All that glitters is not gold as predators prey on Zimbabweans seeking UK jobs
Dr Masimba Mavaza
I lived with mum and dad in one of Harare’s plush northern suburbs. Now it was expanded around us. Every open space was being used street by street house by house.
My last memories of this suburb was me wanting to escape.
Not from the squalor of life in Borrowdale for it was and still is heaven on earth, but from the terror and hatred and the violence of the wish to go abroad.
When Brexit happened and Britain suffered its first shortage of workers, I joined the trek to England to rescue the Britons from their predicament.
As I sit in my small apartment which I traded for the 10-bedroomed house in Zimbabwe, I cry for the lonely frightened little woman I am now.
So unhappy and so longing for human hug.
Abused by those who lured me to the UK who are supposed to love and cherish me I hope I will fight for the survival against this abuse.
Anchored by something beyond hate I will overcome this barbaric situation upon me.
I have to tell those abusing me now that tranquillity is the owner of the gate and calamity will be upon them so said Mberi primary school teacher in Chitungwiza Mrs Madziya.
No Zimbabwean is a poignant at times like this a most agonising tale to tell.
Above all this provides a lesson for
Is all in courage and power to stay at home no matter what.
Manuwero Maita is a Zimbabwean who owns an agency for nurses. He advertised that he had a COSA certificate and he wanted nurses to come to the UK.
Many of my colleagues sold all they had in order to come to the UK. I only sold my good life and my dignity.
Maita sounded like a very good person. Very soft spoken.
He flighted an advert in Zimbabwe for nurses who want to go to the UK.
I was one of the first to apply.
Interviews were done at a hotel in Harare.
It was not an official interview.
Within a short time we were ready to kiss Zimbabwe good bye, little did I know that my little pride and humanity was on its way away as well.
On arriving in the UK Maita bundled the new arrivals into a horrible hotel. Actually the dirty hole he booked us in was an insult.
He assured us that it was only for one night. He then would call us one by one for further interviews.
I was called first into this room where he was waiting.
The interview table was a bed.
Maita had changed he was now a very mean and rough person.
He told me straight he wanted to sleep with me as a welcome package.
He said that there was no point in trying to refuse or else they would be no job.
I was horrified and I stormed out.
He just smiled and he called the next applicant
Within few days all my colleagues were already preparing for the NMC exams
To my utter surprise I was told to pay for the hotel or I would be thrown on the street.
Coercion often flies under the radar and many women don’t realise that this behaviour is not healthy and it is abusive.
Maita would clearly tell the nurses he brought from Zimbabwe that he would make their life miserable if they did not give in to his demands.
He threatened to withhold their pay and shifts.
Majorly Mativenga, another victim of Zimbabwean sex predator, said
in the first week of being in England one evening she was called into his room.
She was shown work progression in graphs and how she had contributed to the company.
The man offered her full-time recruitment and then handed her a gift pack and said “Open this when you get home.”
On opening the pack, there was a letter and lingerie.
The letter promised to give her more shifts with an unbelievable high salary.
The man asked her to come to a guest house wearing just the lingerie.
As she didn’t want to lose this opportunity, she complied with his demands.
The next day she was he gave the offer letter and her lifestyle improved with the pay that she got from the job.
The affair lasted for just a few months as the man moved to another woman looking for a job.
She said she had no choice but had to go through hell to get a job.
Women brought to the UK as nurses and or care workers are often forced to sleep with their bosses to keep their jobs.
Tarie Matimba says she was less than a month into her job at a care home owned by another Zimbabwean man in the UK city of Hatfield when the head of care workers gave her an ultimatum: Sleep with me or be fired.
The 24-year-old says she had little choice.
She relies on her job to support her four-year-old son whom she had left in Zimbabwe.
After she was given a visa to come to the UK, the head of care workers made a lot of promises.
“I was promised financial help to pay my son’s school fees, as well as money for rent and a promotion, so I did it,” she says.
“Afterwards, he told other workers that he was sleeping with me and every time I came to the care home I felt humiliated and diminished. I never got a salary increase and never got any financial support.”
The head of care workers was not the only man at the factory to notice Marie.
Last month, her line supervisor began sexually harassing her.
She felt powerless to report him, knowing what happened to other women who complained.
So to keep her job and her visa she kept silent. But his behaviour got worse.
“He told me that if I didn’t agree to sleep with him, he was going to pull me out of the job,” she says.
She refused and in retaliation every time she went to the toilet she found piles of laundry added to her workstation, making it impossible to complete her work for the day on time.
After weeks of harassment, she finally snapped when he began touching her inappropriately.
“I told him to leave me alone, and because of that I was suspended for three days,” she says.
Yet Marie says that what happened to her is standard “initiation” for the new comers from Africa to work as care workers.
There are other women who are afraid to speak out, scared of what might happen if they tell their story.
In recent years, Zimbabwe has been seen as a cheap pool for care workers and nurses who are willing to sacrifice anything to go to the UK.
About 10 000 Zimbabweans have migrated to the UK to work as care workers.
Some of them have not been sexually abused, but are taken advantage of in other situations.
Yet activists say conditions at the dwelling places for these care workers are akin to prison camps, with non-existent labour rights.
“Workers are not considered as humans with rights, they are threatened with deportation or visa cancellations if they dare complain,” says Yannick Mawarire, one of the care workers in the UK.
“The pay is so low that it puts women in situations where they have to accept abuse in order to pay their rent.”
This pay looks great if you are in Zimbabwe, but when you are in the UK, the bills wipe away all what you have worked for.
The UK is experiencing catastrophic levels of insecurity and instability in Brexit.
As a result, food and fuel prices have escalated. Unions are fighting for an increase in the minimum daily wage of nurses and that is the reason agency owners are using to pay low salaries.
Female care workers from Africa are finding it difficult to get a certificate of sponsorship because so many people are looking for a chance to come to the UK.
“If you don’t accept to sleep with the manager, your application will be rejected,” one worker says.
“You must comply or you won’t have a visa and also if you want more shifts while in UK you have to sleep with your supervisor.
“When you consider the price that the COS is given by the Home Office and the amount we pay for them, more often with our own bodies, it’s as if we are selling our blood,” said Marie.
The UK Home Office did not reply when asked for comment.
You would think that in the age of the internet, people would act with more discretion. You would also think that someone tasked with running a care home or care agency would know better than to abuse potential employees during the application process.
Offering job in return for favours is illegal.
So, to state the obvious, it is inappropriate to offer a job in return for sex.
This applies in the context of new applicants as well as existing employees.
This is known as quid pro quo sexual harassment, and is illegal.
To be clear, engaging in and terminating a consensual relationship with a co-worker or supervisor does not give rise to sexual harassment, but using your position and taking advantage of it is satanic, diabolic cruel and demonic.
Nor does the decision by an employer to terminate an employee with whom he had demanded requested or asked for sexual favours is criminal.
The problem faced by many is that the employer makes continued employment contingent on performance of a sexual act.
It is true that some care workers have not faced sexual abuse at all, but it does not mean it is not done. It’s not all Zimbabwean employers in the UK who are abusive. Some are angels.