IT’s around 7:00 pm and life in the small mining town of Kadoma seem to be gradually fading out as vendors and shop owners prepare to call it a day.
By Michael Gwarisa
Just as the traders are packing their stuff out from their trading stalls and makeshift shelters, shabbily dressed and dirty young men troop into the town’s most prominent food outlet Eat “N” Lick where they treat themselves to some Shawarma and chicken thighs. Across the corner, a few young ladies giggle uncontrollably just to attract attention of the dirty fellas who are mercilessly munching on their meal.
After a few minutes, the guys leave the food outlet and one shouts on top on top of his voice, “Tombonopedza Nzara pa Specs!” Out of curiosity, the HealthTimes crew follow the guys at a distance to this not so beautiful place called Specs Hotel. From a distance, the structure looks OK, but as one gets closer, it is evident that the building has outlived its lifespan and is no longer fit to be called a Hotel.
Women of several age groups are milling around the area while some visibly drunk gold panners are literally making it (Cash) rain on the ladies they appear to have booked for the night.
Speaking to one Taxi operator who identified himself as Mafia Max, he said the place (Specs) had become the sex hub for Kadoma owing to the Gold mining activities rampant in the area.
“This place was once a hotel but we cant call it a hotel anymore, it is now more of a lodge as most ladies of the night literally stay at Specs. As a Taxi man however, the most worrying trend however is that most women who are booked here are actually married women from other towns who probably leave their husbands in Harare and other towns claiming they are going to South Africa to buy stuff yet they will be booked here.
“As someone who has been in the taxi business for a while, most women open up to me and actually confirm that they have families back home. Upon arrival here, they give cross boarder bus drivers their passports and some money to go buy stuff for them so that when they get home it appears like they had gone to South Africa yet they would be booked here selling their bodies to the gold panners,” he said.
It is estimated that more than 50 percent of occupants at the Specs are women from other towns who are lured to the town by gold and the lucrative world’s oldest trade. The ladies stay two per room and are charged rentals per day and they have to work their backs off to cover the rental expenses which are exorbitantly high according one sex worker who identified herself as Monalisa.
“I come from Norton, I have been operating here since last year June and to tell you the truth, I make some big cash compared to my previous market in Norton. (Dzimwe nguva mari inonetsa kana pasina kunenge kwaputika mari) At times it gets difficult is there is no gold rush, its dry at times,” said Monalisa.
She however did not disclose her marital status but she says she has two kids whose father is unemployed.
According to statistics, HIV prevalence is very high amongst married couples and the economic situation obtaining in Zimbabwe has made the situation worse as women have moved from being couch potatoes to active bread winners. Non consistent use of condoms and traditional myths have been the singled out as the biggest factor behind high prevalence in the pandemic amongst married couples.
Meanwhile, Kadoma Town council Mayor Clr Muchi Chinyanganya told HealthTimes that Specs was not a lodge but a hotel but hinted that there were personal health issues emanating from the hotel in question but affirmed that health officials were working flat out to bring sanity to the issue if HIV/AIDS in the area.
“Well, Specs is a hotels, and council does not involve itself as to who books into the lodge or hotel, what council does is to inspect whether the place has water and functional toilets and bathrooms.
“I know there are personal health issues and I understand Kadoma General Hospital has workshops with the ladies concerning HIV education,” said Clr Chinyanganya.
Zimbabwe has the sixth highest HIV prevalence in sub-Saharan Africa at 13.5%, with 1.3 million people living with HIV in 2016.
The HIV epidemic in Zimbabwe is generalised and is largely driven by unprotected heterosexual sex. Women are disproportionately affected, particularly adolescent girls and young women. However, there are growing epidemics among key populations such as sex workers and men who have sex with men who are at higher risk of HIV. National data on these populations is sparse as only a minimal amount of data is collected and reported in national documents.