POLICE have yielded to public pressure and announced that they are now investigating circumstances surrounding the death during childbirth of a 14-year-old girl Memory Machaya in Manicaland.
Evans Momberume, the man who allegedly impregnated the girl, Memory Machaya, 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.
A report the Manica Post says that 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 (chigadzamapfihwa).
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.
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 legt behind a baby boy who is said to be in the custody of his father.
Memory’s mother, Shy Mabika, and her sister Alice say 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, pressure groups have demanded the arrest and prosecution of the church’s leaders and the man who impregnated Memory.
The silence by the police triggered uproar and the signing of a petition on Friday. This led police spokesperson Assistant Commissioner Paul Nyathi to issue a statement saying police were now investigating the matter. □