We were on our way to safely dispose of used condoms

“Our lives are in danger. Wherever we go crowds gather around us ready to hit us. We have been literally reduced to house arrest for a crime we did not commit.”

The front view of the property where the women have lived for several years.
The front view of the property where the women have lived for several years.

These were the first words uttered by Sophie Nhokwara (26) in a wide-ranging interview with The Zimbabwean.

Together with her sister Netsai Nhokwara (24) and friend Rosemary Chakwizira (28), Sophie is jointly accused of raping men to collect semen for unknown purposes. Her boyfriend Thulani Ngwenya (24) has also been implicated in the controversial matter.

The cases arose after Ngwenya, who was driving Sophie’s car, a red Chevrolet, was involved in an accident along the Lower Gweru road last month in which one person died.

When the three ladies heard about the bad news, they travelled to the scene. Upon arrival, they asked the police to retrieve goods from the damaged car. This prompted police to conduct a search which uncovered 31 used condoms, three of them with male semen.

The women were immediately arrested together with Ngwenya and taken to Gweru Police Station. Suspicion was that they were connected to a syndicate of female rapists who had sexually attacked men on highways since last year. They jointly face17 counts of aggravated indecent assault.

The Officer Commanding Midlands Province, Senior Assistant Commissioner Charles Makono, appealed to members of the public who had been raped by females to come forward for identifications. This call marked the beginning of media hype that has publicly accused, tried and convicted the women.

They were said to be living a lavish lifestyle – owners of posh cars and beautiful houses. The implication was that they entered into deals and accrued materialistic prosperity from their activities.

In reality, they live in a simple, old house in Mkoba 4. The exterior is marred by graffiti and plastering seems never to have been attempted, while the security fence has been destroyed, probably by playing children. The interior of the house is in a bad state. The ablution room has no cistern, pipes connecting the flush system are disjointed and the door is not fitted. One has to literally lift and place it in the opening door space in order to secure privacy when using the facility.

“We do not live a life that is above that of our neighbours as you can see,” said Sophie, who had to be convinced by a close ally to grant an interview after hours of pleading.

“The alleged flamboyant lifestyle talked of is mere fabrication,” asked to clarify how 31 condoms were found in her car and whether it was not out of panic that she had to rush and collect them at the scene of the accident, she laughed.

“Firstly people should have asked what job we do. We are all club hookers and operate just like any other lady of the night. We use condoms for protection. At first we used to dispose of them just outside the gate. However, our neighbours started complaining saying the children were picking them up and using them as balloons.

“That is when we decided to keep the condoms in a plastic bag and throw them away at a nearby dam, beyond the reach of the children,” she explained.

Sophie added that her rush to the scene of the accident was not a panic induced by fear of losing the condoms. “It was my car which had been involved in the accident. I could not have relaxed. I simply wanted to collect my possession, such as clothing, make up and personal goods, before the car was towed by police.” She also responded to the question on how a lady of the night is able to buy a car when ordinary civil servants cannot.

“At the club, eight of us are part of a $100 weekly savings group. This means that one gets US$800 after a short while. I bought the car with money I got from my former husband, who was a diamond dealer in Mutare.”

Rosemary Chakwizira also agreed to speak to The Zimbabwean. “If we are guilty of the charges, why is that there is no single complainant who positively identified us during the parade?

There were 12 of us on the parade together with police wives who had been brought in at Harare police station. The 22 men who came to identify were all saying the women who raped them were fat and had tattoos. We are all slim and have no tattoos,” she said.

“Two of the men who came for the parade pointed at other women who were standing with us but when they revealed their arms had no tattoos, both men told police none of the women who were at the parade resembled the female rapists who had attacked them. So which case should we answer, when there are no complainants?” Chakwizira asked.

She went on to explain that the media hype had made life extremely difficult for the women. “On Friday when we went to report at Gweru Police Station as stipulated in our bail conditions, we were almost attacked by the public. We earn a living through relating with clients at pubs. But now we are hiding here at home. How will we feed ourselves and the children?

“ZESA has disconnected our power and we need to settle the bill. What money will we use? It is not fair,” she said.

Chakwizira also bemoaned legal expenses that the trio have incurred.

“Each one of us should pay our lawyer $1 000. And we need to pay back the $300 each bail that was paid by our well-wishers. All this for a crime we did not commit. Police have repeatedly called us to Harare for blood samples they say are important for their investigations – but expenses are all on our heads.”

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