An increase in the cost of living, exacerbated by a gloomy 2015/16 farming season has forced desperate women and young girls to sell sex at local business centres in order to survive.
A recent visit by NewZimbabwe.com to Birchenough Bridge, Checheche and Dzonzai business centres established that women and young girls, including 14 year-olds, are now resorting to prostitution.
Men, who are usually the bread winners, are out of work, forcing wives and girl children to resort to commercial sex work in order to feed families.
At Checheche, a local woman who refused to be identified said there was nothing else they could do.
“My husband left for South Africa long back and he is not remitting some money back home,” she said.
“What am I supposed to do in this situation when I have kids to take care of? Droughts have affected us for a long time and there is nothing to sell in the fields.”
A 15-year-old girl said they could no longer go to school since parents, who are peasant farmers, were failing to raise enough fees.
“I dropped school and I am doing prostitution to raise money for fees so that I go back to school.
“My parents are subsistence farmers but we get nothing from the fields because of poor rainfall,” said the teen who was drinking a Black Label lager beer.
She said, because of stiff competition, they charge as little as $1 for short time sex and $4 for all-night sessions.
She would not say whether they insist on protection but admitted that “some clients refuse to use condoms”.
Digging up Save River
In addition to prostitution, teenagers in Birchenough Bridge, just like those in Tanganda and Checheche, have also resorted to selling sand from Save River to get some money.
The youngsters pay unknown amounts of money to their traditional leaders’ for permission and then labour to take out sand from the river which they sell to local construction projects.
Business is brisk in areas such as Maunganidze and Checheche due to construction associated with the upgrades of these areas to growth point and town status.
“Village life has become very difficult to manage, many people are starving,” said one Munyaradzi Mazunze.
“The idea of selling river sand at the river bank as well as moulding bricks has suddenly become popular and everyone is rushing there; it is big business and paying more than selling beans and tomatoes because there is currently no market for these vegetables.
“What is interesting in these cases is the role of traditional leadership. Traditional leadership is now alleged to be money-mongers who can allow any activity to take place as long as they are given a stipend or bribe.”
Another villager added: “Our traditional leadership is now too weak to speak strongly against the cutting down of sacred indigenous trees like Mucha, Mukamba and Mubvumira that are becoming extinct.
“On the other hand, no one is taking full responsibility to ensure compliance with advice from the national environmental agency.
“The agency has condemned the digging of dongas without filling them as well as the activities going on unimpeded along Save River by those moulding bricks.
Local pressure group, Platform for Youth Development (PYD), said the government should intervene and help address the problems, waring there was a risk of starvation in local districts.
“PYD just wishes to raise a distressed voice for the government to intervene,” the group said in a statement.
“Zanu PF has always been accused of taking advantage during such stressful situations to buy votes by only providing food relief to those who attend and subscribe to their political programs.
“We challenge the government to go beyond political slogans and come to the rescue on the people of Chipinge and any other communities in Zimbabwe in need of food aid.”
According to the United Nations, more than 1.5 million people are already in dire need of food relief after a poor harvest last season due to drought.