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Anger over 14-year-old girl’s death while giving birth at Johanne Marange shrine

By Mutsa Makuvaza

A new wave of anger has erupted as Zimbabweans have demanded an in-depth police investigation into the alleged death of a 14-year-old girl while giving birth at a Johanne Marange church shrine in Bocha, Mutare.

Memory Machaya’s mother Shy Mabika was reportedly denied access to the burial of her daughter where bouncers supposedly hired by church leaders forced her to remain silent as she mourned her daughter.

Despite spirited efforts to muzzle the incident, the matter eventually reached media, with tabloid H-Metro reporting the news last week followed by various other online newspapers in Zimbabwe and abroad.

Zanu-PF acting deputy secretary for the Youth League, Tendai Chirau, has led the demand for a thorough investigation into the sad death of the young girl. He said the investigation must include finding who made the girl pregnant as that was a clear case of statutory rape.

“A full investigation to locate the one who impregnated the little one must be conducted. This is not only immoral, it’s illegal and an abomination to humanity,” Chirau fumed.

Even organisations have demanded that the police act on the matter as any inaction would be a betrayal to the rights of many other girls out there like Memory Machaya.

“YWCA Zimbabwe is calling for Zimbabwe Gender Commission and the ZRP to investigate and bring to book all adults responsible for allowing the abuse and death of the late Memory Machaya,” said Young Women Christian Association of Zimbabwe (YWCA), a Harare-based a non-profit, charitable organization.

Established in 1957 by women of different Christian backgrounds, YWCA has been on the forefront of pushing for the upliftment of women and the respect of their rights.

Machaya family spokesperson Alice Mabika narrated the horrendous incident and the subsequent cover up by church elders.

“We were denied access to witness the burial of our daughter as bouncers silenced us and warned us over spreading news of the death of our relative,” said Alice, adding that the girl’s life could have been saved had she been rushed to a hospital.

“Those who attended to her were indoctrinated to the extent of watching her die while speaking in tongues and beating trumpets. Akabva asununguka mwana mukomana iye achibva ashaya akabuda ropa mukanwa nemumhino. [She gave birth to a baby boy but bled through the mouth and nose. She died immediately.]”

H-Metro reports that Memory was buried at the shrine where she was receiving prayers. The publication further reports that Johanne Marange shrine leaders refused to entertain its news crew.

Some apostolic sects in the country are still forbidding their members from visiting modern hospitals saying all their issues can be addressed at the church. Senior church women are reportedly acting as midwives who help expecting women to deliver, which experts say leads to avoidable loss of lives.

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