The Sunday Mail
When God rained fire on Sodom and Gomorrah, the twin sin cities of biblical times did not die. They simply waited some 5 000 years to relocate to downtown Harare.
A grid formed by Jason Moyo Avenue, Mbuya Nehanda Street, Nelson Mandela Avenue and Luck Street in the downtown section of the capital are our very own Sin City.
As dusk falls, prostitutes, pickpockets and thieves fill the streets, mingling with drunks, drug peddlers and the homeless.
Skimpily dressed ladies of the night are common sights, while the furtive glances of pickpockets assess potential marks for cellphones and cash.
Last week, The Sunday Mail Society spent time in downtown Harare and witnessed how this section of the city has been turned into an open sewer of vice and crime.
Our first port of call was the intersection of Nelson Mandela Avenue and Mbuya Nehanda streets.
This area has been turned into a red light district, with prostitutes lining the streets.
In full view of the world, the women entice clients and lead their catches into alleys and disused buildings for “quickies”.
The area also has a very high concentration of liquor outlets and nightclubs that sell cheap booze.
Two nightclubs stand side by side, and more than five liquor stores ensure those who are thirsty are spoilt for choice.
From the streets, we paid our way into one of the more popular nightclubs in downtown Harare.
The nightclub, which is on the first floor of a building that is becoming more decrepit by the day, was dimly-lit and filled to the brim.
Young women, the majority of whom were dressed in outfits that left very little to imagination, stood against walls whilst others danced seductively.
Visibly drunk young men groped them and negotiated sex.
At the far end of the dance floor is a door clearly marked “Staff Only”. It is through this door that the commercial sex workers and their clients disappeared through for their sessions.
We established that behind the “Staff Only” door are rooms that the establishment lets out to those who want to use them.
From Mbuya Nehanda Street, our next port of call was an alley in Julius Nyerere Way, a stone’s throw from Town House.
Here street urchins rule the roost and have marked this territory as their own.
At night, this homeless community comes out in full force as they engage themselves in whatever activity they see fit. Street kids openly abuse drugs, engage in illegal gambling and other petty crimes.
At the slightest provocation, whether real or imagined, they unleash volleys of obscenities — or even violence — on anyone.
A part of the alley has been transformed into a toilet, and the permanent stench of human waste engulfs the area.
Although the dilapidated houses that were once an eyesore in the Kopje area of Luck Street have since been demolished and new buildings erected in their place, drug peddlers are still operating in the area.
These guys mostly specialise in marijuana from the pavement, while others sell cough mixtures that are a cheap — and dangerous — high for an increasing number of people, old and young alike.
Apart from prostitution, drug abuse and robberies, downtown Harare is, during the night, a lawless section of the city where some drivers even have the guts to drive against on-coming traffic.