DONNING on a threadbare, once white now variegated shirt and with a digging rod balancing on his shoulders, an illegal gold panner in Mashava gets his pick-up line to a bevy of beautiful students at the Great Zimbabwe University (GZU)’s Mashava campus.
“I can spoil you, I made a killing today in the shaft. How much is your lunch?” he tells the smartly dressed young women.
The young women look at the filthy, dirty middle aged man with evident reservations and snub him while they continue with their discussion.
But the unfazed mukorokoza deeps his hand into one of his pockets and pulls out a ward of $100 notes and insists on spoiling the young women with whatever they needed. And his bait seems to work — he has attracted the attention of the first year students, mostly from poor backgrounds — after a false start.
“But where do you get the money from when you are so dirty?” one of the students asked.
Quickly, he tells them that he is just coming from a disused mine and shows them a sparkling gold piece, before making a date later in the day after he sells the bullion and gets a bath and new clothes.
Eventually, they exchange mobile phone numbers to facilitate contact for their date later, and the rest is history.
Such is the life that thousands of struggling Great Zimbabwe University female students have been subjected to, as they struggle to make ends meet, paying for tuition, accommodation and food, which their parents — most of them either civil servants and not formally unemployed — cannot afford.
The desperate students, most of them from very poor backgrounds, are failing to resist huge and vast amounts of money the gold panners dangle at them.
The panners, many of them primary and secondary school dropouts, have turned the campus and surrounding areas into love nests with students.
Hostels for the students that have no security fence or durawall have become a haven of sexual activities for female students and the gold panners whose pockets are always full of liquid cash on a daily basis.
“Our fellow female students have fallen prey to the makorokoza who bring their dirt into the hostels and a lot of cash,” a student who only identified himself as Ediza said.
“They are enjoying intimate relationships because they shower the girls with lots of money and the girls seem unable to resist.”
The gold panners take the girls to various places of entertainment during the night in the nearby Masvingo city and Zvishavane town where they book them into lavish hotels and lodges for the weekend outing.
The panners are also said to be popular with a group of some notorious female students from Namibia who are learning at the institution.
“Most of us have never had the chance to fall in love with the beautiful educated girls from the universities, thanks to GZU for bringing them to us here in Mashava,” Bla Puro, a gold panner from Dissso compound in the mining town, said.
“The girls no longer mind that we are always dirty because we will be in the gold shaft. They know that we got money and we can take care of them. The Namibians are so fast and easy to get because they are far away from home, so they need instant cash.”
Some of the female students who talked to Radio VOP on condition they were not named said they needed money for their upkeep, so they are forced to have affairs with the gold panners who are never short of cash.
The NAC provincial Aids co-ordinator’s office revealed that STI cases in Masvingo rose by over 1 000 in the second quarter of the year that recorded 10 110 cases from 9 549 in the first quarter.
GZU’s vice-chancellor Rungano Zvobgo told local journalists recently that the university was carrying out extensive education programmes to increase awareness of the dangers of unprotected sex and encourage abstinence by students.
– Radio VOP