FORGET dance groups — striptease is the new game in town.
In fact, ordinary strip shows are losing their lustre as patrons demand more — or rather less — by the day. And the strippers are obliging.
Illegal acts conducted by both registered and unregistered strippers have taken Harare by storm, blowing to smithereens the country’s censorship laws. Most dancers now go completely naked and engage in lewd and sexual acts with patrons.
Word on the nightclub circuit is that joints that do not offer striptease services run the risk of closing shop due to subdued business. No city or town has been spared as strippers, often masquerading as dance groups, have invaded almost every club, dingy or top-class.
Dance groups of yesteryear and their “pure dances” are now viewed by many as outdated.
Clubs from Harare’s CBD to suburbs like Sunningdale, Mabvuku, Chitungwiza, Mufakose; and in towns and cities like Zvishavane, Marondera, Mutare and Chipinge, have all been promoting illegal striptease shows.
Notable clubs that have strippers going down to their birthday suits and allowing contact with patrons include Private Lounge, Londoners, Miami Nite Club, Kule’s Bar, Players formerly Big Bite and Plaza De Castila to name just a few in Harare.
Only one operator in the country, Private Lounge, is licenced to hold stripteases. According to Isaac Chiranganyika, secretary of the Zimbabwe Board of Censors, any other club that is conducting the striptease business apart from the one they have licenced is doing so illegally.
“There is only a single club that is allowed by law to offer striptease services in Zimbabwe. Anyone else doing so apart from Private Lounge is operating illegally and the police should help us bring such culprits to book,” said Chiranganyika.
Daring joint proprietors have deliberately lied to the police and their patrons with regards to owning the highly sought-after striptease licences.
But with stage nudity having seriously gripped the nation, one wonders why the Zimbabwe Board of Censors has yet to take any action.
“The board is not aware of any other club apart from the licenced player offering the striptease business. We are always checking on such irregularities with other relevant authorities like the Police but the public is also free to report such incidences to us so that we take appropriate action.
“From time to time we have people that go to Private Lounge to check if the club is following laid down rules. I’m glad to report that they have proved to be clean. We have issued several dance groups with licences to entertain people but none of them is allowed to do striptease or be in contact with patrons,” said Chiranganyika
According to the Censorship and Entertainment Act, stripteases should not go beyond underclothing; strippers should not have physical contact with the audience; and those under the age of 19 should not be allowed in striptease venues.
Non-strip dancers are not at any given moment allowed to remove their clothing, which may be in the form of shorts, skirts or trousers.
However, strippers have been filmed having sex on stage. A year ago, a female dirty dancer Chantel Chirimuta was dragged before the courts after she was arrested for having sex with a patron live on stage at Club Red 32 in the capital.
Private Lounge proprietor Biggie Chinoperekwei believes moral decadence in nightclubs and bars is being promoted by unscrupulous venue owners, managers and sometimes dancers.
When confronted about contact and nudity at his own club, Private Lounge, Chinoperekwei said: “Things can get out of hand but we try our best to operate within the confines of the law. For instance, at Private Lounge we have internal security whose job is to ensure that there is no contact whatsoever between dancers and our patrons. If a patron violates the rules we throw them out and if it is the dancer we take them off the stage instantly.
“Of course our patrons demand more but a striptease licence is not easy to obtain so we follow it religiously. We respect this county’s laws and we are a big player in the entertainment sector, we would not want to be found on the wrong side of the law, it is bad for business.”
What is even more disturbing is the age of some of the dancers who appear to be teens.
“We would never employ underage girls. It is unfortunate that we are being dragged into this by some fly-by-night club owners who do not care about laid down rules. If you take a closer look you will realise that most of these unlicenced players who sometimes employ underage girls do not even advertise. They operate under the cover of darkness.
“It is different from us. We are not hiding. The police, censorship board and any member of society can check on us any time and I assure you, it is all above board,” said Chinoperekwei.
He added: “Most clubs are not designed for dancers or strippers; they lack even a simple stage. When there is a stage — it is not up to the required standards, for instance, the height, distance between stage and patrons, changing rooms.
“When a club has no proper facilities it means automatically there is contact with clients either during performances or after.”
However, it is not only in bars that these notorious groups/individuals have been creating problems.
Strippers have become popular at private parties. At these parties the culprits are offering more than the striptease and ordinary dance services.
Dancers Association of Zimbabwe board chairperson Paddington Japajapa said he was aware of the “rot” that had taken over clubs.
“There is a clear code of conduct within DAZ and problems are emanating mostly from groups that are not registered with us because they do not know what is required of them. Officers from the Police inspectorate and/or those from the Censorship Board should intervene and help us out on this one,” he pleaded.