Zim women suffer in Jozi

BY MAGUGU NYATHI JOHANNESBURG - Lost in the bustle and bright lights of Jozi, Tambudzai Masenyani (17), who ran away from Robert Mugabes economic mismanagement, looks totally confused at Park Station. She has nowhere to go and no relatives in the big city. She is desperately looking for the so

und of Karanga accent to approach for assistance.

She falls prey to a young man hovering at Park Station looking for stranded ladies for robbery and sex abuse. Tambudzai has been brutally raped, infected with gonorrhea and robbed of the only jacket she has by the Good Samaritan who has promised to take care of her until she gets proper accommodation. Bruised, abused, her dignity lost, she has resigned herself to a life on the streets.

The influx of Zimbabwean young women escaping from Mugabes mismanagement has left young girls vulnerable to all the social ills of Johannesburg. We thought we were coming to Paradise because life in Murehwa was unbearable. I was looking to support my siblings left orphaned by my late parents. I have no relative in Johannesburg and I thought I was going to be employed as soon as I arrived.

Many Zimbabwean young women join us in the streets and some end up in prostitution. I am afraid to go for HIV/AIDS testing after I was treated for sexually transmitted disease at Hillbrow Clinic, said Tambudzai.

A survey carried out at Hillbrow, Park Station and Braamfontein revealed that on average one can meet 10 stranded young Zimbabwean women per day. Some sleep overnight at the station, some are used as sex slaves by Nigerians and the lucky ones meet honest well wishers who accommodate them. The exodus of young women has led to the collapse of households back home as they run away from hardship in Zimbabwe. Some married women have even chosen to divorce in search of greener pastures.

I have been married since I was 18, but there comes a time in life when one realises that as much as they want their marriage to last for ever they can not afford to go on empty stomachs. I am fed up with having to beg for everything in my life, said a 49-year-old woman.

Another, identified only as Sarah, echoed these sentiments, saying: Im not saying prostitution is good but It’s better than being miserable your whole life and your children failing to go to school. I loved my husband. He was a degreed teacher in Zimbabwe, but made a pauper by the government who once invested in him.

The situation is pathetic back home its better here though little the money can at least afford my children a decent meal per day.

For Sibusisiwe life is not any better and she loathes the day she ever thought of crossing the border. She is being used by a Nigerian pimp in a hotel in Hillbrow. Im being forced to have sex with any man who can afford to pay for the services. What pains me most is the fact that the Nigerian who owns me gets the bigger part of the payment. I dont want what is happening to me but where will I go if I leave this place? she said.

I remember with nostalgia how I kept my self pure. I always hope I dont meet my friend or relative along the way because I feel like a misfit in the society, lamented Sibusisiwe.

However, for Ayanda Jozi life is a bed of roses. Having escaped from a destitute Zimbabwe she now runs a marketing company and employs five people. I was born on the wrong side of the border but I dont regret ever coming here. South Africa has opened doors for me. I have my own businesses and soon I would run my own Magazine. Really what more do I want, boasted Ayanda.

At least four million Zimbabweans, a quarter of the countrys population of 12 million, are living outside the country, the majority of them in South Africa, after fleeing home because of economic hardship and political persecution.

11-january-2006
Zimbabwe Vigil Diary - 10th December 2005

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