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The beauty of nature is not the only attraction that draws throngs of tourists to the picturesque KwaZulu-Natal town of Hluhluwe. Prostitution is big business here. In some instances, the tourists and truck drivers only have to buy a couple of beers to get to sleep with the young girls - known as amalulwane bats or amaphela cockroaches - because they only come out at night.
Twenty-year-old prostitute Ma-Vegie, who is involved in recruiting young girls and is one of the ringleaders, says boredom drove her into prostitution. I became lonely and decided to leave home and rent a room in town. I failed Grade 11 and life became boring for me," she said.
Ma-Vegie has been selling her body since She is not sure if she has contracted HIV but insists she will not go for testing. Local teachers, parents and non-government organisations are appalled and have called for intervention. The low-cost housing township was established in so that people from surrounding areas, who came to Hluhluwe to look for work, would have a place to live. Some of these girls are so young that they ought to be in the care of their parents.
Sibongile Ngubane, who runs Lethuthando Home-Based and Orphan Care Centre, said most of the girls who sold their bodies came from well-off families. These children need help. They need counselling," Ngubane said. Thandiwe Mazibuko, of Star For Life, a non-government organisation, said she had approached several schools with an offer to teach pupils about social ills.
The programme is aimed at inspiring pupils to strengthen their self-esteem and live an HIV-free life. Police spokesman Colonel Vincent Mdunge said that the problem had not been brought to police's attention but they would investigate it. For as little as R20, young girls sell their bodies to tourists and sex-starved truck drivers.