THE acquittal of a 42-year-old Buhera man on charges of raping and impregnating his two juvenile daughters drew an angry reaction from child-rights activists who demanded that paternity tests be done since one of the victims has given birth. The elder victim, who is now 16, gave birth recently to a baby boy.
Their case proved a hot potato last Friday during the Victim Friendly Unit monthly meeting, which was held in a courtroom at Rusape Magistrates' Court, which coincidentally is the same building where the man was acquitted.
Last Friday, participants from Makoni, Buhera, Nyanga and Mutasa expressed shock at the court outcome and Mr James Wirima, who prosecuted and was chairing the meeting, was grilled over the matter with distraught participants, mostly teachers and women and girl child rights activists, telling him to appeal against the ruling.
Mr Wirima told them that without fresh evidence, the appeal cannot succeed.
"The evidence we had was not exhaustive, especially the time lapse and refusal by the victims to disclose the rapist and under such circumstances the magistrate could not convict. There were lots of grey areas, but from a prosecutorial point of view, that does not mean that this man did not commit the offence," said Mr Wirima.
This resulted in the house proposing that the father and the elder daughter undergo paternity tests.
According to research, patrilineal testing. A man's test results are compared to another man's results to determine the time frame in which the two individuals shared a most recent common ancestor or MRCA. If their test results are a perfect or nearly perfect match, they are related within genealogy's time frame.
"We understand that one of the victims has given birth, and the court has acquitted the father on technical grounds, is it not best that this man and his daughter undergo paternity tests to establish whether or not he is the 'father' of her child? I want to believe that if child rights activists should pool resources and glean such scientific evidence, only then can we either link and nail this man or absolve him of any wrong doing completely and forgive him as a nation," said one of the participants.
Mr Wirima said the process should be done expeditiously so that if the results point to the commission of the offence, the State could appeal within three months.
"That is probably the surest way of getting indisputable and fresh evidence which if it comes out in the affirmative can form fresh basis for our appeal against the court's ruling. The challenge is that as the State, we do not have the resources for that, but we remain open for assistance from well-wishers," explained Mr Wirima.
To initiate the process, a victim will have to approach the civil court and sue for maintenance. If the man disputes the claims, denying paternity, the court can then grant an order for paternity tests to establish the true father of the child.
"We need to put our minds together and come up with a way forward. The issue at hand involves highly traumatised, emotionally injured and uniformed rural girls who require all the assistance that the nation can offer to arrive at justice.