BY AUSTIN KARONGA

HOME Affairs permanent secretary Aaron Nhepera has called for concerted efforts with strategic partners in ending the war against human trafficking which he admitted was a challenge.

Speaking at the end of a four-day workshop on anti-human trafficking in Mutare yesterday, Nhepera said government and its stakeholders needed to think outside the box to contain the human trafficking scourge.

 “Fighting against human trafficking is a huge challenge. In most cases, human trafficking involves wide, subtle, sophisticated and organised networks. Human traffickers use coercive and manipulative means to traffic their victims. The crime is also global and largely invisible.

“It is, therefore, the expectation that our response to human trafficking is sufficiently robust to subjugate the cunning machinations of human traffickers. Investigation and prosecution of human trafficking offences should be efficient and aggressive. Our prevention measures should be robust and proactive while our protection strategies should be victim-centred,” Nhepera said.

“Considering the dynamic nature of human trafficking and the technical expertise required to ensure that our strategies remain relevant, it is necessary to keep updating our knowledge and skills through such training workshops to allow us to execute our duties as expected. This is in line with the National Plan of Action which requires us to engage in capacity building through training workshops to equip all resource persons with the relevant knowledge and skills to fight human trafficking.”

Nhepera said there was also a need for vigorous awareness campaigns as public consultations carried out by the ministry proved that many people still need to be educated on human trafficking and the law.

“During interaction with the general public at various platforms, including the ZITF and the Harare Agricultural Show exhibitions, members of the general public had the opportunity to be conscientious on human trafficking as well as the new law that Zimbabwe now has, that protects people against human traffickers. It became clear during these interactions that many people are not aware of the existing legal framework to combat trafficking in persons,” he said.

“It also emerged that the general public tends to confuse smuggling of migrants with human trafficking. It was evident that there is a general lack of knowledge on human trafficking within our communities. Taking cognisance of the fact that human trafficking is a form of transnational organised crime that has been in existence for some time, it is inevitable that we draw lessons from the experiences of the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime [UNODC] and the International Organisation for Migration (IOM).”

The government acceded to the Palermo Protocol on December 13, 2013, and went on to domesticate it through the enactment of the Trafficking in Persons Act on June 13, 2014. The Act provides for the prohibition, prevention and prosecution of the crime of trafficking in persons and protection of victims of trafficking in persons; establishment of centres for victims of trafficking in persons; and to provide for matters connected with or incidental to trafficking in persons.

“Under section 9, the Act established the Anti-Trafficking Inter-Ministerial Committee whose functions include among others: formulating a national plan of action, liaising with government agencies to rehabilitate victims of trafficking in persons and implementing measures to prevent and combat trafficking in persons in line with regional and international standards…as you may also be aware, our National Plan of Action is anchored on four strategies or pillars namely, prevention, prosecution, protection and partnership. Guided by these strategies, the government of Zimbabwe has put up a spirited fight against human trafficking but of course, not without challenges,” he added.  – Daily News