In one deeply disturbing echo of the Botswana situation, the Bill Cosby saga playing itself out in American courts and media is not too different from what is happening in Botswana.
One detail that has just come out is that in the heyday of his TV career, Cosby would have teenage girls delivered to the set of his eponymous sitcom courtesy of a modelling agency. A woman named Jennifer “Kaya” Thompson has stepped forward to reveal that she was one of those teens. Cosby has himself confessed in court papers that were prepared in 2005 but are only just now coming to light, that a modelling agency would send “five or six” models each week to the studio where he filmed The Cosby Show.
Botswana has not been spared the scourge of modelling agencies that are, in actual fact, a front for prostitution rings. Interestingly though, only one such has been exposed in the media and that may have to do with the fact that its owner was belligerent and audacious. One young woman who responded to a cattle call in newspapers says that upon arrival at the agency’s offices in Extension 12, Gaborone she found some other young women who, like her, fitted the physical description specified in the advertisment. While all were young with ages ranging from 18 to 25, one was a much older woman who explained that she was going through a rough patch. At this point, the agency’s owner was out and upon arrival, surveyed the girls packed in the reception area and announced in a tone of voice dripping with evident arrogance: “Everyone here must be prepared to wear a thong.”
When the source’s turn came she was ushered into an office where a huge desk separated her from the owner.
“He said if I didn’t mind, I could take off my jeans for him to be able to see my legs and waist. I was very uncomfortable with that and told him so. He then asked if I could lift my T-shirt up to my chest so he could see my tummy. Desperate for a job as I was, I complied. He then slid in his chair and his right hand, which had been on top of the desk, disappeared behind it – I knew exactly where the hand had gone,” she recalls with disgust.
As part of the “interview”, she was asked if she would be available that evening to dine at a four-star hotel with a visiting European businessman.
That “modelling agency” is now out of business but there are still some that abuse young, often na├»ve girls. According to a very good source, one prostitution ring that ensnares girls with promises of modelling jobs, reneges on such promise by instead delivering the girls to a wealthy Gaborone businessman who pays P30 000 for a bevy of 10 girls. The girls are duped into thinking that they are being given practical training on decorum, which is huge part of the modelling lifestyle. The girls are taken to an all-male house party hosted by the businessman to serve initially as waitresses.
Of course there are genuine modelling agencies but the challenge is for gullible girls too eager to break into the glamorous world of modelling to differentiate between genuine and fake agencies. Of the latter, the source says that “there are so many of them in Gaborone nowadays.”
From private conversation with secondary school teachers (some of them Guidance and Counselling teachers) it is apparent that there is another layer of the problem ÔÇô cluelessness about this practice. This lack of knowledge means that schools haven’t developed adequate strategies to protect schoolchildren against pimps. On the other hand, a parent says that in order to protect their children, parents should undertake comprehensive due diligence on modelling agencies that the former want to sign up with.
“Even after that parents should continuously monitor the relationship between their children and agencies,” says the parent, who is the mother of a junior secondary school-going girl.
It would be unfair to judge the entire police service on the basis of one case but in the past when Sunday Standard has alerted the police about one “modelling agency” such effort came to nought. The paper linked up an officer with a young woman who had been targeted by a prostitution ring but the latter says that the police officer never followed up on his promises and ceased communication.