Salima is a warm and refreshing town in the Central Region of the country.
With a population of a quarter of a million and growing, the coastal resort town is an important centre of tourism.
The lakeshore district has also a lot to offer; the sandy beaches, tasty fishes, stunning lake view and, of course, the sun. Every weekend, travellers flock here for an essential lake retreat.
At night, the town comes alive. The many night clubs that dot the Kamuzu Road open doors to a new life of adventure. The bars switch on their ambient lights, and music becomes deafeningly loud. The women who sell sex at night slowly fill the bars to entertain both travelers and fishermen.
Kamuzu Road or KR is the heart of the town. Over 15 licensed drinking joints are situated along the road. Cheap and affordable accommodation options ranging from hotels, motels, lodges to backpackers are also along the road.
The most popular bar and night club on the road is the Culture Club. The night club is a sensation when it comes to meeting new friends of a rather modestly high class. It is also a place to be to watch soccer matches such as the English Premier League and football fiestas such as the just-ended 2018 Fifa World Cup and Euefa Champions League.
“This is the hive of entertainment in the district every night of the week,” a road side snack businessman Hassan Billy tells me.
Road side snacks
Billy is one of the many road snack providers plying their trade outside the bar. The young men, most of them in their 20s spend the entire night outside the bar serving travellers and imbibers roast beef, pork, sausages, chicken and grilled banana’s.
“Business is good at night because Culture Club is open 24/7. This means we can sell snacks the whole night,” he explains. It’s almost 10 pm when Billy nudges me to hang around.
“Wait, fun has not yet started,” he says with a sly smile before offering me some of his roasted meat and bananas. “You can dip the snack in the chilly sauce,” he says pointing at a small plate filled with red chili sauce on his braii stand.
The imbibers walk in and out of Culture Club in droves to get a bite. Most of them love braii chicken and quells (zinziri).
“Unlike other places where a chicken drips with blood, here it is well braiied,” purrs one customer, who explains that he has been attending a workshop in Senga Bay that week.
“When I am in Salima, I always come to Culture Club to relax and enjoy the meat, beat and butt,” he says, sending us into stitches of laughter.
DJ Renald dazzles
Inside the club, imbibers of all ages are seeping on drinks and having a conversation. The dance floor is also packed by those who love to dance.
On the decks, a popular disc jockey in Salima (DJ) Renald looks absorbed in the song he is playing. His list of hits include Diamond Platinumz featuring Harmonize, Jah Prayzah, Phwanya Phwanya Boys, Busy Signal, Davido, Sonye and Skeffa Chimoto.
Culture Club owner, Foster Nyirongo says the club invested millions of kwachas in state-of-the art music equipment to offer club-goers high quality sound.
“My clubs are pacesetters in entertainment because we offer the best quality environment. And good music can make people relax,” he says.
Nyirongo explains that the environment he is talking about is the state-of-the-art air conditioned dugout discotheque with 4 000 watts disco equipment, sound proofed LED dance floor, multifunctional DJ turntables, and LED warm lighting system that includes a warm-lit bar.
“We also have a comfy and air conditioned VIP lounge upstairs, fully furnished with couches for those who enjoy privacy and to conduct businesses while enjoying drinks of their liking. For those who love games, there is a beautiful pool table, dart board, and high definition TV with full premium DSTV.
“Our series of clubs in Lilongwe, Mzuzu and Kasungu is a lifestyle brand that focuses on growing, and diversifies in the entertainment, arts, beauty and fashion, among other sectors,” he explains, as we sip a cold beer.
The allure of the club, the high patronage of travellers, conference tourists and sight-seers makes Culture Club and its surrounding area a haven for sex workers.
By midnight, Kamuzu Road is teeming with women of all ages, types and shapes ‘dressed to kill’.
“All these women sell sex for a living,” a man who only identifies himself as Richard tells me.
“Sex workers charge between K1 000 for short sex session called short time to K5 000 for a night of passion. Most of them carry condoms,” he tips.
While many of the girls are not willing to talk about the business apart from demanding that we go and have sex, Natasha opens up.
Aged 18 or thereabout, Natasha—that’s her business name, she says—sleeps with not less than 12 men on a busy night. She joined sex work in May last year.
“I had never slept with a man before I got into this business. But in two months, I had slept with more men than would I have imagined in my entire life,” she says.
Natasha’s figure attracts men. She is plumb, tall, well-built at the hip and has well-rounded face with dimpled cheeks.
When we spoke in English, she smiled a lot exposing a gap between her teeth.
“Actually, I decided much earlier in life that I will not sleep with any man until I married but I was forced by someone in my family to start sex work,” she explains with a choke in her throat.
The girl comes from a location within, which is one of the poorest neighborhoods in Salima called Kwa Mfuti, an area with one of the highest prevalent HIV and Aids rates in the district. Natasha confesses that she fears contracting the virus as she has seen many people suffer and die of the disease.
But her family needs her help.
As cocks start crowing to welcome another new day, some imbibers are exiting the club.
Outside the club, the atmosphere is warm and the streets are super busy as bicycle taxi operators drop and ferry people to various destinations.
As I bid goodbye to Billy, the bicycle taxi operators, known as kabaza, who are stationed outside the club swarm around me. They are always ready to transport both sex workers and their clients to any guest house.