By Jeffrey Muvundusi
Brothels are multiplying in Zimbabwe’s second largest city, with concerned city fathers mulling a campaign to clampdown on the menace.
A survey by the Southern News found that numerous town houses in downtown Bulawayo have been converted into brothels or “lodges”, as owners seem to capitalise on the apparently lucrative oldest profession.
Also, old and dilapidated flats in the city centre have are open for bookings by sex workers, referred by an MDC lawmaker as “pleasure managers”.
The survey also unearthed that most old hotels are also capitalising on sex workers by providing “short time” accommodation, with room rates ranging between $5 and $7 per hour, while overnight accommodation is pegged at between $20 and $25.
And the rising trend seems to have irked one of the city fathers, who has vowed to leave no stone unturned in addressing the matter.
Bulawayo’s ward one councillor, Mulandu Ncube, is one of those people waging a difficult war against brothel owners in the central business district, demanding they be ejected from the city.
He argues the move is part of efforts to cleanse Zimbabwe’s second capital.
“I live in town and I have watched over the last few years as the number of brothels fast increase and I have received several complaints from residents demanding council to act,” Ncube said.
“I felt it was time something is done because this is not good for us as a city and people,” he added.
He, however, did not specify the action he will take in ejecting the brothels from the city.
The oldest profession continues to thrive in Zimbabwe despite the worrying cases of HIV/Aids pandemic, which is killing an estimated 2 000 people every week.
A 2012 Zimbabwe Demographic And Health Survey estimated national HIV prevalence rates at 15 percent, meaning that they estimated 12 percent infection rate for men, and 18 percent for women.
However, these numbers are based on data from pregnant women at antenatal clinics, which are notoriously unreliable in estimating national
HIV prevalence rates, because the subset of the population used, pregnant women, are not statistically representative of the general population.
No follow up testing is done if more than 10 percent of samples show a positive result after the initial test.
As a result, false positives are not eliminated from the survey results.
Zimbabwe continues to suffer a severe socioeconomic and political crisis, including the “brain drain” of Zimbabwe’s health care professionals.
Elements of a previously well-maintained health care infrastructure are crumbling.
Zimbabwe’s HIV crisis is exacerbated by chronic food insecurity.
Sub-optimal nutrition increases the vulnerability of individuals with compromised immune systems to life-threatening opportunistic infections, such as tuberculosis.
“Of course, our sisters are being forced into prostitution because of the unfriendly economic environment and the continued closure of industries here, but we can’t be turning our city into a haven of prostitution.
“The increase in brothels is a clear sign that it’s now a new business in town, which I think is second from the business of churches,” Ncube said.
Ncube, who is also the MDC youth provincial chairperson, said he has since compiled a report in which he seeks to address the matter with relevant stakeholders.
He, however, could not be drawn into revealing where he was going to hand over the document.
“I am done with the report in which I have compiled the details concerning this fast rising trend. The entire town is almost being turned into a sex haven.
“As a result, I will be soon presenting it on a relevant forum, as we pave way for necessary steps to be taken,” he said.
Ex-NRZ employees still to be paid in full
FORMER National Railways of Zimbabwe (NRZ) employees are yet to be fully paid their dues, two years after their retrenchment.
The 450-plus workers were laid off following the late Chief Justice Godfrey Chidyausiku’s landmark judgment, which allowed employers to terminate employees’ contracts on three-month notices.
However, the NRZ terminations came as the parastatal was already struggling to pay workers, resulting in several demonstrations.
The Association of Railway Terminated Employees (Arte) — which was formed by frustrated workers as they saw no hope in receiving their terminal benefits anytime soon — said this week its members were yet to have their $6 million-plus benefits settled, despite continued engagement with NRZ management.
“It was unfortunate that . . . NRZ chose to pay paltry figures and inconsistently,” Arte chairperson, Innocent Netanyahu told the Southern News.
“Every month, we have to battle for them to bank something for us and in some cases we go for over 60 days without receiving anything,” Netanyahu added.
Former NRZ train guard turned political activist Linda Masarira, also a co-founder of Arte, expressed her displeasure at the company’s failure to prioritise their welfare, considering that they were now jobless.
“The government being the major shareholder of this oppressive parastatal, if not the 100 percent owner, should have coerced its quasi institution to pay the workers within 45 days from date of termination.
“But it has chosen to fold its arms and workers have been subjected to serious poverty,” fumed Masarira.
Meanwhile, the parastatal’s $400 million deal with the Diaspora Infrastructure Development Group and Transnet has brought anxiety among the agitated former staffers.
