‘Rooranai vematongo’ is a Shona proverb better translated into English as ‘marry those from your neighborhood’.

This proverb sums up the dating culture of most of the Zezuru, Korekore, Karanga and Manyika people in Zimbabwe (at least in the 90s and before) who would only marry from within their tribes and boundaries.

Marriage, or rather dating, in Zimbabwe, used to be an ‘institution or an arrangement’ which involved a lot of rules and cultural or moral expectations that two people in a relationship were suppose to follow. Dating was never casual.

There is a new dating trend which is fast developing in the country.

In recent years with the advent of new technological gadgets like smartphones and laptops, there is a new dating trend which is fast developing in the country: internet dating.

As of 2014, out of the 14-million people in Zimbabwe, about 5.2 million now have internet access, a development which is seeing internet dating grow.

Sites like Metrodate, Topface, DatingBuzz and Evening Touch, to mention just a few are helping boys, girls, men and women find dates.

But, why are most people in the country now very active on these dating sites?

I caught up with one female participant who goes by the user name, Gracy, on one of the sites. She says she uses the site because her nature of work is so demanding that she doesn’t have time to date the normal way.

‘I’m always in the office and hardly find time to interact with people from outside work, so these sites help me connect with potential lovers,’ she said.

One 30 year old, Tendai, feels the same way as Gracy. He says his accounting job has robbed his social life as he is always working. He says these dating sites are a way of refreshing his mind from work.

Her desire to meet new people has pushed her to join dating sites.

‘I can literally say that I do not have a social life as I’m always stuck and busy with work and hardly find time with friends and family.

‘I see these sites as platforms to meet with new people and friends,’

On the other hand, another female subscriber who goes by the name SandyBabe (20 years old) says her desire to meet new people has pushed her to join dating sites.

‘I’m from the small Kwekwe town and I enjoy meeting like-minded people from other towns, so I guess joining dating sites does a great deal,’ she said.

Also, one 29-year-old Harare-based commercial sex worker, who requested to remain anonymous, says dating sites are a haven for potential sex clients.

‘I put my profile on EveningTouch just to have fun.’

She says most men are shy to negotiate paying for sex in person (especially in public) but these dating platforms gives room and freedom to her clients to speak their mind.

‘I have realised that most men, in the right environment and conditions, can pay for sex. Being active on dating sites is my strategy to lure them in numbers,’ she said.

On the other hand, one 26-year-old Gideon Madzikatidze, says he joined EveningTouch just to have fun. He never thought he would find the love of his life, Aisha.

‘I put my profile on EveningTouch just to have fun but I then met the sweetest, most amazing girl in the world and we’ve been together now for eight months.

‘We are very much in love and planning a wedding; it’s all thanks to online dating,’ he said.

I then interviewed a couple people and most of their stories were shocking.

Digging deep into the subject I realised that a lot of people who have used these sites always have interesting stories from their encounters. I then interviewed a couple people and most of their stories were shocking to say the least:

The perfect girl gone bad

‘I went on a date with a girl who seemed normal and cool on her Topface profile; I said to myself “this is marriage material”. It turned out the only two things she could talk about were Sungura music and her sexual obsessions (how she wants rough sex and how she prefers it in the kitchen.) I remember excusing myself as if I wanted to use the bathroom and never came back.’ (Tendai, 30 years old)

The wallflower with a secret

‘I always wanted to meet Primrose (a girl I met on Metrodate) at a secluded place, like at my house. She always refused to come to until I finally convinced her and we met at a lodge in Arcadia, Harare. We didn’t talk much, cause we spent the better part of the hour I had booked having sex. A few days later I noticed some pimples on my private parts. I had contracted an STI.’ (Peter, 29 years old)

The ’22-year-old’

‘I met a girl who described herself as a 22-year-old woman on her profile on Evening Touch. We agreed to meet in town; I arrived on the date, all excited, but realised that the girl who sat was a 30 year old lady. She is a mother of one and was just finding an excuse to find adventure with young boys.’ (Heath, 21 years old)

The sex-offender

‘I was almost raped by a guy I met up on DatingBuzz. He was very sweet and seemed caring as we chatted online. One day I visited him at his parent’s homestead in Mpopoma, Bulawayo. On my arrival, I realised he was home alone. As we talked, one thing led to the other and started kissing. The next thing he was trying to get into my pants and I refused until he pinned me down and tried to rape me. Thanks to his friend who came knocking. I never talked to him ever since.’ (Dazzy, 17 years old)

The material girl

‘I got a message from a girl on Evening Touch. We spoke a bit and decided to meet up. While at Beer Engine, a bar located in the heart of Harare, we had a few drinks (bought her ciders) and she revealed how she was a university student living in the university residents and had overspent all her money and was bankrupt. To cut the long story short I ended up giving her US$100 in exchange for the sex we had later that night. Afterwards she blocked me.’ (Andrew, 25 years old)