By Dr Masimba Mavaza
Zimbabwe has witnessed serious revulsion from the nation as they voice of disapproval of child abuse and child marriage. This came after a 14 year of old died during child birth at the shrine. The death sparked outrage amongst Zimbabweans.
To make it worse the husband who married and impregnate the child did not show any remorse. Instead he offered to Marry the nine year old sister of the deceased. At first one would quiver with anger at the lack of remorse by this pervert. But on the second thought one would want to understand the Mapositori as they are known.
In the Johanne Marange church, women appear to be the majority of members in the Johanne Marange Church. This is so, despite the fact that it accommodates and promotes polygamy. Johanne Marange as the founder of this religious movement, had thirteen wives.
The church has been promoting polygamy, and polygamous marriage, in line with traditional African as well as ancient Jewish cultural traditions. For support and legitimation of polygamous marriage, the church draws on Biblical examples of the Israelite progenitors of Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, David and Solomon, who are regarded as exemplary forebears of faith in God. Polygamy among the Johanne Marange apostolic group, simply fills the gap of the numerical difference of the women to men ratio, and that this is why it is encouraged.
Furthermore, while marriage within the apostolic group is encouraged, marriages with non-members are discouraged. This, though, primarily applies to women. Men are allowed to marry women who do not belong to the Johann Marange group, provided the women are prepared to become a member of the group. This practice obviously disadvantages women more than men.
Preventing women to marry outside the church, can be seen as a social impediment that exposes women to polygamy, especially since it appears that the number of women to men ratio exceeds that of men to women.
According to research, premarital relations are forbidden. Sexual relations between couples before marriage, are, however allowed if permission from parents have been obtained, and after the prescribed religious ceremonies and rituals have been followed. Premarital purity is guarded by encouraging girls to remain virgins.
The Johane Marange Apostolic Church is largely known for pioneering the famous white garment and bald hairstyle. But that is not all that is to it, very few people know about its genesis and evolution.
Johane Marange was born Muchabaya Momberume and his father was named Fuleni.
In 1917 at the age of five, Muchabaya received the Holy Spirit which revealed to him he was to be called John the Baptist. This happened while he was herding cattle and people went to report to Chief Marange how the young boy was speaking in tongues.
The chief thought he had been possessed by a spirit and was contemplating returning the child to his parents because he was speaking about God. At that time only the missionaries were allowed to speak about God and lead churches. Yet this child was contemplating registering a church. This scared the Chief and he planned to disown the child before the missionaries.
On the other hand, Fuleni had sent his brothers to consult sangomas, they confirmed God was in control of the situation. Through the Holy Spirit, Muchabaya Marange spoke in English about Basil Bridge’s journey coming into Zimbabwe thereby convincing the missionaries to register his church.
On realising that the missionaries liked the boy, Chief Marange confessed that Muchabaya was his son resulting in Muchabaya carrying his surname. This would strengthen his chieftainship.
He was to be called Johane Marange from then on. This saw the birth of his church Sangano reMapostori a Johanne Marange.
The church seemed to attract poor people because that time those who attended the likes of the Methodist, Roman Catholic and Anglican were well to do people.
As a result, Johanne Marange embraced them all. Before Marange died, the Holy Ghost had already revealed to him about how the church would be run after his death. So he instructed the elders that his sons would run the church as priests.
Religion happens to be the most convenient tool for the reactionary right in Zimbabwe when it comes to sanctioning their perversions. The Marange church adheres to strict rules where you can only marry in the church.
The church presided over marriages and approved all marriages within the church. This makes grown adult men want to use the religion to argue for their ‘right’ to perpetuate child marriage. They strongly believe that God directs them to a girl they should marry.
This scenario necessitates that the state not only sets the legal age for marriage, but also creates an environment to educate the masses – those living below the pover be in line as well as the middle and upper classes – whose practices are shaped by a patriarchal idea of women’s agency.
The church has strong structures which are all governed by Marange’s family. Before his death Marange was doing everything by himself having received training from heaven. He had 12 sons who had worked together as pairs since growing up, they were then instituted into a structure.
His sons were Abel, John, Macbes, Judah, Oliver, Clemence, Tephros, Raphnos, Ignatius, Ambrose, Ebernezer, Israel and Cleopas.
He brought them together and gave them their duties in different departments. But Clemence, being the sixth born, took the Baptist role. The children of Johane Marange’s two brothers also got into the church.
There is confusion on the surname of Momberume because Johane’s children became known as Marange.