Around the deal, there are talks about warehousing of NRZ’s $300 million-plus debts, under which it is believed that liabilities will be removed from the rail network operator’s balance sheet and put under a special purpose vehicle.
However, the ex-employees fear that once the debt is warehoused or handed over to government, their dues will be whitewashed.
However, Netanyahu remained confident that they will get their dues.
“The Labour Act is clear on stipulating that terminated employees must be compensated on loss of employment and that all terminal benefits are to be paid.
“Moreover, our meetings with NRZ have several Memoranda of Understanding that they would pay us, including the commitment and directive of the NRZ board itself.
“I don’t see us being subjected to a Ziscosteel scenario. We worked for these monies in a functional company. To dismiss our payments would be gross injustice and violation of human rights, more so, considering that NRZ has taken two years to look for funds to pay us.”
Govt moves to pay off Chinese contractor
GOVERNMENT has paid half of the $3 million debt owed to a Chinese contractor who constructed the multi-million dollar Beitbridge Water Treatment Plant.
China International Water and Electric Corporation (Ciwec) constructed the $40 million plant, targeted at curbing a severe water crisis in the arid border town, and has been camped at the site for two years since completing the job.
Ciwec has reportedly refused to release information on how government could operate the state-of-the-art plant commissioned by Vice President Phelekezela Mphoko recently until the full amount has been paid off.
According to a Zimbabwe National Water Authority (Zinwa) insider, $1,5 million was due for payment soon after the project was completed, but the figure has since ballooned to $3 million after factoring in interest.
Zinwa’s corporate communications manager, Marjorie Munyonga, told the Southern News this week that government, through the ministry of Environment, Water and Climate, the Finance ministry as well as the relevant institutions such as the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe and the Infrastructure Development Bank of Zimbabwe, was seized with the matter and has taken all steps to ensure that the contractor is fully paid.
“As part of these endeavours, payment of $1,5 million was made to the contractor last week and efforts to clear the arrears in the shortest possible time are underway,” she said.
Despite the arrears, Manyonga said government and the Asian firm remained in good books, adding that their continued presence at the site was nothing but “part of the contractual obligations”.
“In terms of the contract, there is a provision for a mandatory defects liability period in which the contractor remains on site for a certain period after completing the job.
“During the period, the contractor oversees the running of the system and is required to address and rectify any defects that may arise during the period,” she said.
During the period, Munyonga said, the contractor will need access to the treatment plant.
“The contractor can only leave the site completely after the lapse of this period.
“This is a standard international practice.”
The plant is set to benefit the dry communal areas of Matshiloni, Dumba, Lutumba, Malala Tshapfuce and Nuli, among others.
It was built on the back of a cholera outbreak that claimed thousands of lives across the country in 2008 and 2009.
Government funded the greater part of the project, though a $2 million grant was allocated for the project by the World Bank in reaction to the cholera outbreak.
School still named after Rhodes despite Mugabe order
RHODES Preparatory School — named after colonialist Cecil John Rhodes — is yet to be officially renamed, over six months after President Robert Mugabe’s Zanu PF ordered its name change.
Rhodes, who led the colonisation of Zimbabwe, is buried at the Matopos Hills, just a few kilometres from the school.
Early this year, during the 21st February Movement party held at the school to celebrate Mugabe’s 93rd birthday, Zanu PF national youth league commissar Innocent Hamandishe, who was the director of ceremonies at the event, declared that the school be renamed as it recognised Rhodes as a hero.
In preparation of the celebrations, the Zanu PF youths forced the school authorities to remove all the artefacts and portraits of Rhodes at the learning institution, as they felt it was against the gains of the liberation struggle and independence.
During the same event, Zanu PF youth league secretary Kudzanayi Chipanga declared that the 21st February be declared a national holiday, which has come to pass.
However, today, the school remains named after the infamous Rhodes, as parents have reportedly resisted the move to rename it to Matopos Junior School.
Contacted for comment, the School Development Committee’s chairperson, one Moyo, refused to comment on the matter, referring questions to the provincial education department in Gwanda, whose numbers were unreachable.
But parents told Southern News that the directive was discriminatory and inconsiderate.
“The school’s name has not yet been changed, it’s something in the pipeline since it was an order from the political leaders, but I should state that most of the parents were not pleased at all with the move, considering that there are hundreds of schools across the country still bearing colonial names. Talk of Prince Edward, Allan Wilson and besides, this is not the only school with Rhodes’s name, there is another one in Gweru, so why this one alone,” said a concerned parent, who preferred anonymity.
