Some lodges and rest houses in Mangochi are permanently housing sex workers as they ply their trade in the district.
We have learnt that there are 148 ‘hot places’ where sex workers are mostly found and 66 rest houses and lodges that are in this trade.
A visit to one of the places established that the women live in a boarding school-like set up. They have a common bathroom and toilet but each has their own room.
Electricity is only switched on in the evening. We also observed that sanitation is compromised as the place did not look tidy.
In their rooms, they have their belongings including cooking stoves, kitchen utensils and food stuffs among others.
One of the sex workers-whom we identified as Rose-said at the rest house she lives in there are eleven other sex workers who are also renting on long term basis.
“Some clients find us here while others prefer to access our services from elsewhere. Most of us prefer to do it elsewhere for security purposes. Those that come for us here don’t live within but just come here to work for a few days,” said Rose, who has been living in the lodge for two years now.
She disclosed that because she has lived in the lodge for long, she pays K10, 000 a month for the room.
“I know of five other rest houses and lodges (names withheld) in Mangochi that are housing sex workers. This has been the trend and the owners don’t even bother to know what we do for a living, so long as we honour our payments,” she said.
Owner of Cool of the Evening Rest House, Moffat Ntekeza, confirmed that he has been renting out rooms to sex workers and other business people, saying he is no longer in the business.
“Ministry of Tourism closed part of this rest house because it was in a dilapidated state two years ago. We were out of business so we just wanted to earn some money,” he explained.
Ntekeza claimed that there are no people renting his rooms anymore as he is now maintaining the rooms as recommended by the ministry to re-open soon.
Secretary for Tourism and Culture, Elsie Tembo, said accommodating people, be it sex workers, business people or others for a long time is not acceptable because the lodges or rest houses get a hospitality unit licence.
“This is unacceptable because it’s contrary to the licences that we give them…. it is difficult for the ministry to know of such practices unless we receive tips from the public,” she said.
Mangochi has a population of 1026 sex workers according to information sourced from Pakachere Institute of Health and Development Communication.
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