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Prostitution in rural communities: A night in ‘Sodom and Gomorrah’ just after Runde River

By Vincent Gono

PROSTITUTION has never been so rife in rural communities but wait until you get just after Runde River along the busy Masvingo- Beitbridge highway at a thriving business centre called Lundi. It has fitted itself perfectly well in the Biblical Sodom and Gomorrah.

File picture of prostitutes
File picture of prostitutes

A first time visitor would be forgiven for thinking that they are fast approaching a big city and that the business centre feeds its activities into the city or takes excess business from it as has been the norm with tributary towns. No. The business centre is neither a mining compound nor a growth point. In fact, the area is not known for any valuable mineral. It is in the heart of a rural community, there is just a busy road that passes by.

But the population that frequents it during the day is amazing. It goes from amazing to shocking as day time moves into night. The business centre draws much of its clients from the communities such as Chivi on the other side of the river and Mwenezi where the business centre dutifully belongs.

Bare-footed boys and girls with cracked feet and rags are quickly replaced by skimpily- dressed females of all shapes and sizes approaching from all corners of the business centre’s catchment areas.

The ages differ too from school going girls of 13 to older women, with some old enough to be grannies. But with the aid of face powder and buckets of other cosmetics they try to veil the sun-baked, dark, wizened faces and cover the pimples that are a result of the labours associated with rural life.

They are not perturbed by the piercing chilly wind that comes from Runde River as their dressing betrays their line of business.

But where are their clients going to come from seeing that their population far outnumbers that of the males frequenting the business centre? That was the question that this reporter was groping with but events in the next few minutes of the night just after Runde River provided the answers.

As dusk approached, the number of heavy vehicles popularly known as amagonyethi/magonyeti increased to more than 15, 16, 17 and as the night unfolded the parking space grew too small for the heavy vehicles leading to others parking across the road.

Soon the business centre resembled a leading heavy vehicle manufacturing plant only that they were of different makes, and sizes.

Then the equation was solved. The women started disappearing into the trucks while those that have had their turn with some other drivers could be seen perched at different points in the parking bay waiting for other clients.
And since it is the body on sale more flesh must show as business goes on.

The business centre looks somehow abandoned as only men are seen loitering around as the ladies of the night would have disappeared into the big vehicles that have beds inside while enterprising women and men take the opportunity to cook different dishes for the drivers and the ladies of the night who will be sharing steamy moments.

Appalling, however, is the age of some of the girls who desperately give themselves with reckless abandon to the old men, some old enough to be their grandfathers.

The long and short of it is that the business centre does not close and it is so because of the three basic reasons, the first being that the volume of traffic continue to increase as it gets late, the second is that there is no enforcement of legal statutes that compels businesses to operate for a specific period of time and the third being that the ladies of the night are like owls — they are busy at night and hibernate during the day.

One of the ladies or “girls” of the night who identified herself as Paida said she came from Chivi to look for clients at the business centre.

“I am 15 years old and I have a kid who is 11 months old. I had to wean her off because she was going to keep me indoors instead of me looking for money here. I got her through this business, it was a big mistake that I got pregnant and I never bothered looking for the father. I will take care of her by myself,” she said without embarrassment.

She said they were not so much concerned about selling their fanta thighs to the male villagers because they had no money.

“Our main clients are these drivers. They usually take a rest here and at Ngundu. If you had come on Friday, you could have seen what this place would have been looking like. We charge them $5 for a short sex session but often times they give you something like food or other presents if they like your performance,” she said.

Paida added that they only sell their services to the locals when business was low but said the challenge was that there was no cheap accommodation and as a result they take their clients to the nearby bush which is risky.

“We used to take our clients to the bush for our sex sessions until recently when one of us and her client were robbed at knife point while in the act. The robberies went on and it just died down recently. We do not know where the robbers went. But we are no longer doing it in the bush,” said Paida before she disappeared into a truck.

Senator Chief Chitanga whose jurisdiction the area falls under had no kind words for the activities going on in his area. He described the area as some Sodom and Gomorrah saying they have tried to engage the law enforcement agents but they seem to have been grafted into the vice.

“The goings on at the centre are very unfortunate. It has become some Sodom and Gomorrah and the vices are eating into our moral fibre. But if you take a close look at what is going on you will realise that most of the ladies are not my subjects. They come from as far as Mashonaland provinces while some are from Masvingo. Some are just across the river in Chivi and they have no respect for our local traditions and culture.

“A few, however, are from this area. But for those that are from the area we have been engaging the parents. We are a Tshangani community and very strict in keeping our boys and girls pure but activities at the business centre are a sore in our hearts.

“Prostitution is rife and it is corrupting our community and our culture. We have tried to engage the police but they seem to be turning a blind eye on the scenes there. We suspect they have been corrupted also,” said Senator Chief Chitanga.

He added that if he had the power he would declare a no stopping zone for heavy vehicles at the business centre.

“My hands are tied. We always sit down but we really have no plan. Most of the businesspeople are also not from this area and they see everything that happens here as a fertile business opportunity when all we see is an erosion of our culture,” concluded the chief. Sunday News