She left for ‘greener’ pastures but found herself hauled in the shackles of slavery.
Mable Mkhahlera* 37 had been struggling to provide for her two children- both school going -when she was offered a job in Kuwait.
It was heaven-sent.
Thrilled by the possibility of affording a good life for her children, Mkhahlera left Zimbabwe for Kuwait in 2019.
Nearly six years after the enslavement of hundred Zimbabwean women as sex slaves in Kuwait, The NewsReport has established another dragnet of more women being lured into slavery under the false pretense of employment.
Zimbabwe is currently battling to rescue dozens of women, working as maids in Oman after investigations unraveled forced labour, sex trafficking and inhumane treatment. As Zimbabwe continues in the throes of economic turmoil, women, have fallen prey to employment agents working with criminal syndicates abroad.
Before Mkhahlera left Zimbabwe, she was made to sign an employment contract written in Arabic.
“I went to Kuwait, but it was difficult. I was made to sign a contract, but it was written in Arabic. I was supposed to sign the forms, but I had no idea what I was signing,” Mkhahlera told The NewsReport.
The visa application process, which she described as smooth included an Hiv test.
She was promised $500 per month.
“I was going to work for 2 years in Kuwait. The visas were processed, then got HIV tests and in three days the whole process was done,” she said.
While at the Robert Mugabe International Airport, immigration officials quizzed Mkhahlera about her destination, but she naively proceeded with the treacherous journey.
“I was so happy that I found greener pastures. I had no idea what would eventually befall me,” the 37-year-old mother of two said.
When she arrived in Kuwait, Mkhahlera felt something was odd about her journey.
She was led into a big, grimy hall where other immigrants from Philippines, India, and Ethiopia, were held.
“That is when I realised that life had changed. The hall was dirty. I stayed there for six hours. A man came to take me, he was introduced as my boss. He ordered me to handover my passport and I obliged,” she said.
The 37-year-old was later shoved into a truck with tinted glasses before her new employer, drove off.
“I did not get to see which route we used,” Mkhahlera recalled.
“He (my new boss) asked me why I had brought my bag, and said you are not here for a fashion show. They gave me an oversized uniform and conducted another Hiv test.”
By this time, Mkhahlera was told that part of her “job” would be to have sexual intercourse with her new employer.
“They say if the boss’ wife is tired and cannot sleep with her husband, you take over the conjugal duties,” she said.
The 37-year-old recalls long working days without a salary.
“I was staying in a mansion with 26 rooms, I would sweep those rooms nearly every day, cook and do laundry. It was hard labour, please never go there, I have been there,” she lamented.
“They use you for three months without a salary saying you are on probation ,to see whether you qualify. Three years will elapse as you move from one boss to the other without a salary.”
“I would sleep at 2am and start work at 6am. I came back home without a salary, I had to run away,” tells The NewsReport of her escape.
“I escaped through an Indian friend who connected me to the Zimbabwean embassy.
The only way I could know the house number to tip the embassy was through the KFC delivery invoice because my bosses bought fast foods every day. I took the address.
I then pretend as if I was going to throw away trash outside when the embassy personnel had already positioned themselves.”
“I took my bags, put them in a bin. When I got outside, the embassy people took me away. I urge everyone not to go there, let’s sell tomatoes and find something to do, don’t go to Kuwait,” she said.
Mkhahlera recounted her heartrending story, at a time dozens of Zimbabwean women remain trapped in Oman where they are employed as maids.
Investigations show that unscrupulous employment agents in Zimbabwe work with Omanese abusive employers and other foreign agents.
Nigerian agents have also been implicated in the trafficking of women from Zimbabwe
Trapped women also have their passports confiscated, making it difficult to escape. The women are also cut out from their families and the outside world.
Families in pain
Families of the women trapped overseas have moved to petition government over their relatives as some of the employers demand up to $2500 for their release.
“My sister left in January, and we were under the impression that she was going to Dubai, yet she went to Oman. I just received chats of her speaking to a Nigerian agent. She is begging to come back home but won’t let her. We reported to Interpol, but nothing seems to be happening,” a sister to a woman identified as Mrs Benz in the chat.
Her employers are demanding a ransom for her release while her Nigerian agent has also issued threats.
In the WhatsApp chats seen by The NewsReport, the Nigerian agent, said:” Your boss has paid a lot of money to bring you to help you pay another lot of money to send you back home when you have not spent 1/3 of your two years contract.”
The chats also show the woman begging the agent to return home where her son requires urgent medical attention.
“If this looks like trafficking to you then you can run away from the house and get arrested by the police you will understand what makes Arab different from Africa.”
In the chat the Nigerian agent reveals his trafficking network which includes African and Asian women.
“I have a niece in Oman who is being abused. She wants to come back home but won’t let her leave,” said Modester Maramba, 42* of Bulawayo.
Another relative said:” My sister is in Oman, she said all the money the employer spent to buy plane tickets is being deducted from her salary. She is barely left with anything.”
Last week relatives turned to social media to express their concern on an awareness Facebook Live programme held by socialite, Jackie Ngarande.
Speaker after speaker, revealed gory details about abuse in Arab countries, including Oman and Qatar.
“Please do not expose people, they will suffer,” a victim of abuse in Qatar said.
Another said: “I used to work for an Egyptian. He slept with all the girls. There is a lofty wall at his place so even if you shout, there is no one who can hear you. I escaped by the grace of God. He saw that I was confused and strangely let me go after a few days.”
“I used to work in Oman, you must be strong but if you report back home, they will frame you and some die. It is tough to get out of Oman, I suffered for six months. One day I refused to work, they my agent took me away,” a trafficking victim who returned to Zimbabwe last year said.
“Arabs are very tough to work with, even if you report to the police, they do nothing, I just advise people not to go there, do not trust these agents.”
Government racing against time
Zimbabwean Ambassador to the United Arab Emirates, Lovemore Mazemo said: “As a way forward, I strongly recommend that the Department of Social Welfare should consider taking action to rescue some of the maids by raising money which the employers of the maids are demanding back.”
Several Zimbabwean women are being held in domestic servitude under the Kafala visa sponsorship system in Oman.
The Kafala system of employment ties domestic workers to employers who bring them to Oman, and they cannot move to new jobs before their contracts end.
Human Rights Watch (HRW) described the kafala system as abusive and exploitative.
It proposed the system be abolished.
*Names have been changed to protect the identity of women