Police have busted an alleged organised syndicate involving women who have been employing underaged girls to work as prostitutes at a bottle store in Blantyre’s Ndirande Township.
This was revealed last Sunday after one of the girls, aged 12, escaped from the bottle store and reported the matter to her parents in Zomba.
Police have identified the main perpetrator has been identified as 38-year-old Veronica Bulla from Mpondasi Village, Traditional Authority (T/A) Mponda in Mangochi. She was operating a bottle store around Ndirande Makata area.
According to police, the suspect had allegedly been using her Zomba-based accomplice to recruit young girls to work as bartenders as well as prostitutes at her bottle store.
Blantyre Police Station spokesperson Elizabeth Divala, in an interview yesterday, said the suspect had been charged with three counts of abduction, child trafficking and child labour contrary to sections 78 (1) (2) a, b, c and 79 (1) (2) of Childcare, Protection and Justice Act Number 22 of 2010 and Section 21 (1) of Employment Act number 6 of 2000 respectively.
Divala said the girl alongside her 13-year-old friend went missing from their homes in May 2014 after Bulla’s partner, based in Zomba, tricked them that she had found jobs for them in Blantyre to work as housemaids.
The girls were in Standard Four and Six respectively and met their fate as they returned from school.
Yesterday, the girls’ mothers travelled from Zomba to Blantyre Police Station where they reported the matter and police went to Ndirande where they found the other girl.
“We immediately arrested the woman and also took the other girl to our offices,” said Divala.
One of the girls’ mothers (name withheld) said after her child went missing from home on May 10 this year, she had been receiving conflicting reports about her whereabouts.
Based on the reports she was getting, she started looking for her daughter on her own and had been to several places.
“I visited several bottle stores at Chigwirizano in Lilongwe and others in Ntcheu, Neno, Mangochi and just last Saturday I was in Mwanza where some people tipped me that they had seen her at Mwanza Border,” explained the heartbroken mother.
Narrating their ordeal to The Nation at Blantyre Police Station yesterday, the girls revealed that they underwent ghastly experience, but could not escape because they had no money and were closely watched over.
The appalling conditions being experience forced the 12-year-old to venture into needy-stealing from intoxicated clients so that she could raise transport money for her way back home.
“There was no opportunity to flee the place because we were strictly monitored by the owner. But I got so tired that I had no choice, but to start tricking clients whenever they gave me cash to buy beers and eventually I raised K6 000, which I used for transport to go back home in Zomba,” explained the visibly traumatised little girl.
According to the girls, on average, they used to make about K2 000 a night [sleeping with strange men] and the whole money was being surrendered to the owner of the bottle store whom they used to call asisi [sister]. They said they were getting K1 000 or K2 000 as wages.
Our visit to the bottle store at Makata in Ndirande late afternoon yesterday revealed a business-as-usual atmosphere and found some three young girls in the age range of 15 to 23 freely mingling with imbibers.
Child protection officer for Blantyre Police Emmanuel Kalungu said a great deal of child trafficking and exploitation was taking place in Blantyre, particularly in townships of Mbayani, Ndirande, Manase and Chirimba.
Blantyre district social welfare officer Trophina Limbani said they would work with their counterparts in Zomba to ensure that the young girls who are traumatised and emotionally affected are provided with psychosocial support.