BULAWAYO – For a decade after independence Bulawayo, Zimbabwe’s second largest city, was envied as one of the cleanest and most attractive cities in the world.
The city has in the long run lost its lustre due to a variety of issues, chief among them the decade-long economic meltdown which spawned stagnation.
A drive past the city — once the hub of manufacturing industry, arts and culture — tells a sombre story of how old buildings, including town houses have become derelict.
But no matter how things have transformed over the years, one practice has stubbornly kept its head up in the murky waters.
Nothing can beat prostitution for endurance against all odds.
Forget about the fluctuating economic and political atmosphere in the country, prostitution — the oldest profession the world over is arguably one of the most innovative sector when it comes to business.
With the pace at which things are now happening in this world, the profession has apparently refused to lag behind in any way one may think of despite being illegal in Zimbabwe.
While ladies of the night are trying to spruce up their profession, some crafty owners of lodges, hotels and dilapidated town houses in Bulawayo have sought to reap handsome dividends from the ever blossoming after-sunset business.
A survey by the Daily News in the second largest city this week revealed that some dilapidated hotels, flats and town houses had been converted into brothels.
Established popular hotels in the city that have apparently failed to attract and sustain a meaningful clientele have resorted to being sanctuaries for “quickies”.
Early this year, Bulawayo city councillors called for an investigation into the activities of owners of dilapidated and disused buildings in the city centre arguing that some of the structures had been turned into brothels.
Some of the town houses located in the red light district had their owners thinking of fast cash through hourly charges ranging between $5 and $10.
The old and run down hotels are even charging as little as $35 for overnight accommodation.
During the survey it became apparent that like coffee, sex is timeless.
In one of the streets, down town surprisingly, the Daily News discovered there were about four brothels very close to each other.
Further enquiries revealed that there were some town houses which were not necessarily brothels but were specifically being rented to the hustlers where they can as well bring their clients.
Homeowners who spoke to the Daily News in the affected areas were not amused at all at the ongoing trend.
One of the tenants staying at a flat near one of the brothels at Connaught Street, Gertrude Gwaikwa, 37 a widowed banker and a mother-of-two said the way brothels were sprouting was disgusting.
“You know very well that these brothels where ever they are, they portray a bad image on that area.
“Many families are relocation from this area to better places in town because it is not conducive for bringing up children,” Gwaikwa said.
“Naturally, this place has been devalued because of the increase in commercial sex activities. Even when you want to sell a house next to these brothels it will not match its potential value because of its location,” she said.
Nontobeko Ndiweni, 29, a medical nurse at a local surgery who rents a house adjacent to one of the busy brothels uptown described the events as a sad chapter in modern life.
“This only symbolises where we are heading to as a people. It speaks of how our morals have just gone to the dogs,” Ndiweni told the Daily News.
“A lot is happening here, sex is no longer a secretive thing as it used to be.
“People are just indulging as confirmed by the number of brothels and women who are marketing themselves for sex along these dark streets,” she said.
Ndiweni urged the city council and the police to look into the issue before the city is turned into another Sodom and Gomorrah.
Speaking to the Daily News Ward 1 Councillor Mlandu Ncube confirmed the increase of brothels in Bulawayo’s metropolis.
“The issue of brothels is a very serious issue that I feel has been perpetrated by the poor economic situation in the country. But all the same we cannot condone that,” Ncube said.
“It is true that most of the dilapidated houses and flats in town have been turned into brothels.
“Now we have a serious challenge in the sense that these brothels exist in residential areas.
“So, some are no longer prepared to lease properties near these places,” he said.
“We also have children staying near these places getting bad influence from the behaviour they see. Again, healthwise we have a challenge as used and unused condoms are a common sight,” Ncube added.
The recently sworn-in councillor said he was working on engaging homeowners so that they could renovate their houses in order to attract decent tenants so that they won’t be used for commercial sex work.
Ncube was convinced that not less than 20 brothels are thriving within the city’s streets.
He singled out Connaught Street, First Street, Herbert Chitepo Street, Parirenyatwa Street, 15, 14th and 5th Avenues among a host of others where he said brothels were common.
Bulawayo Progressive Residents Association (Bupra) coordinator Roderick Fayayo told the Daily News the increase in the number of brothels in the city was a manifestation of economic challenges being experienced in the country.
“It is something that needs to be urgently dealt with because it is a problem which has grave and far reaching consequences. We are talking of a high risk of HIV/ Aids,” Fayayo said.
“If the industry was functioning we could not be seeing any of this. At the same time, it says something about our social fabric as citizens,” he said.
Fayayo challenged the local authority to enact by-laws that would see dilapidated town houses and flats being monitored.
The Bulawayo City Council should be able to reduce this by enacting by-laws that discourages dilapidated houses to remain in that state for long because besides being turned into brothels, these houses eventually become hazardous to human habitation.
“So the council should be able to monitor this and enforce the laws,” Fayayo said.
He said the council should be able to engage the homeowners to reduce the mushrooming of brothels in the city.
But in an interview Bulawayo police spokesperson Inspector Mandlenkosi Moyo said he was not aware of any brothels in the city.
“Give us the name of those brothels or just a tip off of where those brothels are then we will actually take action and raid those places,” was all he could say.