By Roy Chikara
Mashava, October 18, 2013 – Donning on a threadbare, once white, now variegated shirt, and with a digging rod balancing on his shoulders, an illegal gold panner in Mashava, a ghost town about 40 kilometres out of Masvingo town, gets his pick-up line to a bevy of beautiful students at the Great Zimbabwe University (GZU)’s Mashava campus.
“I can spoil you, I made a killing today in the shaft. How much is your lunch?” he tells the smartly dressed young ladies, who are evidently stressed.
The young ladies look at the filthy dirty middle aged man with qualms and snub him while they continue with their discussion.
But the unfazed mukorokoza (gold panner) deeps his hand into one of his pockets and pulls out a ward of $100 notes and insists on spoiling the young ladies with whatever they needed.
And his bait seems to have worked-he has attracted the attention of the first year students, mostly from ordinary backgrounds-after a false start.
“But where do you get the money from when you are so dirty?” one of the students asked.
Quickly, he tells them that he is just coming from a disused mine and shows them a sparkling gold piece, before making a date later in the day after he sells the bullion and gets a bath and new clothes.
Eventually, they exchange their mobile phone numbers to facilitate contact for their date later, and the rest is history.
Such has been the life that thousands of struggling Great Zimbabwe university female students have been subjected to, as they struggle to make ends meet, paying for tuition, accommodation and food, which their parents, mostly civil servants and not formally unemployed, cannot afford.
The desperate students most of them from very poor backgrounds are failing to resist huge and vast amounts of money the gold panners dangle at them.
The panners most of them, primary and secondary school drop outs have turned the campus and surrounding areas into love nests with students.
The hostels for the students that have no security fence or durawall have become a haven of sexual activities for the female students and the gold panners whose bottomless pockets are always full of liquid cash on a daily basis.
“Our fellow female students have fallen prey to the makorokoza who bring their dirty into the hostels and a lot of cash. They are enjoying intimate relationships because they shower the ill-fated girls with lots of money and the girls seem unable to resist,” said a student who only identified himself as Ediza.
The gold panners are popular with the girls as they take them to various places of entertainment during the night at different night spots in the nearby Masvingo city and Zvishavane were they book them into lavish hotels and lodges for the weekend outing.
The gold panners are popular with a group of some notorious female students from Namibia who are learning at the institution.
The Namibians have however sent shock waves at the campus as they are reportedly entertainment lovers and cannot resist the temptation from the moneyed gold panners
“Most of us have never had the chance to fall in love with the beautiful educated girls from the universities, thanks to GZU for bringing them to us here in Mashava. They no longer mind that we are always dirty because we will be in the gold shaft. They know that we got money and we can take care of them. The Namibians are so fast and easy to get because they are far away from home so they need instant cash,” said Bla Puro, a gold panner from Dissso compound in the mining town.
Some of the female students who talked to Radio VOP on condition of anonymity said they needed money for their upkeep so they are forced to fall in love with the gold panners who are moneyed.
The panners said they have no other means of earning a living because most of them were thrown out of their jobs when Shabanie Mashava Mines were closed down by government after being taken away from exiled owner, Mutumwa Mawere several years ago.
The mining town was turned into a ghost town until the GZU bought part of the mine infrastructure to set up a satellite campus that houses over a thousand students.
A recent report by the National Aids Council (NAC) has revealed that Masvingo province tops the country in the sexually transmitted infections (STI) infection with over 10 000 infections in three months.
NAC Provincial Aids coordinator revealed that the STI cases in Masvingo rose by over 1 000 in the second quarter of the year that recorded 10 110 cases from 9 549 in the first quarter.
NAC also said it suspected institutions of higher learning in the province were contributing to the spread of the STI’s.
It is reported however that the students do not seek treatment at the local campus clinic as they are afraid of being embarrassed by the local staff that can expose them to fellow students.
GZU’s Vice Chancellor, Rungano Zvobgo told local journalists recently that they were likely to have such incidents at the campus but the university was carrying out vast education programmes to shun unprotected sex and encourage abstinence by students.
The activities of the students and the gold panners have however became a cause for concern to local parents who have complained about the immoral activities by the young ladies.
The makorokozas have now replaced the local sugar daddies and businessman who used to be the predators preying on the young girls some as young as 18 years.