South Africa: The Girls Knew – If You Went With Him, You May Not Return

Lerato stood with the other women late on Sunday night at the panel beating shop. It was where the bodies of six of her sex worker colleagues were found, their hands and feet bound, their bodies decomposing.

She knew that might have been her fate.

Lerato said she is one of the victims who was dragged and raped, her money and phone stolen by the man now in police custody.

She said although she went through torture, humiliation, and pain at the hands of this man, she is happy that she is alive.

Sex workers told Scrolla.Africa that the man, aged 21, is well known. If one of them was seen going out with him, it became an unspoken celebration if they saw the woman return.

They claimed most sex workers who had been seen with him had not returned. They didn’t know whether the women had given up working as prostitutes or were killed and dumped where they couldn’t be found.

Lerato was one of the lucky ones because she survived.

“He came and picked me up at a spot where I work from. I still remember the car he was driving, its registration number, and the colour of it.

“He took me to the same place where our friends died. He slept with me without condoms. He then threatened to shoot me if I ever asked him for money after offering him my services.

“He took my phone, my R250 that I worked for with other clients before he came and left me trembling after he showed me a gun.”

When he was finished with her, he dumped her around Faraday, an area where the six bodies were discovered.

Lerato said it was not her will or intention to become a sex worker. “I came to Johannesburg from Klerksdorp in North West for greener pastures. It was tough and I couldn’t find a job anywhere in the City of Gold.

“I couldn’t even find the money for rent. In 2017, I joined the streets and became one of the magoshas (sex workers).

“At first, I found it hard sleeping with more than one man a day. But with time, I got used to it.

“I also started smoking cigarettes and drinking alcohol with my new friends in the industry.”

She said it was a stroke of luck when she found the love of her life during a session with one of the clients. “He came as a client, but then we became an item and we loved each other.”

She said she stays with her man full time and he knows and supports what she does on the streets every night. They have three children together and their love life is just beautiful.

Lerato raised concerns about how sex workers get harassed. “We get raped, beaten up, and even threatened to be killed by some clients who don’t want to pay.

“When we go to the police station, we are told to go to a special Esselen Street Clinic in Hillbrow where we open such cases. They are the ones who take our cases to the police. But we don’t get any feedback after reporting many of our cases,” she said.

Gauteng provincial police spokesperson Brigadier Brenda Muridili confirmed that the suspect will be charged with six counts of murder and the Provincial Murder and Robbery Unit is investigating.

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