Johane died in 1963. When Clemence was told that he was to lead the church, he was only eight years old so they had to install Abel to lead while he grew up. The belief in the messages from the Holy Spirit removes all questions this creates a perfect condition of abuse and taking advantage of the situation.
This is what breeds the child marriages in the Marange church. Child marriages have a long negative effect on the country and needs to be dealt with at this stage.
As a result of religion Child marriages in Zimbabwe often ends a girl’s education, exposes her to domestic violence and grave health risks from early childbearing and HIV, and traps her in poverty.
If Zimbabwe is serious about it’s girl child then there must be a clear law which enforces 18 as the minimum legal age for marriage.
The organisations which deal with Human Rights must highlight the devastating effects of child marriage in Zimbabwe were 99 percent of girls in the Marange church are subject to child marriages.
Zimbabwean little girls look up to the First Lady Auxillia MNANGAGWA to persuade and seek to secure commitments from governments to end the practice. The future of millions of Zimbabwean girls depends on the move taken by the First Lady. The voices of the small Children And their hope is on Auxillia MNANGAGWA taking action to end a devastating practice that robs girls of education and exposes them to abuse.” At the moment the law is not fully protecting the girl children. This is because Zimbabwe has conflicting legal provisions on the minimum age for marriage. Zimbabwe’s constitution does not expressly prohibit child marriage, and a number of laws effectively condone it. The gaps in the law, extreme poverty, poor access to education, and harmful religious beliefs and social norms fuel child marriage in Zimbabwe.
The Johanne Marange church doctrine requires girls to marry between ages 10 and 16 to prevent sexual relations outside marriage. “As soon as a girl reaches puberty, any man in the church can claim her for his wife, and credit the Holy Spirit for the child abuse and rape.
What spirit is this. This pervasive spirit can never be called Holy Spirit. The Johanne Marange church practices virginity testing” – which includes the insertion of fingers into the vagina – of girls as young as 11. If found to be virgins they would get marks on their foreheads, Older men in the church will then choose these ‘fresh girls’ to become their wives, often joining polygamous unions. If a man marries a woman who is not a virgin, she is required to find a virgin girl for her husband to marry as compensation.
The church has a well revered policy which is a highly discriminatory religious norm that link a girl’s perceived sexual “purity” to her family’s honor. If a girl becomes pregnant, spends the night outside the family home, is seen with a boyfriend, or returns home late after seeing a boyfriend, her family may force her to marry for the sake of honor.
In some cases girls who become pregnant or are sexually active decide to enter a child marriage because they fear being rejected, beaten, or abused by church leaders in public there by bringing dishonour to their family members of the church.
Early childbearing contributes to maternal mortality, and is a leading cause of death among girls ages 10 to 19 in the Johanne Marange churches.
The cruelty by many Johanne Marange sexual predictors masquerading as husbands is beyond measure. Many wives in the Johanne Marange church have experienced violence such as public beatings or verbal abuse from their in-laws or other relatives. In most case the Marange men do not provide for their wives reducing them to farm labourers and in this day and age they are still treated as asserts.
Nearly all the child brides said their husbands had abandoned them, leaving them to care for children without financial support. Many described mental distress and suicidal feelings as a result of their situation.
It is common practice for Marange apostolic church to forbid girls to continue education after marriage. The church leaders believe that “Formal education is not important because the church will teach her the necessary skills to work with her hands and provide for her family. Skills like weaving baskets and mats to sell and gardening”.
In July 2016 Zimbabwe became the eighth country to join the African Union campaign to end child marriage in Africa. In her keynote address, Zimbabwe’s first lady, Grace Mugabe, called on the Justice Ministry to revise Zimbabwe’s laws to set the minimum marriage age at 18, but her recommendation has not been carried out. until today.
It is an open secret that Johanne Marange has been given a free ticket to roam our land preying on the innocent vulnerable children.
Zimbabwe needs an action plan to create and strengthen community-based child protection mechanisms with a particular focus on child marriage, including shelter facilities or other mechanism to support girls turned away by their husbands or their families.
The legal problem the Police will face in the fourteen year old girl who died during giving birth is that Zimbabwe has conflicting legal provisions on the minimum age for marriage. Zimbabwe’s constitution does not expressly prohibit child marriage, and a number of laws effectively condone it.
Section 78 of the constitution says that anyone who has attained the age of 18 has the right to found a family and that no one should be compelled to marry against their will. The government has said, however, that section 78 does not set 18 as the minimum age for marriage, but simply confers a right on those above 18 to found a family.