Another anonymous parent added: “Well, the suggestion was adopted not because people wanted, but because there was a political hand that doesn’t mind what you think; they just impose which I think is a bad culture.”
Commenting on the issue in his address during the event, Mugabe said he was surprised that the school was still named after Rhodes.
“Where is Rhodes’ ghost or spirit coming from? If he is today, to protrude his head from the grave saying I am arising, I am not going to order the boys to fire one bullet or use an AK. I was going to order them to use a machine gun to crush that head like that of a snake called a cobra,” Mugabe said then.
Ncube reveals push for a united MDC
OPPOSITION leader Welshman Ncube, who broke ranks with Morgan Tsvangirai in 2005, has hinted at the possibility of factions that emerged out of the main labour-backed MDC coming together to form a stronger, united party.
Speaking during an interview with Skyz Metro FM here last week, the former secretary-general of the then united MDC party, who now leads the smaller MDC formation, said conversations were already in full swing to revert to the original MDC, formed in 1999.
“The principle of an MDC Alliance implies that the coming together is work in progress. (The) first prize is to see the various components that were once a united MDC coming together,” he said.
“There will continue to be conversations to create a single MDC, trying to put the humpty dumpty together.
“Hopefully, we will succeed in doing that,” Ncube said.
Ncube, along with Tsvangirai’s then deputy, Gibson Sibanda, led the first split of the MDC in 2005, accusing the former prime minister in the inclusive government of between 2009 and 2013 of being a dictator.
In 2014, the party split again, this time with secretary-general Tendai Biti packing his bags, along with other senior party officials, as they also accused Tsvangirai of having dictatorial tendencies.
Fears are that the party could split once again, with leaders in the southern part of the country breaking ranks with Tsvangirai over his alleged unilateralism.
For long, Thokozani Khupe has been unhappy with being sidelined by Tsvangirai after the MDC leader handpicked Nelson Chamisa and Elias Mudzuri to deputise him, along with Khupe.
With Tsvangirai going into bed with seven other leaders in the MDC Alliance consummated on August 5 to confront Zanu PF and its leader, President Robert Mugabe in the 2018 polls, a bloated coalition with three vice presidents or deputy presidents could be in the offing as Tsvangirai tries to accommodate all the influential figures who are part of the pact.
In the event that the alliance proceeds to form the next government after the 2018 polls, Khupe, Moyo and Bhebhe could be pushed further down the pecking order to accommodate MDC Alliance principals.
In their letter to Tsvangirai, the trio argued that the MDC leader should urgently have dialogue with them as well as the party’s membership in the spirit of devolution of power as enshrined in the Constitution.
“We accordingly implore you to provide the structures with the copies of the alliance agreement coupled with the detailed explanation of the contents of the alliance agreement,” reads part of the letter.
“So stark are the differences in the MDC that they are snubbing party functions and urging the structures in the southern region to snub the weekend rally citing safety concerns, raising fears that the party could disintegrate once more.”
The former Industry minister in the inclusive government said while they had their own differences as opposition parties, they could not forever live in the past.
“That we have had disagreements in the past is a matter of public record and the details of those disagreements are equally in the public domain but we cannot be forever be prisoners of history.
“We need to be able to move forward, we need to address the challenges that confront us as a nation, which demand that we not only learn from the past but unite in order to address the future,” he said.
Ncube said having worked together on various platforms like the inclusive government and the constitution-making process, among others, was enough to prove they can successfully reunite.
“The very fact that we have been able to work together during the inclusive government tells me that we have sufficient common ground to work together and more importantly, the fact that we managed to have conversations, which resulted in the MoU (Memorandum of Understanding) which now has resulted in the Alliance agreement.
“I think we are in agreement that we made our mistakes and could have done things differently,” Ncube said, while he acknowledged “we now need to do those things differently”.
However, the respected lawyer said while forming a single MDC was something under serious consideration, the issue of a grand coalition was on top of the agenda at the moment.
“The alliance is more than the original components of the MDC. It has other players and partners who were not part of the original MDC and deliberately, we are trying to be as broad as possible and as inclusive as possible trying to bring all the parties we believe have something to add to the MDC alliance,” he said.
Tsvangirai was selected to lead the MDC Alliance on August 5.
The pact includes the People’s Democratic Party, led by Biti; the MDC led by Ncube; Transform Zimbabwe, headed by Jacob Ngarivhume and the Multi-Racial Christian Democrats led by Mathias Guchutu. Daily News