THE mysterious death of 14-year-old Johanne Marange Apostolic Church girl Memory Machaya has taken a new twist as her body remains unaccounted for while at the same time, the girl’s husband is still walking free.
The girl’s family insists that she was buried at the church’s Mafararikwa Shrine in Marange soon after her death, while the Johanne Marange Apostolic Church claims she was never buried there.
Memory died during child birth at the church’s Mafararikwa Shrine mid-July, torching wide uproar amid a delay by authorities to investigate the matter.
The late Memory Machaya, who hailed from Kwekwe, was married to Evans Momberume. She left behind a baby boy who is reportedly in the custody of the Machayas in Kwekwe.
With police promising to get to the bottom of the issue, the church has promised to cooperate with the authorities to ensure justice prevails.
The church’s coordinator and spokesperson, Nyasha Marange, said as a church they abided by the laws of the land and would not stand in the law enforcement agents’ way as they probe the case.
“It is true that Memory was married to Evans Momberume. The police should probe the case to its logical conclusion. She died after giving birth and her baby is with the Machayas in Kwekwe.
“As the Johanne Marange Apostolic Church, we will not protect any of our congregants being investigated by law enforcement agents for any criminal offence, be it murder, rape or marrying a minor.
“The police should carry out their duties without fear or favour. No one is above the law and if any of our congregants has a case to answer, let the due process take its course. As a church, we have been preaching against marrying of minors. During our Saturday church meetings, elders take time to preach against child marriages. No one should be married before the age of 18,” said Marange.
He, however, vehemently denied that Memory was buried at the Mafararikwa Shrine.
“There is no graveyard at our shrine. If a congregant dies during our gatherings, arrangements are made to ferry that person’s body to their place of origin. The shrine is only used for gatherings and Memory’s body was not buried in the shrine as alleged.
“We do not have a secret graveyard as the shrine as this violates the country’s laws,” he said without shedding any light on Memory’s final resting place.
But the Machaya spokesperson, Alice Mabika, insisted her niece was buried at the shrine.
“She died soon after delivering her baby boy and the church members went on to bury her without involving us,” said Mabika.
“When we arrived at the shrine after getting wind of Memory’s death, we were barred from entering. We remained resolute in our quest to see our daughter’s body but the security details would not budge,” she said.
Mabika is demanding justice and says she and Memory’s mother were barred from entering the church shrine even after their daughter’s burial.
According to Manica Post, police detectives from Mutare’s Criminal Investigations Department were this week in Kwekwe to verify Memory’s age before preferring charges against Momberume.
National police spokesperson, Assistant Commissioner Paul Nyathi, said the police were conducting investigations and promised to avail more information soon.
“Our homicide team is on the ground and we hope they will complete their investigations before Friday (today) for the further management of the case,” said a source privy to the investigations.
Meanwhile, the Ministry of Women Affairs, Community, Small and Medium Enterprises and other stakeholders, among them the Council of Indigenous Churches of Africa (CICA), has called for thorough investigations into the case which has caused national outcry.
Women Affairs Minister Sithembiso Nyoni encouraged people from diverse cultural and religious backgrounds to respect constitutional provisions.
“I want to unequivocally state that child marriage is nothing other than child sexual abuse disguised as a marriage and there is no reason for tolerating such abuse.
“Religion and culture should not be used to sanitise a violation of other people’s rights. Child marriage is a violation of multiple rights of the girl child that include denying her the right to education, the right to health and her well-being.
“It exposes the girl child to gender based violence, HIV and other health related conditions. It puts the young mother into a cycle of poverty,” said Minister Nyoni.
CICA president, Golden Zininga called upon the police to get to the bottom of the case.
“This is just a tip of the iceberg. As the Council of Indigenous Churches of Africa, we totally condemn such practices in the church. Sections 19 and 81 of the country’s Constitution empowers the State and its machinery to safeguard children’s rights.
“As churches, let us revisit our operational guidelines to meet modern standards. Let us help our member churches to align with Biblical ethics and United Nations’ guidelines on children’s rights,” said Zininga.
“We also urge the community to report any cases of rape and child marriages to the police and other agencies so that we can unearth these hyenas in sheep skin,” he said.