution, as parents live apart from their children, or husbands away from their wives, at times for years.

In their communication to me, one can easily tell the pain these people are going through, and it is so heartrending.

How can a government do this to its own people.

No wonder ZANU PF is so cowardly in affording these people their right to vote whilst in the diaspora, as it knows that the vast majority of them will resoundingly reject such a ruthless party.

It is so shameful that the ZANU PF regime has never shown any remorse for the pain, suffering, and humiliation it has caused these industrious men and women that it has abused – much in the same manner that it has never shown any regret over its treatment of Zimbabweans at home, as it has actually intensified its brutality.

This callous ZANU PF government fails to even appreciate that these long-suffering Zimbabweans that it has forced into other lands, actually remit over US$1.5 billions annually into the country, thereby helping to keep this comatose country alive.

It is high time that the ZANU PF regime was held to account for its brazen abuse of human rights and crimes against humanity for causing this unprecedented wave of modern day slavery that has witnessed untold suffering and humiliation of millions of Zimbabweans in the diaspora – who would rather be home with their families,and helping build Zimbabwe.

° Tendai Ruben Mbofana is a social justice activist and commentator, writer, and journalist. He writes in his personal capacity, and welcomes any feedback. Please feel free to WhatsApp/call: +263782283975, or email: Follow on Twitter: @Tendai_Mbofana


  • comment-avatar

    It was BETTER under Ian Smith……..GO ON JUST SAY IT………

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    R Judd 6 years ago

    There is nothing “inadvertent” here. It is the stated policy of the ZANU government to encourage the export of labour. A number of ministers are on record pontificating about this. ZANU also sees the diaspora as their next source of funds having exhausted every other.

    Our situation is the natural consequence of supporting populist liars.

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    Harper 6 years ago

    In exporting labour he is copying his North Korean idols. They have exported labour all over the world. There is a TV program on this subject filmed in Poland.

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    Clive Sutherland 6 years ago

    I assume the Zim Diaspora referred to as living and working like slaves are based in other 3 world countries because the Zimbos here in Australia are doing very well, I am yet to meet a Zimbo here that is destitute.