Zimbabwe’s Customary Marriages Act sets no minimum age for marriage, while the Marriage Act, which governs monogamous marriages, states that girls under 16 cannot marry without the written consent of the justice minister.
The Criminal Law (Codification and Reform) Act makes it a criminal offense for anyone to promise a girl under 18 in marriage or to force a girl or woman to enter into a marriage against her will. It also makes it a criminal offense to use cultural or customary rites or practices to force a woman to marry.
It provides that any adult man who has sexual relations with a willing child between ages 12 and 15 is guilty of statutory rape because children in this age group are considered too immature to make informed decisions about their sexual behavior, so the child’s consent is no defense. However, the law says that if the person is married to a child under 16, having sexual relations with the spouse is not statutory rape.
This is the confusion which must be removed.
Zimbabwe has ratified international conventions that oblige it to protect children against child sexual exploitation and abuse, including child marriage. These include the Convention on the Rights of the Child; the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women; the African Charter on the Rights and Welfare of the Child; and the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights.
Now the government needs to revise domestic laws to incorporate the requirements under these treaties, Zimbabwe’s courts have little power to enforce these international legal obligations.
The abuse of religion to practice pedophile tendencies is evil It is a complicated way but Johanne Marange religious leaders and, more broadly, religious communities could and should be pivotal figures in the global effort to end child marriage. The issues involved are profoundly ethical (at their core they are about human dignity and equality). Norms around marriage are central to the well-being of families and, notwithstanding variations about how families are seen in different cultures and changes buffeting “traditional families” in this modern era, the basics are as valid as ever. Families are societies’ essential building blocks, critical for every ideal from finding meaning in life, preparing young people for citizenship, and happiness.
The Johanne Marange and Johanne Masons and indeed all churches must accept ingrained traditions and ideas about marriage need to be rethought and revamped. The archaic customs they hold on to are illegal and indeed inhuman.
It must be known that marriage of children who are under 18 years old is a violation of human rights as set out in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (article 16) and later international conventions. Likewise, the idea that marriage can be undertaken without full consent violates similar norms.
There are abundant reasons for this shift in understandings about marriage. Forced marriage today is a form of modern slavery and early marriage a clear violation of the rights of the child, especially girls.
Religious beliefs and traditions are an important factor in child marriage so the church has a big role to play in order to remove the evil practice.
The Johanne Marange Religious leaders and communities must play central roles in betrothal and marriage rituals.
Understandings of religious obligations guide many families as they consider marriage of their children. Concepts of family honor are tragically bound up in attitudes towards race, caste, and religion. Because of these links and because religious leaders are often trusted above other groups of leaders, religious actors have influence that can change norms and practices.
With the help of the parents of these small girls Zimbabwe must create progress that will improve lives of the girl child across the nation. But every year, thousands of innocent girls are locked away from a better life.Child marriage is standing in the way of progress towards vision 2030. For as long as child marriage continues to exist, so will poverty and instability, violence against women and girls, high global maternal mortality rates, and an ever-widening educational gap between the poorest and wealthiest nations.
There is a visible influence of the Johanne Marange Apostolic Church’s doctrine and belief system over its members’ behaviour and conduct. Despite the dominance of the more than 70 year old church doctrine (since 1912), its hegemony over its church members must be challenged to give a mindset which means child abuse is stopped.
Child marriage perpetuates the cycles of poverty, poor health, illiteracy, and violence that have negative impacts on overall development, prosperity, and stability. It is a cancer which must be removed yesterday.
Child marriage is rooted in gender inequality and the belief that girls and women are inferior to boys and men. It is made worse by poverty, lack of education, harmful social norms and practices, and insecurity. Its drivers vary between communities and it looks different across the world. It is even worse that this religious respected church still holds on to the old abusive satanic demonic norms of child abuse.
The sorrowful painful satanic unfortunate demise of the fourteen year old girl at Marange Shrine happens everyday at the shrine and many shrines around Zimbabwe. Many girls and the little children have died at the hands of these people in the shrines at the hands of the church. The shrines are known as Zvitsidzo. Shrine.
While child marriage has been on the decline recent decades in the whole country there is a growing concern for its increased prevalence in the Apostolic Churches. They create crisis situations and conflict and take advantage of natural disasters to pounce on the poor vulnerable girls. The more typical underlying factors such as gender inequality and social norms, in combination with new factors such as protection risks and poverty, are leaving girls vulnerable in these settings. The only place which gives them comfort the church has become a den of lions.
These kids are born to suffer and it is a shame to all women. This is the right time to stand up and be counted.