A ZIMBABWEAN town has set tongues wagging after honouring prostitutes who plied their trade in the 60s and 70s.
Chiredzi, a small sugar growing establishment in the southern region, is blazing the trail by recognising the sexual exploits of the women who were the pioneers of prostitution in the area by naming streets after them.
Prominent among these is a sex worker only identified as Molly who was brutally murdered in Tshovani township in 1966, before Zimbabwe attained its independence.
Then, men who came to the Lowveld to work in the vast sugar plantations left their wives in their rural areas and were entertained by sex workers, domiciled in the dusty streets of Chiredzi.
These streets are mainly around Chigarapasi Beerhall, famed as the largest beer outlet in Zimbabwe, boasting of five cocktail bars and a large open space almost the size of a football pitch.
During its heydays, Chigarapasi was a hive of activity with skimpily dressed ladies of the night from all over the country soliciting for clients.
Older women preferred to stay inside while young beautiful sex workers lined outside its perimeter fence illuminated by the bright street lights. It is these women that gained notoriety that local municipal council is now honouring.
Besides Molly street, which is home to some of the old and well known commercial sex workers who have something to show for their efforts – houses in their names — there is Hilda Street, named after another sex worker whose exploits are little known.
There are many other streets in the town. According to one elderly resident in the area, Grace Marova, they were
still at a school-going age when Molly died in a suspected arson case.
“Chiredzi used to have thatched houses before the town was built. There were few houses where the Central Mechanical Department is right now, but Chigarapasi beer hall was already there. It was built by a
white businessman called Nesbit who used to sell his beer there since he owned a brewery, before he handed it over to the town council.”
Explaining the circumstances that led to Molly’s death, she said one morning in 1966, when they were going to Gaba Primary School in Hippo Valley she saw policemen picking up the remains of Molly after she had been gruesomely murdered.
Her unnamed angry boyfriend, who accused her of cheating on him tied her to a steel-bed, locked the door and then torched the house.
“It was a sad end to Molly’s colourful life,” she said.
Describing how the lady of the night looked like, she said; “Molly was plump, light in complexion and so beautiful that one would not believe she was a commercial sex worker.
“After Molly’s death several stories of her ghost tormenting revelers and residents were peddled around, but to be frank I am not sure if there was any grain of truth to it,” she said.
Blessing Mazinyani, Chiredzi Ward 5 councillor, also weighed in saying council should be applauded for naming some of its streets after commercial sex workers, but emphasized he did not condone prostitution.
“Don’t misquote me. I am not supporting prostitution but l am only saying after the incident any right thinking
person would want that area to be named after Molly, even though the incident was nasty,” said Mazinyani.
The chairperson for the United Chiredzi Residents Ratepayers Association Josephat Tizirai would not condemn council for engraving the names of prostitutes on the street posts.
“I think commercial sex workers were the true and permanent residents of the town. In addition to that, they were the ones who made the town popular, entertaining visitors. “Also take note that it was done way back in the colonial era when most male blacks valued having rural homes, so commercial sex workers were the ones who were permanent residents of the town that time.”
One of the most respected religious leaders in the town, Amos Chari Mapfumo of Gigal Deliverance Ministries said there was nothing wrong with naming streets after prostitutes, stressing the bible said “Judge not lest you shall be judged.” “The council is not to be blamed because in our church we feel everyone is a child of God.”
He added that even Jesus Christ challenged people who thought they hadn’t sinned to be the first to cast a stone on a woman caught committing adultery.
“So everyone needs deliverance,” said Mapfumo.
However not everyone in the small town supports glorifying old time commercial sex work in Chiredzi.
Madzibaba Ishamel of the Johanne Masowe eChishanu church said council was encouraging promiscuity by naming streets after people possessed by “evil spirits” which needed to be cast away.
“We don’t support promiscuity and if possible we urge the town council to rename the streets. We are here to cast out those demons,” he said.
Sex workers of all ages still loiter outside the bar even if council has shut down Chigarapasi, citing perennial losses – CAJ News