BRANDED the oldest profession in the world, commercial sex work has become a vital source of living in the small agro-based town of Chipinge as well as fast growing industry as evidenced by a swarm of hookers frequenting local beer halls, night clubs and brothels.
Some enterprising sex workers are now travelling from bigger cities like Mutare in search of new clients here especially whenever prominent bars and night clubs host prominent musicians.
Civil servants' pay days have also proved to be vital lucrative moments for ladies of the night, The Manica Post learnt in a survey recently.
Teenagers from as tender age as 13 have joined in the profession. The elderly as old as 50 have also hooked on well in the immoral line of work, particularly in the town's oldest location of Gaza.
The crowded location is home to most of unemployed and dejected folks.
To them, a single dollar is hard to come by.
And to most women, sex is now as cheap as a loaf of bread as people strive to earn a living through thigh vending.
In various interviews with prostitutes who demanded anonymity, they confessed that they can entertain more than five clients in a single night.
A quickie ranges from $5 to $10.
"Chipinge is a small place but we are living a good life through having sex with our reliable clients. Men come and knock at our doors for sex. Police officers are no longer a menace.
"We usually escape prosecution because once we are arrested we usually give police officers a backhander and they let us go. Our permanent clients visit us at home and we can have sex at any time. My parents passed on when I was 15 and I was left to take care of my siblings at such a tender age.
"I can't find a job and life has been unbearable without any relatives or neighbours who can take care of me. I charge $5 short time and between US$20 and US$30 for the whole night. We use condoms on every sexual encounter, although some men tempt us with large sums of money for unprotected sex," said the hooker who was clad in a revealing pink short dress which partly exposed her big breasts.
A syndicate of commercial sex workers is usually seen in down-town bars near bushy surroundings where they can easily lure clients for a quickie.
Used condoms are common features as well as dirty blankets. Inter-town sex workers can stay in not-so-dingy brothels in Chipinge town while they house anyone of their choice at any time.
"I don't stay here but I usually come when there are events like these. When musicians like (Alick) Macheso come, we make money because people flock to attend the shows. When business is low, we travel to Checheche, Chisumbanje and Chiredzi," said one hooker known as Pella.
Between Thursdays and Sundays, these sex workers are seen seated comfortably in bars waiting for potential clients to approach them while others pretend to take care of themselves by sipping beer before enticing drunk or tipsy male clients for a romp.
Another hooker called Grace said Friday was a wonder day.
"We love Fridays, especially when civil servants have something to spare. Havaomeri. Short time can escalate to $10, while for the whole night we can charge up to $50," she said.
She said as the competition for clients hots up, some "hardcore and daring" sex workers are now being "helped" by sangomas.
"It appears we are now outnumbering our clients. New sex workers join us everyday. Night clubs are full of new faces who look more beautiful. Sometimes business can be low. Some desperate ladies can charge a paltry $1 for short time. Now some of us are approaching n'angas in order to attract clients," she said.
In the wake of STIs and HIV and Aids, one question quickly comes to mind. Should prostitution be banned or regulated like other businesses? In the Zimbabwe Constitution, crimes relating to prostitution or the facilitation of sexual crimes are dealt with in various sections.
Section 81 of the Criminal Law (Codification and Reform) Act Chapter 9:23 is on solicitation and it says: Any person who publicly solicits another person for the purposes of prostitution shall be guilty of soliciting and liable to a fine not exceeding level five or imprisonment for a period not exceeding six months or both."
Section 82 — living off or facilitating prostitution and it states that: "Any person who — (a) keeps a brothel; or (b) demands from a prostitute any payment or reward in consideration of the person — (i) keeping, managing or assisting in the keeping of a brothel in which the prostitute is, or has been, living for immoral purposes; or (ii) having solicited other persons for immoral purposes on behalf of the prostitute; or (iii) having effected the prostitute's entry into a brothel for the purpose of prostitution; or (iv) having brought or assisted in bringing the prostitute into Zimbabwe for immoral purposes; or (c) demands from a prostitute any payment or reward in consideration for any present or past immoral connection with the prostitute; shall be guilty of living off or facilitating prostitution and liable to a fine not exceeding level seven or imprisonment for a period not exceeding two years or both.
Section 83 looks at procuring prostitution and it declares that: "Any person who procures any other person – (a) for the purposes of engaging in unlawful sexual conduct with another person or with persons generally, whether inside or outside Zimbabwe; or (b) to become a prostitute, whether inside or outside Zimbabwe; or (c) to leave Zimbabwe with the intent that the other person may become a prostitute; or (d) to leave his or her usual place of residence, not being a brothel, with the intent that he or she may become an inmate of or frequent a brothel elsewhere; shall be guilty of procuring and liable to a fine up to or exceeding level fourteen or – (i) in a case where the person procured is a young person, imprisonment for a period not exceeding 10 years, or both such fine and imprisonment; (ii) in any other case, imprisonment for a period not exceeding two years, or both such fine and imprisonment.
Deputy Manicaland provincial police spokesman Assistant Inspector Luxson Chananda said: "We will continue to arrest sex workers. We denounce any forms of sex work. It paves way for the commission of other crimes," he said.