A 35-year-old Johanne Marange Apostolic sect member in Muzarabani has torched a storm after he married a 13-year-old girl as his fourth wife.
Freddy Zonde of Mushinye Village, Ward 8 in Muzarabani, made the girl (name withheld) elope to live with him and his three other wives early this month. She was in Grade 7 at Muringazuva Primary School in Muzarabani.
Zonde is self-employed as a vendor.
The shocking developments come as the nation is still to come to terms with the death of 14-year-old Anna Machaya due to labour complications in Marange recently. Machaya’s 26-year-old husband appeared in court Friday in Mutare and is in custody charged with murder.
The wide publicity over the Machaya case made Zonde panic, and he whisked the young wife to St Mary’s in Chitungwiza. Even the people in Mushinye Village have raised concern over the marriage.
Information on the marriage is being closely guarded by members of the community, which comprises mostly of the Apostolic sect members. However, Zonde’s father, Samuel Zonde, confirmed the marriage.
“It is true (that he married). He took the girl and went with her to Harare. He thought that nothing would happen. He had no idea the case will stir a lot of interest,” said Samuel Zonde, confirming his son’s shenanigans.
“Most of the people talking about this issue are fighting my family,” he said.
The father added that there were no problems with the in-laws, and they are not opening up about the case to strangers.
All the other three wives are at Zonde’s father’s homestead.
At the homestead of the girl’s parents, no one was home and all doors were locked.
A villager who spoke on condition of anonymity said the community was angered by the marriage of Maria, adding that the girl’s parents never spoke against the marriage or reported the matter to police, indicating they agreed to the union.
“To people, they are denying that she is married but we know that she eloped to the 35-year-old as the fourth wife. Her mother is at the forefront of the arranged marriage,” he said.
“Initially, he wanted to marry the girl’s sister, but he was beaten to her by another church member who came first and married her. Since the community started probing the issue, his cellphones are not reachable.”
Local area Councillor Alderman Norman Chizeya said the girl’s case was heart-breaking, and one of the many cases that go unrecorded.
He added that the police must follow-up on where the child was taken and take her back home so that she continues with education.
“The parents are involved and they must be held accountable. We must lead by example and we don’t tolerate child marriages,” he said.
Village head, Noah Mashinye, said he was unaware of the marriage as the parties never approached him, although he has heard the rumour.
“I receive reports of such cases and we don’t tolerate child marriages. I hear about the case in the grapevine but I don’t deal with hearsay,” said Mashinye
“We work closely with councillors, health officers and the neighbourhood watch members.
“The people involved (the husband and wife) never approached me. The alleged perpetrator does not stay in the village as he is based in Harare.”
Chief Muzarabani, born Alphonse Chuzu, said he had no idea about the case because such incidents were treated as top “secrets”.
The chief confirmed that child marriages among the Marange Apostolic sect were rife, adding that they had become a “culture”, among sect members.
Married women in the sect allegedly sweet-talk young girls to join the marriage and become co-wives, said the chief.
Chief Muzarabani added there was need to engage the church leader since he is revered, so that he could be encouraged to change the harmful practices happening within the church.
“The village has nine village heads all from the church and when we try to probe such incidents, they deny and say such things don’t happen in their church,” said Chief Muzarabani.
“Church members know about all the developments and the young girl and her parents are in agreement.
“The person who set such laws in the church is the only one who can repeal them. If not, all your prisons cells will be filled with the perpetrators and nothing will change.”
Chief Muzarabani spoke strongly against child marriages, which he said were detrimental to economic development.
“It is difficult to preside over these apostolic sect members before the traditional court for the child marriages cases because the practice is lawful in their church.
“The only solution is to engage their leader and he is the only one who can liberate the congregants from such laws. Muzarabani topped the list of child marriages and due to awareness campaigns, we are witnessing a decline in the practice.
“Let these young girls grow; it is our duty as a community to protect them. Parents need to play a central role in securing the girl child,” said Chief Muzarabani.
Community childcare worker Chipo Sakala, said they have put in place a robust protection system to protect children against emotional, sexual and physical abuse.
“We have received tremendous support in caring for vulnerable children. We work together with our traditional leaders and we don’t hesitate to report cases of child abuse.
“We heard about the girl’s case, and although church members are denying it, police have been contacted,” said Sakala.
Mashonaland Central provincial police spokesperson Assistant Inspector Naison Ndliwayo said investigations were underway.