‘Get us out of this vicious cycle’

2016-12-07 06:01
Some of the young women who survive by selling sex along the R702 road which borders the Caleb Motshabi settlement. Photos: Mlungisi Louw

Some of the young women who survive by selling sex along the R702 road which borders the Caleb Motshabi settlement. Photos: Mlungisi Louw

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Made up with bright pink lipstick, scantily-clad women line up along the R702 which borders the open veld and the Caleb Motshabi settlement on the south-eastern outskirts of Bloemfontein.

The busy road connects traffic to the N6, N1 and also via Church Street to the central business district of the City of Roses.

Standing in the shade under trees scattered along the road, several young women woo potential customers – including motorists seeking brief sexual encounters.

They all wear short dresses or mini-skirts to attract potential clients criss-crossing the R702 heading to various destinations.

“I need a job, not food parcels,” says Maditaba Kolonkoane (24).

Born in the small town of Dewestdorp, 68 km south-east of Bloemfontein, Kolon­koane is one of the many young prostitutes selling sex for survival.

Agitated by journalists writing stories about the increasing number of child prostitutes in the informal settlement, Kolonkoane says they just want jobs to provide for their families.

Littered with shanties, residents of the squatter settlement of Caleb Motshabi make do with minimal service delivery while they wait for water and electrical infrastructure.

As Christmas approaches, Kolonkoane, the first-born of six siblings, says she sends most of her earnings from the sex trade to her mother in Dewestdorp to provide for those with her.

Kolonkoane admits that her 44-year-old mother does not know she sells sex for a living.

She says the death of her father in 2010 and poverty led her to Bloemfontein in 2011.

“Life is survival of the fittest. Stop judging us and help us get out of this vicious cycle.”

On a busy day, close to a hundred prostitutes of different ages cluster in various spots on the road selling various sexual services from as little as R5 to R30.

Flanked by pimps who make as much as R20 per prostitute per day for protection, the women say their work of selling is a risky business.

Recently, the United Nations warned that while more people than ever are accessing anti-retroviral treatment for HIV, young women between the ages of 15 and 24, transitioning into womanhood, face HIV-related challenges – particularly in sub-Saharan Africa. The body has strongly called for a life-cycle approach to finding solutions for everyone.

During the interview, a hazy Mahlabi Ntsie (26) reeks of alcohol as she sways her petite body in a short figure-hugging dress alongside the road. Waving and occasionally calling at motorists passing by, the hopelessness in Ntsie’s eyes reflects the harsh reality life has served her.

“I do not want to talk about it. It is a painful existence,” Ntsie says walking towards a possible customer.

Her clean-shaven head glimmers with sweat under the sun as she negotiates a “good price” with a mini-truck driver.

Like Kolonkoane, Ntsie says joblessness and poverty lead her to make a living selling sex.

“We just want jobs for Christmas. We have nothing.”

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