It is an acknowledged trend of modern-day life that young people want to be older, even as it is an undeniable trend that older people want to become younger.
But the story published in Wednesday’s NewsDay concerning teenage commercial sex workers in Bulawayo made for very disturbing reading.
A young sex worker calling herself Beyoncé was quoted saying: “If you are concerned about HIV and Aids you stay at home”.
The combination of wisdom and folly in that statement left me breathless. In a desperately poignant display of naivety, the same child also spoke of carrying condoms in her handbag as being “unladylike”.
She is concerned about being a lady, but not about contracting HIV! In the same breath she worried about her mother finding condoms in her purse.
In three short sentences “Beyoncé” revealed a monumental tragedy of our life and times.
In fact, there is a whole series of monumental tragedies right there. No doubt Beyoncé’s mother has no idea that her daughter is sexually active, let alone commercially, and with no real concern about HIV and Aids.
The old African proverb, it takes a village to raise a child, has been true for generations. But where is the village that should be taking care of “Beyoncé’s” social, health and moral development.
Clearly someone started a positive process in building values such as being “ladylike”.
Clearly she has a mother whom she knows will take some serious disciplinary action when she confronts bad behaviour, or perhaps she has a mother who will be deeply disappointed with bad behaviour and so she does not want to let her down.
Either way, it sounds like there is someone who cares and has tried to make an effort at directing “Beyoncé’s” upbringing. What is not clear is why “Beyoncé” is doing what she is doing.
Something has gone horribly wrong here. How do we fix it? In fact, do we even recognise that we have a shared liability in this abominable situation?
Or do we consider this to be a problem related only to Beyoncé’s family?
The trouble is, your child could be the next “Beyoncé”. Your son, your brother, or indeed your husband, could, even today, be in a relationship with Beyoncé. Whose problem will Beyoncé be then?
Just the day before the NewsDay story, another daily paper had carried a story about a man called Chamunorwa Tazvigwira who fathered three children with his biological daughter.
While he was in prison, their mother (his daughter) abandoned the children, leaving them in the care of their destitute grandmother.
The children are now reunited with their father and are under his care.
All three of them have never been to school. His explanation for engaging in a sexual relationship with his daughter was that his wife was absent and there was no one to cater for his sexual needs.
How, in Africa, the land of the extended family, the home of collective responsibility, the birthplace of Ubuntu/Huntu (decent moral values), how does a grown man make such a morally void defence?
Quoted in the paper, Tazvigwira says, “I was left alone with no one to talk to and this stressed me a lot.
Sometimes if you are stressed you end up doing stupid things.” Well to use the word stupid is to seriously understate the magnitude of the problem, but nonetheless it did make me wonder: Where was the village when these poor children were conceived, when their mother was “falling in love” with her own father! Where were you and I and what are we doing about it now?
While these two stories left me and no doubt many other mothers in Zimbabwe gutted, perhaps because they are extreme examples of the deterioration in the moral fibre of our society, we read sad stories in the press every day.
We come across them when we talk to friends, when we are queuing at the bank, when we are sitting in the commuter omnibus on our way home from work or school.
In fact there are so many tragic stories that some have made a business out of glamourising the saddest and most bizarre of them.
Perhaps we have become immune to the tragedies around us.
Or perhaps we have stopped caring. In the online version of the NewsDay story the most disturbing thing was that the readers who commented on it seemed more worried about politics than they were about the fate of the teenage commercial sex workers, and the social, health and moral questions surrounding them.
In the print version of the story, the facing page carried a full-page advertisement featuring a “back to school” promotion. What irony! While we are shopping around for the latest “back to school” specials, “Beyoncé” is shopping for customers of an altogether different kind.
Her childhood has disappeared before our eyes and her education has been arrested.
Tomorrow we will lament the consequences of this situation, but for today, we the villagers, look on and do nothing.
Thembe Sachikonye writes in her personal capacity. Readers’ comments can be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org