It may be hard to believe, but it is true. In Mchinji, young boys have sexual relations with older women at an open place called Mchenga wa Satana (devil’s sand). The place, located at the heart of Kapiri Trading Centre in Traditional Authority Dambe in the district, is named after the acts that take place there.
Walking into Mchenga wa Satana, one notices that the place has a lot of sand and some green cover, but one thing that stands out is the empty packets of condoms littered around the area, evidence of what takes place at the spot also referred to as an open rest house.
According to Flossy Simango, a teacher at Mthema Primary School and also a coordinator of Invani CBO in the area, Mchenga wa Satana also serves as an initiation site where children are taught sexual moves when they become of age.
“It is just a few metres away from the school I teach. I have noticed that some of my pupils frequent this place and after break time, half of the class is gone for the day,” says Simango.
She says she was amazed one day when she overheard some of her pupils describing in graphic terms some of the sexual issues they learnt at Mchenga wa Satana.
“We are yet to establish if there is someone who teaches them these,” Simango says.
The teacher further says Mchenga wa Satana has now become a hideaway for men and women who sneak there with extramarital partners or commercial sex workers as they avoid being noticed or paying for rooms in rest houses.
But such couples are not always lucky, as sometimes they get caught by the youngsters who loiter around the place.
“There was one incident when a man was caught pants down with a married woman by about seven teenage boys. The man managed to run away, but the woman could not. The boys asked her to pay K1 000 [$2.50] to each of them and when the woman failed to produce the money, they took turns to sleep with her,” she says.
Simango says the woman could not report the case because it would have opened a can of worms as she had been with another woman’s husband.
Youths at Kapiri testify to the excursions that take place at Mchenga wa Satana.
Abdul Kachepa of Imvani Youth Club in the area told Malawi News Agency that the busiest day is Thursday, a market day at Kapiri.
He said when people are not lucky they get caught by young men who ask money from them, failure which, the young men rape the women.
“If the man or woman doesn’t want their women to be raped by the young men, they pay whatever amount is demanded,” Kachepa said.
He said the situation is sad because it is putting lives of youths at risk, particularly those who rape women who fail to pay up after being caught.
He said his group is working on mobilising some youths to take the issue to traditional leaders and the social welfare office for action.
Kapiri Zone social worker from the Ministry of Gender, Children and Social Welfare Gift Chirwa said it is sad to learn that people are behaving that way.
“Mchenga wa Satana can be likened to the biblical story of Sodom and Gomorrah. The most disturbing thing is that children are taught about sex at an early age, which is bad because it contributes to early pregnancies,” Chirwa said.
He said his office is talking with chiefs in the area to raise awareness on the disadvantages of this practice.
Mchinji district social welfare officer Rodwell Chunga said it is sad that such things are happening in the district, saying his ministry will tackle the issue.
“I think we need to get into dialogue with chiefs in the area, establish why this is happening and how people can make good use of the place. It is a nice place which can be put to better use. Perhaps the traditional leaders should put some by-laws so that culprits are given stiff punishment. That way, we can protect our children and women from violation,” Chunga said.
He said what is happening at the place is not just exposing people to HIV and Aids but it is also a violation of human rights.