Alarming Trend: Bulawayo records 658 divorces in a year, urgent measures needed


INFIDELITY, social media abuse, poor communication, grudges and gender-based violence are among top drivers of divorces across the country with Bulawayo alone recording 658 divorces this year alone.

Counsellors and social commentators have called for urgent measures to reverse the trend and restore the dignity of the institution of marriage.

Statistics from the Judicial Services Commission (JSC), point to an upward trend in divorce cases in Bulawayo where out of the 658 cases recorded this year, 408 have already been completed.

In 2020, a total of 1 117 couples filed for divorce across the country and the figure shot up to 1 351 in 2021. Last year the figures doubled to 2 735 cases countrywide against 13 436 recorded marriages.

This means an estimated 20 percent of Zimbabwean registered marriages are likely to end in divorce, which analysts say is a worrying social trend.

Of the 2 735 divorce cases filed in 2022 at the High Court in Bulawayo, Masvingo, Harare, Mutare and Chinhoyi, 1 561 were completed. Bulawayo recorded 613 last year while Harare had the larger share of 1 731, Masvingo had 145, Mutare 156 and Chinhoyi had 90. Divorce in many societies is often deemed as a last resort but the outcome often negatively impacts both parties, their children, family and the community at large according to analysts.

Zimbabwe Women Lawyers Association (ZWLA) regional director, Ms Sethulo Ncube, said the major cause of divorces is gender-based violence (GBV).

“We mainly handle women’s affairs and we have realised that most divorces are linked to GBV, infidelity or financial concerns. In a few cases the disagreements can be resolved but in most cases the outcome is divorce which is a sad scenario, especially for children who then have to grow up under circumstantial situations, where they live between parents,” said Ms Ncube.

She said those that divorce are also affected as they are branded failures by their communities and tend to live in isolation.

Bulawayo lawyer, Mr Tinashe Runganga, said it was important to fully appreciate the person one is committing to for the rest of his or her life given the vows shared at the altar.

“People often rush into marriage without getting to fully know the person they want to share a life with. That is why it is advisable to date first and really get to know each other before committing to marriage.

It is unfortunate that people nowadays are marrying for the wrong reasons,” said Mr Runganga. He said some marriages are forced or arranged and that is another aspect that causes divorce.

“Some are under pressure from parents based on the biological clock and they just marry whoever comes into their lives. Knowing who you are going to spend your life with is important and this is where we say compatibility is key,” said Mr Runganga.

He said most marriages break due to financial challenges yet couples commit to be together in good and bad times.

“In some cases what brings couples together is just sex and once that is taken away there is nothing binding them. This is where infidelity comes in,” said Mr Runganga. He said exposing cases of infidelity nowadays is just a click of a finger away with the aid of a smartphone.

“There are dating sites, porn sites and social media sites such as Facebook, Instagram and WhatsApp. This is where trouble is brewing and you find couples are secretive with their phones and this often leads to suspicions and the end result is GBV,” said Mr Runganga.

He said once there are suspicions of infidelity, the relationship or marriage becomes rocky. Mr Runganga said financial difficulties fuel disputes at home while life-changing decisions also have an impact on marriages as some individuals are quick to make those without consulting their partners.

Council for Churches in Africa leader Dr Rocky Moyo said divorce often leads to depression which is a major cause of suicides.

“Divorce and separation are often associated with increased anxiety and depression as well as increased risk of alcohol abuse. It’s a delicate subject that needs to be handled carefully,” he said.

Dr Moyo said the causes of divorce vary with set-ups, some are caused by infidelity, financial challenges, lack of communication and intimacy, violence within the marriage institution and unresolved disputes.

He said divorce can generate lasting feelings of unhappiness, anger and long-term trouble for individuals.

“Praying and connecting spiritually from day one lessens cases of divorce. When two are united as husband and wife, they understand each other better through Christ. Marriage is hard work and it needs effort from both sides,” said Dr Moyo.

A local family counsellor Mrs Thobekile Mhlanga said domestic violence cases, which are on the increase in Zimbabwe and addictions related to drug abuse often lead to the breakdown of marriages.

“GBV is the main cause of relationship breakdowns. What people do not realise is that this affects not just two people but families. Cultural differences and traditional beliefs also contribute to divorce cases,” she said.

Mrs Mhlanga said high expectations driven by social media could also be another source of friction leading to divorce.

A local psychologist, Miss Thandolwethu Mafu said the change in society as a result of modernisation was also contributing to high divorce cases.

She said divorce was unfortunately the only solution to an unhappy relationship though it has negative consequences to children and those divorced.

Zimbabwe Republic Police national spokesperson Assistant Commissioner Paul Nyathi said GBV was largely to blame for the increase in divorce cases.

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