MEC opens door to prostitutes

Canaan Mdletshe

Canaan Mdletshe

The MEC for social development in KwaZulu-Natal, Meshack Hadebe, has opened his door to prostitutes.

Hadebe said this after his unprecedented meeting at the weekend with about 3000 ladies of the night and street children to discuss their future.

Speaking to Sowetan after the meeting in Pietermaritzburg, Hadebe said he was impressed with the turnout and the positive response.

Hadebe said as government they want to help them restore their dignity and start living a prosperous life.

"We encouraged them to start their own businesses and we will fund them.

"I was impressed to learn that some have already started their salons and all we are saying is they must come to my office and tell me what they want to do with their lives.

"It's as simple as that.

"We will also be training those that don't have any particular skills, because we want to see them living a better life.

"It's a very heavy exercise for one to sleep with different men for money.

"There are conditions that drive them to the streets and we are fighting those conditions.

"We are saying 'we know you don't like what you are doing, so come to us and we will help you off the street corners'.

"They must come up with programmes and we will help to fund them.

"What I witnessed there changed my mindset. I had this particular idea of people wanting to sell their bodies for money, but after meeting them I realised I was wrong.

"Those people are there because of different reasons.

"Some were sexually abused, exploited, assaulted and they had to run away. I cannot imagine a person running away from a comfortable home to dirty and cold streets," he said.

Hadebe said there is a further R24million for poverty relief. Part of the money would be used to assist prostitutes in the province.

"We will be intensifying the programme in all cities that have prostitutes and street children because we don't want them there.

"We would want to see them somewhere else in the next 10 years," he said.

On the issue of street children, Hadebe said they would be reuniting them with their families.

Those that don't have families would be kept in safe centres where they would be offered skills and others would be sent to school.

"We are not cleaning them for 2010. There's life after the World Cup and all we are doing is to give them an opportunity to live better," he said.

Sex Worker Education and Advocacy Taskforce director, Eric Harper, said they supported the intervention, especially if it is going to provide prostitutes with skills.