No Fear No Favour No Cops please..........
DOUGLAS ROGERS THURSDAY 14 DECEMBER 1995 (SOUTH AFRICA)
DOUGLAS ROGERS THURSDAY 14 DECEMBER 1995 (SOUTH AFRICA)
After decades of Calvinist and apartheid repression, the rainbow nation is experiencing a boom in pornography and prostitution. Douglas Rogers reports
In Hillbrow, a part of Johannesburg where most people fear to venture, a middle-aged white man in a suit and tie looks around at the women in the dimly lit hotel bar. He is immediately approached by a pretty young black girl who takes him by the hand, whispering: "Let's go" in his ear. He leaves his drink and follows her towards the stairs.
This is the Quirinale hotel, Johannesburg's biggest brothel. Ten floors of prostitutes, four bars with beer to drink, soft leather sofas to lounge in and beautiful black girls to sit on your arm and whisper prices in your ear. They've come from everywhere: Alice from Maputo, Patricia from Durban, Chomisa from Swaziland - all looking to get rich in "the Brow". The going rate is 50 rand - less than pounds 10 - and more and more white men are going there.
"It's like hunting," explains an Afrikaner police officer from the Johannesburg vice squad. "If you haven't shot an impala you must shoot one. Then you want to do it again and again." It's a tasteless analogy, but fair game. Cross-colour sexual transactions may always have happened in South Africa but they were never as simple as they are now. Under apartheid, when inter- racial sex was a crime, white men would drive to Bophuthatswana or Swaziland to watch pornographic films banned by their Calvinist state, read the girlie magazines they could be fined for having in their own homes, and have sex with black girls. Now they save on the petrol.
Like the new democracies of Eastern Europe, South Africa is undergoing a sexual revolution that would have been unimaginable a few years ago. "Johannesburg is becoming like Bangkok," says Dr Woolf Solomon, also known as Dr Paul, the country's leading sex psychologist. "People have been let out of a cage and they're wondering which lolly to lick."
The flavours are many. Next to the sweet counter in any corner shop you can buy porn magazines; few stores bother to consign them to the top shelf. The back pages of most quality newspapers feature photographs of topless models advertising strip shows, escort agencies and massage parlours. In rich white suburbs of Johannesburg, clubs and bars with names like Erotica, Oriental Palace and Yab Yam offer naked girls in Jacuzzis and "special delights" for rugby fans. Shops sell sex aids and X-rated videos that get puritans and churchmen all hot and flustered. "It's all part of the rainbow nation," says Jeff Zerbst, once an acclaimed journalist and religious philosopher and now associate editor of the South African edition of Hustler magazine. "White men are reading magazines like Asian Babes and Black and Blue and mixed race-sex is commonplace. People are discovering these once-forbidden things are exotic."
The reason for the sex-fest is South Africa's sudden freedom from draconian laws which suppressed any form of sexuality in order to uphold a Christian view of life. The Immorality Act that banned sex between races was a cornerstone of apartheid until it was abolished in 1986. In those days security police sat in trees with cameras and binoculars, spying on mixed- race couples. They would raid homes hoping to catch lovers in the act and strip beds in search of tell-tale pubic hairs. A black man could get six months in prison for sleeping with a white woman, and vice-versa.
Four years ago a magazine could be banned for exposing a woman's nipple, never mind a flash of inner thigh. An imported copy of Playboy would once have been confiscated by customs officials but now there are about 20 magazines to choose from. "It's a remarkable change in such a short a time," says one reader. "At last we're able to think for ourselves."
The new constitution enshrines the right to freedom of expression. However, the old Publications Act that banned erotic literature is still in place, so pornographers have been testing how far they can go. "The government is still banning things but it makes a mockery of the constitution to do so now," says publisher Joe Theron, the country's premier pornographer. "You can't guarantee freedom of expression and then keep banning stuff."
Three years ago Penthouse and Playboy challenged the old legislation and paved the way for more explicit publications from Theron's JT Publishing, which began in the early Eighties with sewing, cooking and music magazines.
Now there is something for everyone. Naked men appear in For Women, which has a readership of 30,000. Asian Babesattracts a mixed-race readership of 50,000. The first Afrikaans porn publication, Loslyf (Loose Body), was an instant success this year. The first edition had a girl posing nude in front of the Voortrekker Monument, the venerated Afrikaner shrine to the Great Trek. But this is small beer compared to the success of Hustler, the American-founded magazine also published by Theron. This year sales have doubled to 200,000 a month, making it the biggest selling magazine in the country. In Hustler you can mail order X-rated videos, fill in a coupon detailing your personal "swinging" preferences for publication in the next issue, or dial a number and have a "hot steamy lad" at your door in minutes.
But the journey from a censorious Calvinist state to one approaching, and in some cases surpassing, the liberal cultures of Western Europe, is not easy. Many South Africans, unused to pornography and easily available sex, are finding it hard to come to terms with sexual glasnost. "For some people the changes have come too quickly," says Dr Solomon. "When people denied these freedoms for so long are suddenly confronted with them it can cause problems, especially in a sexually illiterate society."
Dr Solomon is treating an increasing number of women traumatised by the discovery that their husbands are having sex with prostitutes and visiting escort agencies. In one case a woman hired a private detective who followed her husband to different brothels every day of the week. "It's a devastating experience," he says. "They are often professional people - lawyers and doctors with homes and families. It's a great risk just driving into a place like Hillbrow at night, but many of them take the chance."
