Once a shunned destination for foreign commercial sex workers due to the inflation-wasted currency, Zimbabwe has once again become a hub of activity for prostitutes from as far as Malawi, Zambia, DRC and even Nigeria.
The immigrant sex workers have become prevalent across the Avenues areas in Harare.
In interviews held with this reporter, the immigrant sex workers revealed that they preferred Zimbabwe due to the favoured United States Dollar being used in the country.
“We now flock to Zimbabwe because we consider the value of the money, the US Dollar that the country is using. Personally, I know I am working for something with value,” said Hilda Banda from Zambia.
“Every time I come here from home, I have every reason to smile in the evenings when I start counting my takes for the day in my flat,” said Banda.
She said it was better to waste away her body in sex work, toiling for a currency with value unlike her national kwacha currency, which she said has less buying powers.
Irene Mbewe, another sex worker who said she hailed from Malawi, said she preferred operating in Zimbabwe as the Zimbabwean men were very conscious of condom use unlike their Zambian counterparts whom she claimed were reckless when it came to protection.
“In Zimbabwe I do my job with confidence, knowing that I am doing business with civilised people who value life as they always insist on protected sex,” Mbewe said.
Scores of sex workers who prowl the Avenues areas in the city revealed that foreign sex workers from countries in the north had invaded their trade, posing serious competition with them.
“We don’t know what we can do with these women who have invaded our trade, they come from as far away as Nigeria to take away our clients,” said Lucy Chiwawa, a local commercial sex worker based in the city.
She lamented that their business had drastically declined, outcompeted by foreign sex workers who charged less for their services.
“These foreign women charge as less as $5 per session while we charge $10, compelling our clients to dump us,” Chiwawa said.
Reports gathered around the city, mostly in salons and restaurants, where sex workers from countries in the north reportedly worked during the day, indicated that the immigrant sex workers harassed their local rivals, wrangling for clients.
But the rivalry parties seemed to point fingers at each other when separately interviewed by this reporter.
“We are documented, but these local women doing the same job with us are always hostile with us, they call us names when we meet in the areas we operate. They accuse us of taking their clients,” said a sex worker from Nigeria who gave her name as Helen Okeke.
“It is not our fault that they charge exorbitant prices for their services. We charge less and then we get more clients and therefore more money by the end of the day,” Okeke said.
But Miriam Sibanda, a local sex worker did not have kind words for her immigrant counterparts.
“They come here to destroy our business, we will burn them. They must go back to their countries. After all, they move in groups, hailing insults at us in their native languages, forgetting they are in our country, we don’t need them, the government must help us get rid of them,” fumed Miriam.
She claimed that sex workers from other countries were a threat to the nation as they come with “new” sexually transmitted diseases, derailing the government’s concerted efforts in the fight against the dreaded HIV/Aids scourge.
A married woman residing in Avondale urged the government to protect them from being “robbed of their spouses” by immigrant sex workers.
“Our husbands are disappearing, being taken care of by foreign sex workers and the government has to protect us from being robbed of our spouses by these marauding immigrant sex workers,” said the woman.
Investigations by this reporter around lodges and night clubs in the city affirmed reports that scores of foreign sex workers had invaded the local commercial sex industry, sending tongues wagging among local sex workers.
Observations made by this reporter, in guest houses around the city’s busy avenues area, and through interviews held with peer educators and health workers, revealed that over 300 transient sex workers prowled Harare’s streets.