FEATURE: How The Covid Pandemic Killed Masvingo’s Night Life

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By Clayton Shereni, Masvingo Correspondent

WHAT used to be the flashiest and colorful red-lights street in Masvingo, Shuvai Mahofa (formerly Hellet Street) is now a resemblance of Harare’s Kaguvi Street with automotive spare parts shops taking up most of the shop space.

The usual beehive of night life activities, laden with the finest night club joints and a hub to the ladies of the night who marinated the roadside, has now turned drinking joints into automotive spare parts shops, boutiques and retail business with the clubs having folded operations.

And so as government announced sweeping relaxations to the Covid-19 lock down last Friday, there was nothing much to celebrate for residents of the ancient city; the pandemic having dealt it a deadly body blow.

The most frequently night clubs in Masvingo, Club Liquids and Regency Ritz Night club took a battering from the pandemic and have now only exist in the distant memories of former patrons.

If historians are taking note of every development of this city, the next generation will read about Shuvai Mahofa street that housed the two joints that could not separate people of various social status as they mixed, mingled, and partied like there was no tomorrow.

The two drinking joints were a sanctuary of all sorts of pleasure as men and women lived memorable moments splashing cash.

With eye-catching ladies of the night strategically positioned along the street and inside the bars, men were spoilt for choice and even those with sexual demons would surely be exorcised.

However, March 2020 will forever linker in the minds of patrons who always found succor at these spots.

The emergence of the novel Covid-19 pandemic that caught the world unaware and third world countries like Zimbabwe whose economies were already on life support systems, further choked the entertainment and leisure business.

Many had no fallback plan while some average businesspeople who only survived on the entertainment trade were exposed to the jaws of an ailing economy.

The announcement of the initial national lockdown by President Emmerson Mnangagwa came with a harsh total shutdown of bars and nightclubs, which meant that business had been brought to a halt.

In Masvingo, the once glamourous Ritz and Liquids bar could not brave the worsening economic crisis which was now in an overdrive due to effects of a ravaging Covid-19 pandemic.

Club Liquids has been turned into a shopping complex and what remains of the once popular joint is a little bar shifted to the backyard which used to be the garden or smoking zone.

That warm welcome of a fresh scent, disco lights, classy music and sparkling environment is now all memories due to the economic effect of Covid-19, which left club owners with no option than to compromise.

Ritz, which had been leased before Covid-19 emerged and was trading as Lagoon Bar, has had its main hall housing a spare parts shop, while some compartments are now occupied by other small business operators.

Without these two, the once glittering night life seems bleak and has stretched that social gap between uptown and ghetto when it comes to leisure and entertainment leaving only Caravan Park offering an environment that can accommodate both.

However, Caravan Park is a typical family spot and is struggling to match the services which were being offered by Ritz and Liquids. caught up with Regency Hotels and Ritz owner, Eddison Mudiwa Zvobgo who bared his soul and told this publication that business in the wake of Covid-19 has been a horror experience.

“Most night clubs were closed. Ritz was converted. Masvingo is a tourism hub and night life has been affected so there have been serious challenges. We have lost a lot of income in these three lockdowns, of which two were very severe lasting for months and you can imagine what that did to others even cross boarder traders, taxi and kombi drivers,” Zvobgo said.

A commercial sex worker from Mucheke high density suburb who identified herself as Tsitsi said she used to ply her trade in the street and lamented how business has been affected forcing her to ‘downgrade’.

“Our lives have been greatly affected, we never saw this coming and it caught us off-guard. I used to take care very good care of my son and parents who are in the rural areas but now I’m really struggling. Now we are back in the ghetto and prices that we used to charge in town are not accepted here so we end taking whatever our clients offer,” Tsitsi said.

However, revelers wait patiently to see what will happen in future with Covid-19 still amongst us.

With Covid-19 being the new normal, it remains a big challenge for Masvingo’s leisure, entertainment and sport industry to revive that lost glitter, live up to expectations of old school chaps who relish the yesteryear elegant days.