BY GARIKAI MAFIRAKUREVA
A FAMILY from Mpopoma village under Headman Chilonga, south of Chiredzi town, which is predominantly Shangani, has set tongues wagging after marrying off their 13-year-old daughter for $80 as the area continues to record cases of child marriages.
The mother and an aunt of the minor, whose name cannot be revealed to protect the child’s identity, are reported to have received the money from their 24-year-old groom as part of the initial bride price sometime in May.
Tiyani Chilonga, who is Headman Chilonga, confirmed the incident and said the number of child marriages was growing by the day, forcing him to engage the police, traditional leaders and various non-governmental organisations (NGOs) to stop the scourge.
“I am aware of the issues to do with marriages involving children under the age of 15. I had to call a meeting with all my village heads after I noticed that the situation was getting out of hand and also approached the police and several other NGOs that deal with issues to do with children,” Chilonga said.
“The law does not allow children below the age of 18 years to enter into marriage or parents to marry off their children who are below that age – worse still those below 15 years. I am sure the issue of child marriages is slowly coming under control. We will continue to engage our people and other stakeholders to help us fight this problem.”
According to Rugare Mativenga, the Zimbabwe Peace Project (ZPP) Peace Ambassador, who is also a community representative, they had to track down the 13-year-old in the company of police to farms in Chikoko near Mukambi in Chiredzi.
She also said there were other girls aged between 13 and 15 they had rescued and placed them in children’s homes where they were now undergoing counselling.
“Right now, we have managed to track down six girls between the ages of 13 and 15 and brought them back. Some are now living at Chambuta Children’s Home, while others are now with their families. One 14-year-old is feared to be pregnant so she is at the home waiting for medical checks,” Mativenga said.
“We went as far as Chivi to bring these young girls back home. So, recently, another 14-year-old girl ran away with her husband who had come to pay lobola when they were tipped off that we had brought in the police. The process was abandoned immediately and the man and girl just disappeared. We do not know where they are right now.”
When reached for comment, the mother of the 14-year-old refused to speak with the media.
“I am busy at work right now. I don’t know anything about what you are talking,” she said.
Both Chilonga and Mativenga attributed the problem to hunger caused by the drought that has ravaged most parts of the country.