Daily Life in Cash-Poor Zimbabwe

A cash shortage can force people to take desperate measures, but a nationwide cash shortage can change the way a country operates. This special report examines how Zimbabwe’s crisis-prone economy has changed daily life for people who live there.

1

Amid Job Scarcity, Zimbabwe’s Unlicensed Brick Molders Degrade the Land

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2

Male Sex Workers Struggle In Zimbabwe’s Shifting Economy

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3

Despite Rise in Hunger, Zimbabwe Continues Ban on Some Genetically Modified Products

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4

Illegal Residents of Zimbabwean Slum Faced With Two Bad Choices Amid Water Shortage

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5

In A Weak Economy, Traditional Healers In Zimbabwe Feel Boom and Bust

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6

Food Insecurity Forcing HIV Patients In Zimbabwe Off Lifesaving Medications

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7

Zimbabwe’s Import Limits Spark Criticism Among Both Consumers and Informal Vendors

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8

Unemployed Men in Zimbabwe Turn to Gambling to Earn Cash

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9

Despite Grave Health Risks, Zimbabwe City Lacks Funds to Fix Many Burst Sewage Pipes

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10

Invisible Children Beg, Sell on Zimbabwe’s Streets to Aid Families in Economic Turmoil

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11

Forced into Street Vending, Zimbabwe’s Professional Class Struggles to Survive

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12

Citizens React: Zimbabwe to Print $75M in Bond Notes in Response to Cash Shortages

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Daily Life in Cash-Poor Zimbabwe

1 Current
Amid Job Scarcity, Zimbabwe’s Unlicensed Brick Molders Degrade the Land
2 Current
Male Sex Workers Struggle In Zimbabwe’s Shifting Economy
3 Current
Despite Rise in Hunger, Zimbabwe Continues Ban on Some Genetically Modified Products
4 Current
Illegal Residents of Zimbabwean Slum Faced With Two Bad Choices Amid Water Shortage
5 Current
In A Weak Economy, Traditional Healers In Zimbabwe Feel Boom and Bust
6 Current
Food Insecurity Forcing HIV Patients In Zimbabwe Off Lifesaving Medications
7 Current
Zimbabwe’s Import Limits Spark Criticism Among Both Consumers and Informal Vendors
8 Current
Unemployed Men in Zimbabwe Turn to Gambling to Earn Cash
9 Current
Despite Grave Health Risks, Zimbabwe City Lacks Funds to Fix Many Burst Sewage Pipes
10 Current
Invisible Children Beg, Sell on Zimbabwe’s Streets to Aid Families in Economic Turmoil
11 Current
Forced into Street Vending, Zimbabwe’s Professional Class Struggles to Survive
12 Current
Citizens React: Zimbabwe to Print $75M in Bond Notes in Response to Cash Shortages
2

Male Sex Workers Struggle In Zimbabwe’s Shifting Economy

Amid Zimbabwe’s collapsed economy, the male sex worker industry is growing, even though sodomy and the solicitation of sex are illegal. The director of an LGBT advocacy group says more men are making themselves known to support organizations; these men have formed peer groups to provide legal services and other assistance.

Takunda Tsano, a 28-year-old sex worker, says men in the sex industry face special challenges. He’s leading an effort to form support groups for the men so they can discuss their problems and find legal help when necessary.

Gamuchirai Masiyiwa, GPJ Zimbabwe

HARARE, ZIMBABWE — Its 9:30 p.m. on Saturday. Loud music plays in a bar in the city center. People dance.

Nono, 21, texts on his phone. He sits on the right side of the bar, where LGBT people tend to gather. Nono is gay and has been a sex worker since he was 16 years old, and he asked that his full name not be used because his work is illegal. Zimbabwe’s economic crisis has pushed him to offer his services to women as well as men, he says.

“At times, you get a male willing to pay less and a female willing to pay more, so in the end [I] will choose to go with the person with more money,” he says. “I am a sex worker and I put my feelings aside.”

When he’s with women, he says, he thinks of things that help him “make it work.” Not every male sex worker can do that, he says. Most of his clients are referred to him from other men who don’t have the expertise to sell sex to women, he says.

Customers are strapped for cash, too, Nono says. Some pay by buying him groceries with their credit cards.

Zimbabwe’s economy has collapsed in recent years, with extreme poverty rising substantially, according to the World Bank. The economy is expected to grow by less than half a percent this year.

But as men like Nono try to earn money through the world’s oldest profession, they risk being prosecuted for sodomy, which his illegal here. It’s also illegal to solicit sex, but the combination of being both gay and a sex worker makes men in that profession especially vulnerable.

At times, you get a male willing to pay less and a female willing to pay more, so in the end [I] will choose to go with the person with more money. I am a sex worker and I put my feelings aside.

Chesterfield Samba, the director of GALZ, an LGBT advocacy organization, says more men began to acknowledge that they are sex workers about two years ago. The organization doesn’t have any data on the men who are engaged in sex work because it’s largely a new development, he says. It’s not clear why more men are coming forward, he says, but factors might include awareness of GALZ and increased poverty or a need for support.

“Male sex workers are not a visible community, and it’s challenging to make appropriate interventions for them,” Samba says. “But we continue to work with those that are visible in trying to understand the terrain in which they operate from.”

Takunda Tsano, 28, says he’s been a sex worker since he was 14 years old.

“When I was in school, a friend of mine who was already a sex worker said, ‘Why can’t we use men to our own advantage? Why don’t you sell sex to them, and before the end of the week you will have your own phone?’” Tsano recalls.

Tsano married when he was 23 because his family pressured him to, but his wife didn’t know that he is gay. She left him, he says, because he couldn’t get a job to help provide for his son.

“She was the only one who was working,” he says.

To earn money, he reentered the sex trade.

The male sex worker industry is growing, Tsano says, in part because there are so few jobs available.

Nono and Tsano both say male sex workers face serious challenges.

“It’s a cutthroat business that we are in,” Nono says. “Female sex workers complain that we steal their clients, but you fight for your space.”

Tsano says he’s leading an effort to help other male sex workers form peer support groups so they can look out for one another. The network will focus on providing legal services and other help for male sex workers, he says.

 

Gamuchirai Masiyiwa, GPJ, translated some interviews from Shona.

 

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