Sex workers invade gold-rich Penhalonga
PENHALONGA – It is around mid-morning, a young lady who is a sex worker dressed in seductive attire and make-up strolls around the shops in hunt for potential clients.
Artisanal miners affectionately known as Gwejas in street lingo are enjoying popular Zim dancehall music playing loudly from a parked Honda Fit among other range of vehicles, while imbibing alcohol, smoking cigarettes and dagga.
Others are publicly kissing and cuddling. Some are dancing to the music suggestively. Everyone is in a jovial mood, as more ladies flock the Old West shops, Chinyanjera in Penhalonga in anticipation for a big catch.
A recent visit by journalists during a tour of the Rural Community Reporting lnitiative organized by The Zimbabwe Union of Journalists (ZUJ) revealed that Penhalonga has ostensibly become notorious for artisanal gold miners. They have been accused by the residents of wrecking havoc with their immoral behavior that has presumably affected the social moral fabric of the society.
Hard-pressed by an apparently infinite economic trudge, fraught sex workers from all over Zimbabwe have plainly besieged the small township and have begun a new wave of extensive prostitution in prospect of the massive huge sums of money being spent by the Gwejas.
The Penhalonga Residents and Ratepayers Trust chairman Weston Makoni expressed grave concern over the influx of sex workers and other vices connected to sex work.
“This is a cause for concern. We have sex workers that have invaded our area, as they are looking for money from the artisanal miners. We have seen our young girls have joined in the profession,” said Makoni in an interview with the Zim Morning Post.
He said in some cases, more than five sex workers were renting a single small room meant for a single person for US$5 per head per month.
“In some cases we have even eight and nine sex workers staying in a small room paying US$5 per head monthly. This is a health threat. They have also haboured criminals and we have seen a surge in criminal activities in our township,” Makoni said.
Penhalonga community has borne the brunt of thieving and robberies in the township, he said.
“We are now experiencing violence as the Gwejas attack each other. In some cases people are being robbed and others have lost their valuables. This gold rush thing has brought some problems in this community,” lamented Makoni.
The chairperson of Mutasa Women in Mining Joseline Musiyazviriyo said there have been some cases of child marriages.
“What is worrying is that as the exams classes have been opened we have realized that some girls have failed to go back to school either because she is married or she is pregnant. Some of them have joined sex work.
“The situation has become out of hand. We have school boys who have refused to go back to school as they have joined the artisanal mining. They have tested the money associated with it and they have opted to remain mining gold than going to school.
“For school girls some of them have been impregnated by these Gwejas, while others have been married. We also noted with concern that 14 and 15 year olds have married each other,” said Musiyazviriyo.
She said there was a rise in unwanted pregnancies and sexual transmitted infections.
Musiyazviriyo said pervasive starvation that has ruined mayhem in the small mining area has forced women and children to join the hordes of people seeking their fortune through the latest gold heist.
MDC Member of Parliament for Mutasa South constituency that covers Penhalonga, Regai Tsunga, said there was now an urgent need to have solutions to the growing concerns in the area.
“Artisanal mining has brought to the fore some social and environmental problems. But, what we now need to do is to have a stakeholders meeting and share ideas on how best we can find a lasting solution,” Tsunga said.
“Artisanal mining has come as a result of serious unemployment in the country. This why we have seen an upsurge in the number of artisanal miners who are seeking a living through these mining activities.”
“We have seen the environment being destroyed as they dig for survival. We need to have sustainable solutions to protect the environment and also to protect the erosion of our social well being and economic status.”
Tsunga said he has since written to the Minister of State for Manicaland Province Ellen Gwaradzimba, the Ministry of Mines Minister Winstone Chitando and the Chief Executive Officer of Mutasa Rural District Council George Bandure calling for a multi stakeholders meeting to discuss the issue.
“We are going to have a multi sector meeting with various stakeholders to find lasting solutions regarding this issue in Penhalonga. It now requires everyone’s input to save the situation,” said Tsunga.
As the economy continues to slump, there are fears of irreversible damage to land and the risk of cultural degradation.
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