BY GARIKAI MAFIRAKUREVA
CHIKOMBEDZI ward 7 junior councillor in Chiredzi South constituency, Tatenda Chinguwo, recently told a junior full council meeting at Muhlanguleni that the increase in child marriages in his ward was being exacerbated by poverty-stricken, hungry and greedy parents and guardians.
Chinguwo said the tail-spinning Zimbabwean economy, characterised by skyrocketing basic commodity prices and biting hunger, were also contributing to the problem which is now endemic in Chiredzi, as most parents conceal cases of sexual abuse, with some opting for out-of-court settlements with abusers, leaving the girl child at risk of contracting HIV and Aids, and sexually transmitted infections.
“The problem of child marriages in Chikombedzi, particularly in ward 7, is caused mainly by parents. In most cases, the parents’ refusal to co-operate with the police and interaction with the accused frustrate investigations. This creates room for negotiations and out-of-court settlements,” Chinguwo said.
“In some cases, the accused is forced to marry the girl or made to pay with grain, cattle or money. Once the accused pays, he moves to the next victim for as long as he has the capacity to pay. The biggest challenge is that most girls now suffer in silence.”
But ward 10 councillor Leonard Makondo was singing from a different hymn book, saying their Shangani community was bound by its culture and believed in solving issues amicably among themselves without resorting to courts.
“In our culture, we believe in our traditional courts, where issues are solved amicably without resorting to courts. However, personally, I think there are some cases which should not be dealt with at traditional courts. Rape cases, child abuse, stocktheft and any other serious criminal offences should be dealt with at the courts of law,” Makondo said.
Chikombedzi is one of the rural districts in the country that has recorded an increase in the number of underage pregnancies.
Recently, a 12-year-old girl gave birth to twins at Chikombedzi Mission Hospital. However, most cases go unreported. The problem is attributed to annual circumcision and female sexual initiations (komba) without proper information and education.
Chiredzi South legislator Kalisto Gwanetsa (Zanu PF) confirmed the increase in cases of child marriages in the district and said it was because his constituency was closed to the outside world. “My constituency is very big and some areas like Samu are too remote. In general, the district is lagging behind in terms of information, accessibility and communication technology. Most people in these areas access radio, television and mobile network transmission from neighbouring South Africa and Mozambique. There is need for an increase in awareness campaigns,” Gwanetsa said.