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Three words sum up the murky world of prostitution in Emalahleni : brazen, bold and booming. And it seems Mpumalanga police are unable to tame the growing trade. Police officers have set their sights on dealing with prostitution in the Witbank area, alleging that it has created a web of other serious crimes. They've conducted raids and want to bring down the men and women who own houses from which brothels operate. According to police, murder, car theft, kidnapping, drug possession, mob justice, looting, arson and even child abandonment cases have been linked to the scores of brothels that operate in several suburbs in the city.
TimesLIVE and MultimediaLIVE spent time in Emalahleni , speaking to police, taxi drivers, victims and the women at the centre of the storm, all in an attempt to understand the dynamics of a situation playing out a minute drive east of Johannesburg.
When they stand on the road soliciting people to come and sleep with them, there are people in the bushes they are operating with. Apart from the male victims, police have found at least two bodies of unidentified women who were murdered in areas known for prostitution. Hlathi said both women had been strangled. The circumstances surrounding their deaths were unknown, but police believed they may have been involved in prostitution.
In October, just days after police raided a string of brothels, a man reported to the Witbank police station that he had been given a laced drink while at a local brothel. He said he blacked out and woke up elsewhere. His VW Polo was gone, as was his cash. This was the highest number recorded in at least the past nine years. In , 46 carjacking cases were recorded. In October, police embarked on an intense raid of suspected brothels in the area. Among the people taken in by police were dozens of undocumented foreigners.
They begged police to take them home, said Hlathi. Days after the raid, TimesLIVE visited the area to see whether police were any closer to quelling prostitution rings. There, we found a number of communes in the infamous French, Jellicoe, Plumer and Allenby streets.