Sex for maize as hunger stings

Commercial sex workers and desperate women in arid Chikombedzi in the Lowveld district of Chiredzi are offering sex in return for maize in a bid to avert hunger.

A male client who spoke to this newspaper confessed that he bartered sugarcane in Chiredzi and brought maize to sell at Chikombedzi, and when he heard that the sex workers accepted grain, he gladly parted with some of it.

“I did not have cash on me because my clients normally pay for the maize after some days. I was therefore too happy to give one lady of the night a 5kg bag of maize for a short stand,” he said. Another night life patron, who works as a milling assistant during the day, also confided that he stole grain from his employer whenever he needed sex.

“For residents of Chikombedzi like myself, it is difficult to save cash. Whenever we get some grain, we keep it for the ladies of the night,” he said.

A recent visit by The Zimbabwean to Chikombedzi revealed that commercial sex workers were demanding as little as a single 5kg bag of maize in exchange for sex, as hunger takes its toll in Chiredzi after another season of drought.

“We are doing this because the commodity is scarce and we can’t find it in the shops. Also our clients seem to be running out of cash for a variety of reasons, that include the expenses that come with a drought,” said Shalati Baloyi, a sex worker who operates at Chikombedzi business centre.

According to the Zimbabwe Vulnerability Assessment Committee report released earlier this year, Masvingo is among the worst affected by a devastating drought that has left about 1.4 million people needing food assistance.

Some villagers have married off their daughters in exchange for tonnes of maize or livestock. Cash is very short and barter is common. Polygamy is still common in the area, with a significant number of wives still in their teens. Households have an average of 10 children and three wives.

Residents claimed that they were not getting sufficient food assistance from the government or the humanitarian sector, which no longer visits the area. The Provincial Administrator, Felix Chikovo, recently told the media that government would provide 19,000 tonnes of free maize to starving villagers, but many fear that, as in the past, only Zanu (PF) activists will benefit.

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