A white woman recently broke down on Dr Solomon's ground-breaking radio programme, Sexually Speaking, after revealing that she had just caught her husband in bed with their black maid. "We all know such things happened in the old days, but it was never this accessible," says Dr Solomon. Now more men are doing it because it is right on their doorstep." He also reports an increase in the number of female patients who are frightened because their partners are forcing them to perform acts against their will.
The law in South Africa is currently hazy as to what is or is not allowed. The ambiguity leads to protesters complaining about everything and pornographers trying to show everything. "Our May edition of Hustler was banned," says Zerbst. "It's hard to operate when something is OK one week and the next week it's not." Recently, however, a task group appointed by the Department of Home Affairs put forward a draft Publications Act which should make the law clearer. "The sooner we find a middle ground between freedom of speech and protection of the young, the better for everyone," says Zerbst.
Meanwhile he and other editors have their hands full trying to protect themselves against growing hostility from conservatives who remain opposed to pornography in any form. That there should be a vigorous backlash in what has for so long been a conservative, Christian country is hardly surprising, but the virulence of the protests is unexpected.
Zerbst and Theron have received numerous letters along the lines of: "You will burn in hell", and Hustler has had four bomb threats in recent months. Afrikaner churchmen and traditionalists are outraged by Loslyf and have demanded the magazine's removal from the shelves. But it has stayed, and 80,000 less censorious Afrikaners snap it up each month.
Theron, himself an Afrikaner, considers the protests hypocritical: "If they don't like what they see they shouldn't be reading it. And they shouldn't tell adults what is and what is not good for them. Those days are over." Hustler lampoons religious figures and politicians such as the Freedom Front leader Constand Viljoen and the Dutch Reformed Church newspaper editor Dr Fritz Gaum, who claim the magazines are "polluting the mind of the volk".
"Pornography is politically incorrect, which is good for democracy," says Zerbst, whose successful background in serious journalism means that people listen to his views. "The state has been legislating against taste for too long and it's time for tolerance."
For the guardians of morality, pornographic magazines remain high on the list of evils. But the rest of South Africa's burgeoning sex industry is harder to regulate.
If Johannesburg is like Bangkok, then Hillbrow is the Pat Pong Road. One of the most densely populated square kilometres in the world, its residential skyscrapers are decked like dominoes along a narrow mountain ridge on the edge of the inner city. Ellis Park Stadium, venue of the Rugby World Cup final, is less than a mile away, but sports fans and visitors keep well clear of "the Brow". Here, violent crime is rife: stabbings, muggings and shootings are common, as are the wails of police and ambulance sirens. Along the crowded streets neon lights blink signs for massage parlours, strip shows and escorts. Prostitutes, black, coloured and white - some of them Afrikaner girls from the small towns of the Platteland - stand on street corners or work from escort agencies and hotels like the Quirinale. Soliciting is still illegal and women are fined up to R300 (pounds 55) if caught, but with unemployment running at 40 per cent, and demand rising, it is impossible to stop them.
Aids awareness is a priority for the government, but many prostitutes will have unprotected sex for an extra R50 (pounds 9). Magazines, which have an urban, middle-class readership, give little space to such a downbeat subject - "it's a poor man's disease", runs a typical article in Hustler.
Four months ago Chomisa came to the city from Swaziland to see a friend. She never found her and, without a job, had to do what hundreds of others like her are doing: rent a room at the Quirinale for R200 (pounds 35) a month and spend her nights in the first-floor bar waiting for the men with money. They come in droves. "They like me here," she says. "I have regulars from Jo'burg and Pretoria and some from Durban. I get lots of whites. Even a doctor from Cape Town." In three months she has made R18,000 (pounds 3,200). But it is hard to see her as a liberated beneficiary of the new South Africa. She sleeps 15 hours a day, orders room service when she wants to eat, and spends the rest of her time with clients or looking for them in the bar. She never leaves the hotel and says most of the girls carry knives to protect themselves. Early next year Chomisa hopes to be back in Swaziland, where she wants to train as a croupier.
A block away from the Quirinale, on a side road off Bree Street in central Johannesburg, 55-year-old Henry Du Plooy sits in Scarletts Massage Parlour flanked by two of his "lovely ladies". Next door is Pretty Woman Escorts, which he also owns. Eighteen months ago he too was unemployed, a victim of the government's affirmative action programme. "I couldn't find work so I decided to start my own business," he grins. "Best thing I ever did. It's the only way to make any money in this town these days." He brushes his hair to one side and hugs one of his girls, looking like a low-budget version of Hugh Hefner in the Playboy mansion. "I heard the government is sending people to Holland to look at how they run things there," he says. "Maybe this town is going to become like Amsterdam." I look around the room, at girls with peroxide hair and wearing clinging bikini tops, at the numbers on the wooden doors of the cubicles where they take their clients, at the bubbling Jacuzzi decorated with pot plants in a tacky jungle theme. In many ways it already is.
DOUGLAS ROGERS THE INDEPENDENT
COMMENTS BY SONNY
THE SEVEN SISTERS DEN OF INIQUITY IN THE HEART OF HILLBROW......
IS THIS WHERE THE ROOTS OF THE CCB WERE WOVEN BY ROGUE COPS?
THIS LATER BECAME HEADQUARTERS FOR THE NOTORIOUS ROGUE SQUAD OF
THE SOUTH AFRICAN POLICE.
ALL UNDER THE GUIDANCE OF GENL MAGNUS MALAN SADF CHIEF AND OTHER BROEDER BOND MEMBERS OF SA SOCIETY.
RUMOUR HAS IT THAT THE LEGEND GERT VAN ROOYEN WAS A REGULAR VISITOR TO THIS DEN!