The return of the Hwange Truck Stop is exposing young girls to se_xually transmitted diseases and unwanted preg_nancies.
This situation has become a thorn in the flesh for residents in Cinderella township and Hwange town as a whole.
Girls of school-going age are getting involved in se_x-work for as little as US$1 as they join a growing community of commercial se_x workers driven by poverty.
The girls ranging from the age 12-16 years move around to the truck stop in the name of searching for a “piece job”.
They knock at the windows of truckers, asking the middle-aged truck drivers if they need any help with washing clothes or cooking.
They are offered the piece jobs, but the “jobs” often extend to se_xual services.
Cinderella residents, who stay next to the truck stop, have raised concerns that the unregulated truck stop has become a source of pain and irritation for the community of Hwange.
“Young girls are indulging in se_xual activities with these truckers,” said a concerned Hwange resident.
“They are seen roaming around the trucks pretending to be selling some food and looking for piece jobs.”
The situation is even worse now that the girls are not constantly going to school. Community leaders have urged the youths to stay away from the trucking area.
“The youth need to focus on their future and desist from getting involved with these truck drivers,” said Pastor Mike Maphosa.
The truck stop, which was once closed down by the Hwange Colliery Company after turning out to be a health and environmental hazard, attracts truckers and mechanics known as amaGokwe because of their origin.
Greater Hwange Residents Trust chairman Fidelis Chima said there was need for Hwange Colliery Company to regulate trucks’ movement and ensure that haulage trucks park at enclosed parking areas.
“The truck stop has become hazardous to the community of Hwange both environmentally and socially. The number of young girls alleged to be engaging in se_xual activities with truck drivers is alarming and disturbing hence Hwange Colliery Company needs to act before more harm is done,” said Chima.
Hopeville Zimbabwe, an organisation that deals with children’s rights, has expressed its concern over the truck stop resurfacing, saying there should be an awareness campaign over the several challenges that could result from the continued existence of the truck stop.
“The truck stop should be closed and monitored for any use.
“Secondly, there is need for awareness campaigns against child abuse targeted at owners of that place and users. Anyone below the age of 18 should not be allowed to hang around Truck Inn, and there should be controlled entry and exit points to monitor and control the young girls,” says Ruth Bikwa, the director of Hopeville Zimbabwe Children’s Rights organisation.
Bikwa said it was everyone’s responsibility to ensure children are safe at homes, streets and everywhere else because child protection is everyone’s responsibility.
Women Coalition of Zimbabwe Hwange chapter director Catherine Madondo said the impact of Covid-19 had fuelled the increase of “child pr0stitution” in Hwange.
“The pandemic has left a trail of challenges which include poverty and having an increase of child-headed families in Hwange,” Madondo said.
“The recent research we carried out showed that child pr0stitution has led to several unwanted teenage preg_nancies, hence these children end up failing to attend school lessons.”
Madondo blamed organisations that advocate for protecting children’s rights saying the organisations and their programmes are not fully equipping them.
“As programmers, we are failing because some programmes try to implement children’s rights, but create problems instead of solving problems,” she said.
“Children are now taking their rights wrongly.
“If we say they have the rights to health and education, it doesn’t mean they have the right to use their bodies wrongly.
“They are rushing for se_xual activities and forgetting the consequences.
“In our programme, we should improve and give children proper education so that they make a well-informed decision as a result.
“In Hwange, child pr0stitution is just too much. I recently handled a case of a grade six learner who claimed to be happy with a 32-year-old truck driver.
“The child said she was happy with him and threatened to commit suicide if we continued discouraging their se_xual relationship. That on its own is just a tip of how these children behave when it comes to se_xual activities.”
Child pr0stitution is a crime in Zimbabwe, but the nature of its occurrence makes it difficult for officials to keep accurate statistics.
* This article was originally published by The Citizen Bulletin, a nonprofit news organisation that produces hard-hitting, hyperlocal reporting and analysis for the southwestern region of Matabeleland.