By Nancy Samuriwo, HourlyHits Editor
PRESSURE groups and girl child activists have demanded the arrest and prosecution of the Marange apostolic sect church’s leaders and Evans Momberume, the man who “married” and impregnated 14-year-old Memory Machaya leading to her death while giving birth.
Momberume is still walking free, more than two weeks after the minor’s death. He “married” the girl while she was only 13, a criminal offense in Zimbabwe.
According to the Constitution of Zimbabwe, the legal age of consent for sexual activity is 16, while the minimum age for marriage is 18.
Memory reportedly died around 9 AM on 15 July and was secretly buried two hours later. She had been forced out of school while doing Form One in Mhondoro, Mashonaland West, to get married to Momberume.
However, the silence by the police more than two weeks later triggered uproar on social media and the signing of a petition demanding both police and the Zimbabwe Gender Commission to act on the matter.
Prominent politician and women’s rights defender Linda Masarira has demanded action beyond social media pressure, saying the abuse and subsequent death of Memory was only the tip of the iceberg. Masarira said many more young girls were being abused in the apostolic sect and Government was turning a blind eye because Zanu-PF benefits votes from the vast church members.
“As a woman and mother, I demand justice to what happened to Memory. Yes, we might make all the noise om social media, but we need to go further than that,” Masarira told HOURLYHITS.COM Friday.
The LEAD President said on her part, she had set up an appointment with the Home Affairs Minister because whatever happened to the deceased points to deep underlying issues which require concrete action beyond social media activism.
“I’ll go and speak to the Minister about the underlying issues around the Matanga apostolic sect. For me, religion does not mean violating the country’s laws. The Marange apostolic sect has been violating the country’s laws in the name of religion for a long time.
“Government has been silent about it because this apostolic sect is the biggest religious groupings in this country and Zanu-PF benefits from them during elections.
“Should the girl child continue to be manipulated, sexploited, sexually abused, violated, raped and disrespected in the name of votes? No!” Masarira fumed.
She added: “A lot is happening at Bocha. Women are prohibited from speaking to other women who are not members of the sect. Making noise about Memory alone won’t help much because the abuse going on there stretches far beyond one individual woman.
“A lot of 12-year-old, 13-year-old girls in Marange are being sexually violated, abused and married off to all the polygamists in that sect all in the name of religion. That has to stop.
“Our constitution is violated by the people in the Marange apostolic sect because of their lavish, sexual, paedophilia appetite. That has to stop, and it will stop.
“When I embark on a mission to do advocacy work, I don’t do it half-way. Rather I do it ensuring that it’ll have long-term solutions to the crisis at hand.”
Masarira said police were caught napping when they should have led from the front with investigations instead of waiting to be pushed into action by public pressure.
“ZRP is sleeping on laurels about the abuse of the girl child at the Marange Apostolic sect. We will not rest until justice is done and the Marange sect starts abiding to the laws of this land. Zimbabwe Gender Commission should play an active role to ensure protection of the girl child in Marange,” Masarira said.
Memory, the last born child in a family of six, was having her first birth at an unapproved maternity facility run by the apostolic sect’s elderly women. She left behind a baby boy who is said to be in the custody of his father.
Unconfirmed reports say the family of the late Memory is planning to offer their nine-year-old daughter to their in-laws as her late sister’s replacement, part of a Shona culture callednchigadzamapfihwa.
Memory’s mother, Shy Mabika, and her sister Alice told the Manica Post they were barred from entering the church shrine after their daughter’s burial. The Mabika sisters said their daughter was denied medical attention at her hour of need.
“We were told that five ‘midwives’ attended to Memory and rubbed salt in her mouth while pouring paraffin into her nose. We were told that she had a seizure and hit her head on the ground,” said Alice.
“She died soon after delivering her baby boy and the church members went on to bury her without involving us.
“When we arrived at the shrine around 2 pm, we were told to wait until the prayers were done at 6 pm. The security team checked us around 7 pm, but they became evasive. Our pleas to be attended to fell on deaf ears and we had to spend the night in the open.
“We remained resolute in our quest to see our daughter’s body, but the security details would not budge. We even tried to engage the service of our relative who is in the police force in Chinhoyi.
“We phoned him and he tried to talk to the church’s security personnel, but they refused to entertain him over the phone,” said a heartbroken Alice.
Alice said Memory’s mother is “devastated” by her daughter’s death and she is currently bedridden at her home in Kwekwe.
Meanwhile, ZRP national spokesperson Paul Nyathi said Friday that following the uproar by Zimbabweans over the matter, police were now seized with the matter. – HOURLYHITS.COM ■