CHIREDZI community has been gripped by a state of shock amid revelations that girls as young as 11 years are engaging in prostitution business for as little as $3 per client’s session.
Chiredzi, a small sugar-growing establishment in the Southern Region, a few years ago was in the news after the town honoured the sexual exploits of the women who were the pioneers of prostitution in the area by naming streets after them.
This has pushed community members, one of them named Mark Shoko, to petition parliament to investigate the incidents.
Shoko claims that little girls as young as 11 years, referred to as “Zvijete” or “ZviMkwasine” have turned to a life of prostitution because of destitution.
The petition by Shoko reads: “The invasion of Mkwasine Estates, Senuko and Humani ranches during the fast-track land reform programme also had serious effects after most parents lost their jobs and left for South Africa, leaving behind child-headed families.
“Concerned that the majority of the female juveniles patronising beer halls and night clubs across the district soliciting for transactional sex are from Mkwasine and those displaced to make way for Tugwi-Mukosi Dam.
“We are troubled that this poses a challenge to efforts to reduce the HIV and Aids prevalence in this district and negates efforts towards achieving a zero HIV infection rate by 2020.”
Chiredzi town council in 2017 honoured its famous prostitutes of the pre-independence era. Prominent among these is a sex worker only identified as Molly, who was brutally murdered in Tshovani township in 1966, before Zimbabwe attained its independence.
Back then, men who came to the Lowveld to work in the vast sugar plantations left their wives in their rural areas and were entertained by sex workers, domiciled in the dusty streets of Chiredzi.
These streets are mainly around Chigarapasi Beerhall, the largest beer outlet in Zimbabwe, boasting five cocktail bars and a large open space almost the size of a football pitch.
During its heyday, Chigarapasi was a hive of activity with prostitutes from all over the country soliciting for clients. Older women preferred to stay inside, while young sex workers lined up outside its perimeter fence illuminated by the bright street lights.
Besides Molly street, which is home to some of the well-known commercial sex workers who have something to show for their efforts – houses in their names – there is Hilda Street, named after another sex worker.
According to one elderly resident in the area, Grace Marova, they were still of school-going age when Molly died in a suspected arson attack.
“Chiredzi used to have thatched houses before the town was built. There were few houses where the Central Mechanical Department is right now, but Chigarapasi Beerhall was already there,” she said.
“It was built by a white businessman called Nesbit who used to sell his beer there, since he owned a brewery, before he handed it over to the town council.”
Explaining the circumstances that led to Molly’s death, she said that one morning in 1966, when they were going to Gaba Primary School in Hippo Valley, she saw policemen picking up Molly’s remains after she had been gruesomely murdered.
Her angry boyfriend, who had accused her of cheating on him, had tied her to a bed, locked the door and then torched the house. “It was a sad end to Molly’s colourful life,” said Marova.
Describing Molly, she said: “Molly was plump, light in complexion and beautiful, one would not believe she was a commercial sex worker.
“After Molly’s death, several stories of her ghost tormenting revellers and residents were peddled around, but to be frank, I am not sure if there was any grain of truth to it,” she said.
Madzibaba Ishamel of the Johanne Masowe eChishanu Church said the council was encouraging promiscuity by naming streets after people possessed by “evil spirits” which needed to be cast out.
“We don’t support promiscuity and if possible we urge the town council to rename the streets. We are here to cast out those demons,” he said.
Sex workers of all ages still loiter outside the bar, even though the council has shut down Chigarapasi, citing perennial losses.