Truck­ers pro­vide a ready mar­ket

The prod­ucts them­selves could be dan­ger­ous and are likely to en­cour­age high-risk sex­ual be­hav­iour

Mail & Guardian - - Health - Tawanda Karombo & Adri Kotze

As of­fice work­ers scurry home in the lin­ger­ing light just after sun­set in Harare, street ven­dors raise their sales pitches to prospective cus­tomers.

I n n o c e n t Mu t o p o d i s p l a y s his wares on the busy Leopold Takawira Street in the cen­tral busi­ness district of Zim­babwe’s cap­i­tal. Pick­ings are rich tonight: his cus­tomers are queu­ing up and Mu­topo’s mer­chan­dise — plas­tic pack­ets the size of tea bags — are quickly chang­ing hands.

“I have sex en­hancers and STI [sex­u­ally trans­mit­ted in­fec­tion] treat­ments to­day,” he tells a mid­dle-aged man, wav­ing at a batch of sacks, which he claims will cure STIs, “but I have run out of Congo Dust.”

The out-of-stock herbal sex en­hancer is his most pop­u­lar prod­uct, Mu­topo says, while he is busy sell­ing the man a con­tainer al­legedly con­tain­ing ba­boon urine. This is also a sex­ual en­hancer, which he gets from the neigh­bour­ing prov­ince of Mashona­land East, he says.

The ba­boon urine costs the cus­tomer a $1 bond coin (equiv­a­lent to one United States dol­lar, ac­cord­ing to the gov­ern­ment) but Mu­topo charges $2 for Congo Dust.

When his cus­tomer is out of sight, the ven­dor fishes a small bag out of his trouser pocket. He is keep­ing it for a reg­u­lar buyer.

“AN IN­CRED­I­BLE MAN LOADER BAZOOKA SU­PER ERECTOR THAT CAN DRIVE YOU UP TO SIX ROUNDS” it boldly pro­claims on the piece of white pa­per stuffed into the small plas­tic bag of brown­ish pow­der. “All will be quiet but when ac­tion comes, ooh! You will see”, the pack­ag­ing prom­ises.

Mix just a pinch or two of the brown­ish pow­der with wa­ter and ap­ply it gen­er­ously to the pe­nis be­tween one and three hours be­fore in­ter­course, Mu­topo ex­plains, and an erec­tion will last for up to an hour. One sa­chet con­tains enough pow­der for two or three ap­pli­ca­tions.

“Our sex en­hancers give you more sperm power,” he boasts.

He does not know what his top seller re­ally con­tains, though, say­ing they are “tra­di­tional African herbs”. His sup­pli­ers are long-dis­tance truck driv­ers who bring the mix, and other sex en­hancers, from the Demo­cratic Repub­lic of the Congo and Zam­bia.

Congo Dust, like all un­reg­is­tered sex-per­for­mance en­hancers, is il­le­gal in Zim­babwe. Shin­gai Gwatidzo, the projects of­fi­cer of the Medicines Con­trol Author­ity of Zim­babwe, says there has been a surge in street vend­ing and back­pack deal­ing of un­reg­is­tered medicines in cen­tral Harare.

“We don’t know how safe the ma­jor­ity of the sex­ual per­for­mance en­hancers are or the qual­ity and ef­fi­cacy of the prod­ucts,” Gwatidzo says, and the ac­tive in­gre­di­ents in Congo Dust have not been an­a­lysed in a qual­ity-con­trolled lab­o­ra­tory.

But “based on anec­do­tal reports”, they may con­tain com­ple­men­tary, herbal and ayurvedic in­gre­di­ents and some are laced with con­ven­tional medicines.

The chance that th­ese prod­ucts may lead to se­vere al­ler­gic re­ac­tions or even death is a major con­ern. So too is the chance that they may fuel sex­ual be­hav­iours such as mul­ti­ple part­ners and un­safe sex that could put users at an in­creased risk of HIV in­fec­tion, Gwatidzo says.

One of Mu­topo’s regulars, a 35-yearold mar­ried man with two young chil­dren, who only gives his name as Moses, de­scribes his liv­ing ar­range­ments as “com­pli­cated”. He lives with his wife but “hosts” his girl­friend at a lodge for one night dur­ing the week as well as over week­ends.

“That makes me tired at home when it comes to sex. If I use Congo Dust, I man­age to bal­ance my du­ties,” he says.

But an un­sus­pect­ing user may find him­self with a pro­longed pe­nis erec­tion of up to three hours, Evans Ma­sitara, a mem­ber of Doc­tors for Hu­man Rights in Zim­babwe, cau­tions. And, as un­pleas­ant and ex­tremely painful as this side ef­fect may be, Ma­sitara’s real worry is the link be­tween hav­ing mul­ti­ple sex­ual part­ners and the use of aphro­disiac sub­stances.

“Peo­ple will look for en­durance with multi-part­ners,” he says.

At the Five Av­enues Shop­ping Cen­tre, near the red light district known as “Av­enues”, Tapiwa Mashamba also sells Congo Dust and an ar­ray of other sex-en­hance­ment tablets.

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