Beauty and the bucks

Swazi law does not allow prostitution. ‘Why not?” asks Serina, one of many sex workers clamouring for legally demarcated red-light districts during the 2010 World Cup.

The world’s oldest profession isn’t going away any time soon, she says, and the law is anyway impossible to implement.
She mentions the only Manzini hotel that displays a notice prohibiting loitering by stock-on-the-shelf girls who prowl for lusty men.

Serina and her colleagues still frequent the hotel’s popular bar, she says, so why did the establishment bother erecting the notice?

As we speak, she becomes elusive when I probe her about her life. I assure her I harbour no intention of taking a wild and intimate stroll in her ‘garden of Eden” and she starts singing like a   canary when I buy a round of her favourite drink.

The 35-year-old sex worker is originally from Mozambique.She says her operational base is at Ezulwini, a serene Mbabane suburb abutting Lobamba, the kingdom’s royal village.

Ezulwini, which translates as ‘haven”, is popular for its highclass resorts. It’s the valley that has served as a base for the Southern African Development Community’s Troika on Peace and Security as it tried to put Robert Mugabe’s house in order and which ousted Madagascar leader Marc Ravalomanana recently decided was his perfect abode.

Not far away from the R25 000- a-night Sultan Suite at Royal Villas where the deposed president lived is the Why Not nightclub, currently closed for an uplift, which Serina says was the perfect spot to catch her prey.

She relates how she first came to Swaziland at the age of 17 when she was lured by her friends who were selling sex and told her that Swaziland was a ‘haven” for the trade.

Sandwiched between Mozambique and South Africa, Swaziland is a conduit for human trafficking. Vulnerable young girls—often Mozambicans trapped by poverty—are lured by pimps promising a better life and find themselves turned into money-spinning machines for brothels.

But Serina says she avoided that fate and is ‘self-employed”. Her client base comprises moneyed foreigners who book in at the posh hotels of ‘haven valley” and hers is the kind of man who wants to bury himself in her warmth for R100.

They want a home from home; she wants ‘more bucks”. As we talk, it becomes clear that Serina’s life is a mundane and mono-tonous cycle of binge drinking, an occasional spliff, a quickie and then sleep.

Every day repeats the cycle. So why endure such a strenuous life? Life back home in Mozambique is no bed of roses, she says.

People live in abject poverty and even if she hadn’t been influenced by friends to take up prostitution she would probably have ended up doing the same thing anyway.

Swaziland’s HIV/Aids prevalence rate is 42%, so I ask her about the risks of infection. She says she’s well aware of the pandemic and never sets out on business without a supply of condoms. She has had several run-ins with the law.

But she shares the spirit of some ladies of the night who were recently arrested by cops posing as potential clients: they told the court they have no intention of abandoning their nocturnal shenanigans. ‘If the 2010 World Cup is going to attract more men than we are used to here, then bring it on,” she declares.

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