Working as a stripper in a brothel

On arrival, Sukai, 25, discovered that the job she had been sponsored to do, was to work in a brothel as a stripper and commercial sex worker.

"I've found you a job as a maid in Johannesburg"

Suki (not her real name) a woman of 25 years, who was born and bred in the impoverished rural Mberengwa explained how she found herself confronted with a ‘rear opportunity to go and work in South Africa, in the midst of COVID-19, when a distant but trusted relative called her from South Africa, informing her that he had managed to find her a job to work as a maid in Johannesburg. 

This came as a blessing to the family, which was at the time experiencing extreme poverty. While Sukai noted that crossing informal borders involved complex relationships with different intermediaries, ranging from track drivers to police officers, the real challenge for her came when she arrived in South Africa.

I was not mentally prepared for this type of job.
My relative had deceived me.

Arrival in South Africa

On arrival, she discovered that the job she had been sponsored to go and do was to work in a brothel as a stripper and commercial sex worker. While we do not disregard the fact that sex work is work, Sukai said she ‘was not mentally prepared for this type of job’… my relative had deceived me’. 

Unbearable working conditions

What made the situation worse was the unbearable working conditions, as Sukai was frequently ‘physically assaulted for not dancing to the expectation and pleasure of the clients. Besides being assaulted, Sukai claimed that ‘I was forced to stay in deplorable conditions in a disused factory and was often drugged’. 

While she eventually managed to escape, and returned back to Zimbabwe, Sukai could not stand the worsening poverty in her rural home as the socio-economic impact of COVID-19 became more apparent. Instead, she got a rented accommodation at Rutenga growth point, close to the Zimbabwe/South Africa border where she joined a group of drug dealers, ‘now that I am a ‘queen’ in the industry’. For Sukai, life lost meaning when she suffered untold exploitation at the hands of her traffickers, but also as she reflected further, she acknowledged that her traffickers, in some way, ‘helped me to acquire the skills that I have continued to use, which is helping me to earn money for myself and my family’.

A queen in the drug dealing industry

While she eventually managed to escape, and returned back to Zimbabwe, Sukai could not stand the worsening poverty in her rural home as the socio-economic impact of COVID-19 became more apparent. Instead, she got a rented accommodation at Rutenga growth point, close to the Zimbabwe/South Africa border where she joined a group of drug dealers, ‘now that I am a ‘queen’ in the industry’. 

For Sukai, life lost meaning when she suffered untold exploitation at the hands of her traffickers, but also as she reflected further, she acknowledged that her traffickers, in some way, ‘helped me to acquire the skills that I have continued to use, which is helping me to earn money for myself and my family’.