- Published on 08 July 2012
"Dollar for two. . . dollar for two" has become a common phrase as the vendors try to outwit each other in luring the ready customers. It is almost a tradition for most Harare residents to buy pirated movie DVDs during evening rush hour. Upon striking a good conversation with one of the street merchants and gaining his trust, this reporter was soon being offered "the other stuff".
As the conversation developed into near-friendship, this reporter soon found out that the other stuff that was being offered were pornography videos. "Just a dollar, my brother, for more than six hours of non-stop action," said the merchant who identified himself only as Kondi. Informal street movie vendors have become the most common source of pornographic material.
With the advent of cheaper Internet and world-class technology in Zimbabwe, pornography has become widely accessible. Some Internet cafes in Harare have gone to the extent of creating "private surfing" booths where clients indulge in unimpeded pornography viewing. It is clear that pornography has invaded Zimbabwe.
Zimbabweans are becoming accustomed to incidences of leaked "sex tapes" at an alarming rate.In the past, sex videos were totally unheard of in this part of the world.
Earlier this the year, urban grooves singer Desmond "Stunner" Chideme and partner Pokelo Nare caused a stir when their sex video was leaked to the public. Several students at State universities and polytechnics around the country have become infamous for shooting amateur porn videos.
Last month, a fourth-year male student and a second-year female counterpart from Midlands State University were suspended from the institution after their sex video was leaked.
Most of such videos end up being sold on the streets, and what is alarming is how such videos are in demand. Most sell for an average US$2 compared to the standard videos downloaded from the Internet which sell for half that price.
"I have been an enthusiastic viewer of pornography since I was in high school. For me, pornography is a harmless way of releasing some of the pressure and hassles we go through everyday. I am happy that today such material is now widely available unlike in the old days when you had to pay an arm and a leg to get your hands on real hardcore porn," said a 28-year-old from Waterfalls.
However, with the continued proliferation of such material in Zimbabwe, society is understandably alarmed. Harare-based psychologist Dr Trynos Simango said pornography is addictive.
"Comprehensive studies have shown that it is harder for a porn addict to go into remission than a cocaine addict. Aside from addiction, porn viewers are more prone to committing sexual violence, adultery and chronic masturbation. In married couples, if a partner watches porn regularly, this usually results in behavioural change which may, in turn, harm the family lifestyle," he said.
The global pornography industry is estimated to be worth over US$100 billion and the Internet is the widely accessible mode of transmission to the developing world. Investigations by The Sunday Mail In-Depth revealed that there is a growing porn industry in Zimbabwe.
"Some of the movies were recorded in Harare less than a month ago. They are fresh," said Kondi as he continued trying to sweet-talk this reporter into buying the "fresh" titles. Where do you think some of these lodges are getting all the money to survive? It's either they are operating as brothels or as recording studios for pornography."
Further investigations revealed that some lodges within the city centre and in the Avenues area are operating as brothels-cum-studios for pornography. Close-knit cartels of expatriates from some African countries who have in the past few years invaded the country are suspected to be the main drivers of the trade.
The cartels are said to entice illegal sex workers and young girls from local colleges and universities into "making a quick buck".
Police spokesperson Superintendent Andrew Phiri said police are aware of the incidence and peddling of pornography in Zimbabwe. He, however, said while the law makes it illegal to distribute pornographic material, it is difficult to arrest the peddlers since police need to watch all the videos in order to ascertain that they are pornographic.
"The law makes it illegal to distribute such material. The challenge arises when the law requires us to view all the material in order to ascertain that it is pornographic in nature before we can charge the culprit. However, we have only dealt with a few isolated cases over the years and there is no cause for alarm yet," he said.
The Censorship and Entertainment Control Act prohibits the distribution of any film that "depicts any matter that is indecent or obscene or is offensive or harmful to public morals."
However, this and other relevant legislation is being infringed by the Internet and technological changes. In South Africa the proposed Internet and Cellphone Pornography Bill proposes the filtering of pornography in order to prevent such material entering the country. China has devised sophisticated software that filters out pornographic content. sundaymail