by Shadreck Maririmba
AS THE sun sets Zimbabwean Melody (not her real name) is preparing for a long night vigilance of soliciting for male clients at an intersection which is just close to where she stays at corner Jellicore and Sturdy Streets in Central Witbank town in SA’s Mpumalanga province
Because of competition to attract clients prostitutes started even to battery powered torches to illuminate their private parts to passing motorists and pedestrians.
And Melody, who is also married with three children is one of the Zimbabwean women.
As things get tough home in Zimbabwe with many men unemployed because of company closures and liquidations, Melody said her problems started when her husband of 14 years lost his job after being retrenched.
“My husband and I were a happy family, my brother (referring to this journalist, he used to take care of me and all our kids. Things changed when he was retrenched and he could not find another job.
‘I started coming here (SA) to buy things for resale back home, things seemed fine but I met a friend who told me I was wasting my time, as the competition from other Zimbabwean women doing the same was tough, to the extent that prices of the products they were selling were being cut, in the end not making it worth while.
She then introduced me to other Zimbabwean women who are into prostitution,” says Melody.
Melody’s friend who calls herself as “vaChihera” of South Africa, jumps into the narration and was brutally frank about their profession saying it was quick money they could use to feed their families back home.
“Here we look for men all day and night without rest; this town has a lot of mines around so our clients are coal mine workers especially truck drivers. They pay handsomely its better than struggling to sell things or people not paying us for our goods after having spent a lot of money travelling all the way from Zimbabwe and airtime to follow them up”
As she was speaking to this reports hordes some of her friends among them South Africans, Nigerians and Congolese could be seen skimpily dressed parading of their bodies to attract clients , something they do even in broad day light .
Mbuso a resident of the town and South African complains that they have turned the neighbourhood into a red light district.
” From morning till dawn one can’t walk or drive through these streets with their respected family member,” Mabuso laments.
Besides prostitution they sell drugs and all of them use them. It’s a shame,” he adds.
According to Melody most Zimbabweans women come and rent a full house were they share rentals.
They can stay as many as ten (10) or more per house. The main business is to get money. The only limitations they have are the days given at the entrance border post says Melody adding that she can make up to R5000 in a good month.
“Our family members and husbands know that we are here selling some stuff and hoarding things for resale back home. No one knows me here apart from you now and please don’t mention my real name begged Melody as she tells her story.”
This journalist witnessed scores of Zimbabwe women in one of the popular street named French where some daring prostitutes were clad revealingly in bum shorts, bras and thin covering miniskirts during day time showing their private parts , some sitting with legs open all in a bid to attract men.
But despite her tough talk, Melody shows desperation at her situation and what she has to do sustain her family.
“I pray things get better in Zimbabwe I don’t want to do this even though it gives more money and sometimes the men are abusive.
Melody says some Zimbabwean women, live double life and actually stay with South African men.
“Come back tomorrow in the evening I want to take you to some friends who are married back home but are living with some foreign men here for men”.
However this is not only for Zimbabwean women who have husbands back home but some came to Mzansi with their spouses but got divorced. I can show you a lot of ladies here who were brought here by their husbands but many were divorced because of different reasons especially for being unfaithful, ”says Melody.
When this reporter was leaving Melody demanded money saying I had taken her time from her business, forcing me to give her R50 cash from me saying I had taken up her time for doing business.
According to a website www.avert.org South Africa’s National strategic Plan 2012-2016 identifies prevalence of HIV among sex workers at 59% although this varies between areas with prevalence estimated at 72% in Johannesburg, 54% in Durban and 40% in Cape Town.