BY SHARON BUWERIMWE/OBERT SIAMILANDU
MACHETE-WIELDING gold panners in the Midlands province are reportedly terrorising commercial sex workers, beating them up and refusing to pay for services rendered.
Women rights groups say some of the daring gold panners break into sex workers’ lodgings and demanded free services.
Talent Jumo, director for Katswe Sistahood urged police and other stakeholders to immediately intervene and curb the vice.
“We seriously condemn all forms of violence against women, regardless of their background and status. Most sex workers are placed on this position out of desperation,” she said.
“We also implore stakeholders to create and resource other viable alternatives so that the sex workers are not forced to interact with these violent groups.”
Adult Rape Clinic nurse counsellor Rachel Kurehwatira said: “I condemn the physical abuse by these miners. Selling sex is not a crime and society should treat these women equally. They are trying to fend for their families. After all, they are human beings too.”
One of the sex workers, Shamiso Mugandi, said: “The situation here at Wozoli is so bad, these makorokoza (artisanal miners) even break into our lodgings to harass us. I’m a victim myself. At one time, I got one of them arrested, but his friend came and assaulted me for reporting the case to police. I was forced to withdraw the case fearing further backlash.”
Another sex worker, who declined to be named, said the illegal miners were not only demanding free services, but were assaulting them and robbing them of their earnings.
“We are the most vulnerable people in the community. Being a sex worker is not by choice, but it is a result of poverty. The economic situation has forced us to be on the streets. Illegal miners are the ones that boost our business, but there are some who have turned out to be robbers. They even rob those who will be travelling, passing through the area,” she said.
National police spokesperson Assistant Commissioner Paul Nyathi yesterday said he had not received such reports.
Midlands police spokesperson Inspector Emmanuel Mahoko said: “The challenge is that no sex worker has approached our stations yet to report such issues. We can only assist if there is a docket. So far, we haven’t received any reports.”
Sex workers in Gweru accused the police of harassing and taking bribes from them.
They made the claims on Thursday while receiving agricultural inputs donated by First Lady Auxilia Mnangagwa.
Speaking at the event, Midlands Provincial Affairs minister Larry Mavhima said sex workers also needed to be empowered through various projects so that they can earn a living.
“Sex workers must also venture into various income-generating projects such as poultry,” he said.