Luck Street — haven of vice


The road linking Fidelity Life Tower to the Net One building, Luck Street, at the fringes of the central business district in the Kopje area of Harare would not, at first sight, smell of any sinister activity.
But, as people familiar with its ‘lifestyle’ would quickly admit, it is like some kind of underworld which often gets vibrant as the sun sets than it would have been during the day.
On the surface, it is just like any other backstreet in the area, with an assortment of mainly indigenous businesses including a car repair enterprise, printing company and a coffin manufacturer.
There is also the head office of a children’s organisation located opposite a residential flat that houses families of a local bank’s employees.
Usually, people who work in the offices along this street arrive at work to be greeted with the pungent smell of burnt tyres used by some young men to keep during the night. A number of them would be playing soccer – perhaps as a way of beating the early morning chill.
At that time, a handful of women, some of them old enough to be grandmothers, begin to set up ‘shop’ in anticipation of their customers.
Their range of products includes illicit drugs such as dagga and a highly intoxicating alcoholic drink they call ‘Blue Diamond.’
The women eke out a living from selling these products, and one of the hazards of their job is playing cat and mouse with the police. If caught, the culprits pay admission of guilt fines and return to the streets within hours.
“One of the biggest issues in that area is the question of illegal activities,” city spokesperson Leslie Gwindi said. “The reason is that there is a lot of harboring by illegal tenants of those people whom they use for their illegal activities. The tenants then come and complain to us. We have also said let’s work together to flush out these people, but the tenants give them cover and use them in their illegal activities. If they didn’t tolerate them, they would chase them away. However, we are going to act. We will close that street down.”
But one of the vendors who identified herself only as Betty retaliated: “What do they (municipal police) want us to do? We have been here for years and consider this street our home. We do not steal from people, so what are we doing wrong? The municipal police should provide alternative accommodation for us if they want us to leave this place.”Their client base is made up of people drawn from all walks of life, from society’s crème de la crème right down to aimless drifters who spend the day drinking and smoking along the street. While some, including a number of commuter omnibus drivers, openly buy the merchandise in broad daylight, sleek cars are usually seen driving around in that area at night.
Perhaps, the effects of alcohols and drugs make them better suited to contend with the otherwise harsh realities of their lives.
Early this year, one of the street kids was allegedly shot dead by a high ranking police officer and just recently, a month or so back, another was brutally murdered at the height of a suspected gang feud.
The street gangs, however, are invisible during the day, but became hyperactive under the cover of darkness, during which they engage in anti-social behaviour – fights, alcoholism and drug abuse. Some of the fights are usually over women who are also street dwellers.
Most of the street kids on that street were drunk when NewsDay arrived and could hardly say anything coherent.
A number of the young men, and several younger girls, have turned an abandoned, dilapidated city council building along the street – Eversly Court – into their hideout. One of them was recently arrested for raping a colleague’s girlfriend.
A security guard at a nearby company said the building was abandoned as far back as the mid 1990s, and it was not clear why.
Without proper ablution facilities, these habitants have turned the building into filthy hovel, from which pungent smells often waft into the air, irritating people working in adjacent buildings.
It is believed that a long time ago, the building was a block of flats operated as a base for commercial sex workers.
This street is also witness to a second generation of street kids, as girls who step into adulthood while on the streets are also giving birth and raising children there.