Prostitutes hope World Cup will help them off the streets

2010-01-06 14:24

Rustenburg prostitute Tshepiso Khoza* is hoping to get off the

streets with the money she makes from the Soccer World Cup later this

year.

“I am looking at pounds and dollars. I want to quit after the World

Cup,” said the 23-year-old, who plies her trade on Heystek Street – Rustenburg’s

red-light district.

The 15 women who work on the street are united in their hope that

2010 will bring them gold. Before the final draw last year all eagerly waited to

hear which teams would be playing in Rustenburg, so they could charge those fans

their home currency and exchange it on the black market.

It is still unclear if sex work will be decriminalised during the

tournament, but the women were in no doubt “tricks” would continue.

Khoza, like most of her friends, turned to the street to “earn a

living” and support her six-year-old brother.

“This has been my job for six years. It is my first job. I dropped

out of school after the death of my parents to take care of my brother.”

Without work experience or a high school education, she went job

hunting, to no avail.

“A friend told me about a job where experience and education were

not a prerequisite. I was shocked at first but learned to live with it.”

On her first night she took home R350. The money increased as she

learned to negotiate with her clients.

“The lowest charge is R50. You must negotiate with a client for a

better amount. We see rich people here. There is no point getting laid for R50

while he drives the latest car in the market.”

Khoza and the other women warm themselves around a fire at night

while waiting for clients. The dimly-lit street is littered with empty bottles

of beer and alcohol.

Each tries to help the other as much as possible, but once a client

arrives and they get into a car, they are on their own.

The women arrive for work around 6pm and some, if business is not

good, only leave around 6am the next morning.

The street is demarcated into blocks, one each for Xhosas, Sothos,

Indians and whites.

“You must inform the other ladies when you hop into their territory

or else they will take your money,” Khoza said.

In her career on street corners, she has seen how prostitutes have

been assaulted and robbed, arrested and raped in prison.

“The police are also harassing us. It’s either they want a quickie

or you are arrested and forced to pay a spot fine.”

According to Khoza, while street prostitution is more dangerous

than being in a brothel, the perks outweigh the dangers.

“It is risky but you have the benefit of working your own hours and

the money is all yours. In a brothel it is safe but you take less home.”

She once plied her trade at a brothel and was fined a percentage of

her takings if she arrived late for work or did not agree with a client on the

service he wanted.

“I quit and came to the street.”

KB*, 19, who has been on the streets for two years, works on the

same strip as Khoza. The lure of the money and the encouragement of her friends

made her decide to become a prostitute.

Her parents, from Bapong near Brits, think KB is studying at the

University of South Africa.

“The money they send [for studies] becomes needy when business is

down.”

Asked what she intends to tell her parents when she finally returns

home, she said they are uneducated and she will make up “a career”.

“I hope before they find out they will be dead,” she said slurring,

the smell of alcohol on her breath.

Many of the prostitutes, speaking as expensive cars slowly drove

by, their drivers clearly looking for women, said they took drugs and alcohol to

numb themselves.

The majority of them were not ashamed of their work, perhaps

inspired by Martin Luther King Junior when he said: “When you sweep the street,

sweep it like nobody else will do it.”

* Not their real names

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