COVID-19: Sex workers to flee South Africa

Deserted entertainment centre in the Johannesburg. Photo by Savious Kwinika, CAJ News Agency.

Deserted entertainment centre in the Johannesburg. Photo by Savious Kwinika, CAJ News Agency.

PRETORIA, (CAJ News) COMMERCIAL sex workers in South Africa are considering returning to their native countries following President Cyril Ramaphosa’s declaration of the deadly coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic as a national disaster over the weekend.

At the time of going to press, 61 cases of COVID-19 have been confirmed throughout the country, a development that prompted the country’s head of state to regulate the movement of people and goods.

Several commercial sex workers, who spoke to CAJ News Africa said they earned a living out of the so-called oldest profession hence their livelihoods have been hamstrung.

A majority of these commercial sex workers drawn from the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), Eswatini, Lesotho, Malawi, Mozambique, Namibia, Tanzania, Zambia and Zimbabwe.

“Our livelihoods have been dealt a severe blow! COVID-19 has crippled our bread and butter trade,” said a Lesotho commercial hooker from Mafeteng who operates at Braamfontein night club, Johannesburg Central Business District.

“I have two children, who depend on my work (commercial sex) to pay for their school fees, food and pocket money back home. Now with this latest development, how will I survive in this country (South Africa) without customers?”

Anacleta Guambe, a Mozambican sex worker, said she would return home to Matola, Maputo province.

“There is no reason whatsoever to waste the little resources I saved previously when the business was still boom,” she said.

“This coronavirus pandemic has rendered us destitutes. I would rather return home whilst I still have some savings, otherwise I would not manage to raise money for rentals, food and personal upkeep,” Guambe told CAJ News Africa at a local night club in Hillbrow.

A Zimbabwean hooker, who only identified herself as Thokozile, said she would return home to avoid being a destitute.

“Though Zimbabwe’s economy is not performing well, I would rather go back home to do vending to survive,” Thokozile said.

“Surely, I cannot afford to raise money for daily upkeep this side. At the hotel where I do my work, we pay hotel owners their rent every morning, so, with this scarcity of men, why keep rental debts ballooning instead of going back where I came from,” she said.

A Congolese sex worker, only identified as Laurette, is also considering returning home.

“At least, I would have been saved for the transport money, otherwise staying around here when there are no more customers is recipe for financial disaster,” said Laurette.

Others chose to stay put.

Sibongile from Eswatini said, “I will not go back home but will just retreat to Mbombela to monitor how devastating this Coronavirus would be. If I see signs of the crisis falling away, then I will return to Johannesburg,” she said.

Malawi’s Alinafe and Zambian Naomi said they would stay put in the country whilst monitoring if the South Africa’s health department manages to combat the pandemic.

“Going to Malawi and return later might be very expensive. I would rather stay put monitoring whether the government through health department wins this battle against coronavirus,” Alinafe said.

– CAJ News

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