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For John, this was a simple, quick way out of his thirst for sex and he was sure he would be done in no time and without any hitches. Narrating his story, John said he was pleasantly surprised when the girl gave him an unforgettable fellatio act — which was not part of the agreement — before the sex. What John did not realise was that the end of his pleasurable experience would be the beginning of his problems that night.
A shocked John tried to protest, but before he could do anything, the door to their room was unlocked from outside and five men entered.
All of this, as investigations by The Standard established, happens in the heart of the Avenues area in Harare, where one of the few remaining viable industries in the country — prostitution — thrives. While in other places sex work normally starts at nightfall, it is a different story in the Avenues, as sex workers are on the streets 24 hours a day.
With police no longer arbitrarily arresting sex workers, girls from Harare and its satellites such as Epworth, Domboshawa, Dema and Chitungwiza, flock to the Avenues, in the process increasing the bargaining power of potential clients. But even at these low prices, competition is tight, and it takes aggressive soliciting to land a client for a good fee. With the cut-throat competition, some sex workers have taken their vice a notch up, this time engaging thugs to assist in squeezing extra money from their clients.
In a two-week study of the activities of the Avenues, The Standard established the style of operation of these syndicates. How they operate When they go out to solicit for clients, sex workers leave gangs on standby close to their rooms. The gangs usually comprise between two and five men. Although this reporter could not independently verify, some sex workers claimed that the thugs always had contacts who could threaten publication of the incident if clients resisted robbery.