By Mark Mhukayesango
Mberengwa, February 02, 2016 – Driving down the long, bumpy road into virtually unknown Mataga area in Mberengwa District, one can never mistake the palpable poverty within villages flanking the dust road.
In fact, the Zanu PF stronghold is in itself, a derelict island already in dire need of food relief.
Villagers scrounge for their next meal with virtually no local industry or mining activities to source for scarce income.
The most thriving industry, it seems, is the so-called oldest profession which has recently seen sex workers, some as young as 16 from the villages compete with seasoned ones for scarce clients.
However, despite offering their freshness to prospective clients, the young have also found the going tough and have been forced to slash rates for a quickie or short time from $4 to $2.
A recent visit to Mataga by RadioVOP revealed that the sex workers, who have sought camp in villages surrounding the busy business centre, were looking beyond their catchment area and were now drawing clientele from the mining town of Zvishavane, the closest urban settlement in the province.
Taurai Moyo, a flea market stall operator in the area, says the redundancy of local men was among the grim factors that have forced the sex workers to cut rates.
“Even if they want to charge more, they can only dream of it because men here do not have money. Most of these girls’ clients come from other towns like Zvishavane,” Moyo said.
“These girls are hungry and some are orphans; so they do not have a choice other than to sell their bodies.”
Moyo led RadioVOP to the “hottest girl in town”, one Mai B whose “sexy” body, it was said, has sent male clients mouth-watering and scrambling to sample her “product”.
At 18 and with a child whose father vanished to evade responsibility, she found peddling her body as her best option of raising cash to fend for the child.
But despite being busier than the rest, Mai B still concedes the going was tough as “many clients are broke”.
“We had to reduce short time prices to $2 because clients are few,” she said.
“I survive on this trade and although I would have loved to do something better, poverty forced me into it.”
On a good day, Mai B says she makes $20 but is quick this is not an everyday experience.
“I made a lot of money during the festive season when most men were willing to spend their money,” she said.
While Mai B and other younger entrants into the business can still soldier on hoping to entice clients with their fresher bodies, the story is not the same for one Mai Mako, a veteran who has abandoned the industry to sell marijuana (mbanje).
“I have since quit this business because there is no money,” said the 29 year-old.
“There are no makorokoza (illegal gold panners) here who want sex; some men even negotiate for a $1 quickie and I cannot survive from that.
“I have since decided to venture into another line of business because my son and I will not survive.”
Mataga shopping centre is dominated by aging buildings, with the only fresh looking sight being President Robert Mugabe’s ZimASSET billboard.
Moyo, our tour guide, said some “quickies” were being done in a bottle store within the business centre but those who yearn for longer services are hosted at the sex workers’ houses.
“Some shameless have sex in the bottle store and this shows how morally bankrupt our society is now,” he said.
Speaking to Radio VOP, National Aids Council provincial coordinator, Mambewu Shumba said Mberengwa has seen a rise in cases of Sexually Transmitted Infections (STIs).
“We have since started monitoring Mberengwa because of the growing number of sex workers in the district,” Shumba said.
“We appeal to the workers that they should use protection always when engaging in their sexual activities as these reduce the rate of infection.”
Midlands is widely regarded as an STI hotspot due to gold panning activities.