BY MOSES MATENGA
NON-GOVERNMENTAL organisations (NGOs) have accused the ruling Zanu PF party of protecting child abusers in the Johane Marange Apostolic Church through their “unholy alliance.”
The accusations came after a 14-year-old Memory Machaya allegedly died at a shrine in Bocha, Marange in Manicaland province during the annual festival last month while giving birth.
Thousands of church members were allowed to congregate despite President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s level 4 COVID-19 lockdown prohibiting gatherings.
The death of Machaya has sparked global reaction, with human rights defenders calling for the arrest of the culprits.
Police yesterday arrested Machaya’s husband, Evans Momberume, and will appear at the Mutare Magistrate Court today. Momberume, who is being charged with having sex with a minor, allegedly fled from the scene when Machaya died.
However, Crisis in Zimbabwe Coalition (CiZC) said the church’s closeness to the ruling Zanu PF was giving the culprits impunity and accused the ruling party of sacrificing the rights of the girl child on the alter of political expediency.
“Over the years, we have witnessed an unholy alliance between Zimbabwe’s ruling party.”
“Zanu PF and a number of apostolic sects with the former campaigning for the ruling party during elections. This has allowed the apostolic sects to violate the rights of girls and women with impunity. That unholy alliance must be broken,” CiZC said in a statement.
The comments come after Justice minister Ziyambi Ziyambi was on Tuesday quizzed by MPs on why the police was failing to deal with the matter.
In response, Ziyambi said the police were facing resistance in investigating the case. He did not disclose the source of the resistance.
CiZC added: “It is shocking that law enforcement agents mandated to maintain law and order as well as protection of fundamental rights, including those of the girl child, would claim to face resistance in a case of such magnitude, a case that has attracted worldwide condemnation when the perpetrators are well-known individuals.”
Machaya’s case, the group said, was a litmus test for the Zimbabwean government’s commitment to the protection of the girl child.
“It is shocking that police in Zimbabwe have often responded with brute force against citizens calling for economic, political and electoral reforms yet they have developed a lackadaisical approach in this case.
“The rights of the girl child are sacrosanct and should never be compromised as a result of the lust for political support and power. As it stands, the girl child in Zimbabwe is at the mercy of unscrupulous church leaders and the government. Women and girls’ safety should never be exchanged for power.”
But Zanu PF spokesperson Simon Khaya Moyo immediately rubbished the claims, saying Zanu PF had nothing to do with the matter.
“Are they saying the ruling party protects lawlessness?” Khaya-Moyo asked.
“That doesn’t make sense. Zanu PF is not a law enforcement agent. They must understand that. Where are we coming in? The police are there and it is not Zanu PF that investigates cases.”
Mnangagwa, his deputy Constantino Chiwenga and several ministers have visited the shrine in a bid to solicit for votes prior to elections.
Mnangagwa’s predecessor, the late former President Robert Mugabe has also visited the sect’s shrine, described by observers as a huge Zanu PF constituency. Mnangagwa’s government has surfaced a 10km stretch of road leading to the shrine.
Follow Moses on Twitter @mmatenga