THE 14-year-old girl who recently lost her life during child birth at an apostolic sect’s church gathering in Marange was forced out of school while doing Form One in Mhondoro to get married to Evans Momberume, The Manica Post can reveal.
Memory Machaya reportedly died around 9am on July 15 and was secretly buried two hours later.
Memory, the last born child in a family of six, was having her first birth.
She left behind a baby boy who is said to be in the custody of his father.
Efforts to get in touch with Momberume were fruitless as no one had his contact details.
However, information availed to The Manica Post revealed that the polygamous Machayas were planning to offer their nine-year-old daughter to their in-laws as Memory’s replacement (chigadzamapfihwa).
Police could neither confirm nor deny the case, with national police spokesperson, Assistant Commissioner Paul Nyathi saying they were yet to receive such a report.
“Have you been in touch with our provincial office? We are yet to get such a report. We will try to get all the finer details,” said Asst Comm Nyathi.
However, provincial police spokesperson, Inspector Luxson Chananda, was not available for comment as he was reportedly stuck in back-to-back meetings at the time of going to print.
In a telephone interview with The Manica Post yesterday (Thursday), the Machaya spokesperson, a bitter Ms Alice Mabika, confirmed her niece’s painful death.
Ms Mabika is demanding justice and says she and Memory’s mother — Ms Shy Mabika — were barred from entering the church shrine after their daughter’s burial.
The Mabika sisters said their daughter was denied medical attention at her hour of need.
Ms Mabika said from the information they obtained from Momberume’s sister (name not supplied), those who attended to Memory on the fateful day say she complained of a headache.
She said the ‘‘midwives’’ diagnosed that Memory had ulcers in the mouth and nose and went on to rub her mouth with salt, while pouring paraffin into her nose.
“We were told that five ‘midwives’ attended to Memory and rubbed salt in her mouth, while pouring paraffin in her nose. We were told that she had a seizure and hit her head on the ground.
“She died soon after delivering her baby boy and the church members went on to bury her without involving us,” said Ms Mabika.
After getting wind of Memory’s death, her mother, a devotee of the church who had not attended the church gathering in question, teamed up with her relatives to attend her burial, but the worst nightmare awaited them at the Marange Shrine.
The family was barred from entering the shrine and a scuffle ensued as they sought to force their way in after spending the night waiting to be granted access.
In an audio recording which was availed to The Manica Post, the Mabikas, who were led by their brother, Patrick, are heard complaining bitterly about the inhuman treatment they were being subjected to by the church’s security team.
Said Ms Mabika: “When we arrived at the shrine around 2pm, we were told to wait until the prayers were done at 6pm. The security team checked us around 7pm, but they became evasive. Our pleas to be attended to fell on deaf ears and we had to spend the night in the open.
“We remained resolute in our quest to see our daughter’s body, but the security details would not budge. We even tried to engage the service of our relative who is in the police force in Chinhoyi.
“We phoned him and he tried to talk to the church’s security personnel, but they refused to entertain him over the phone,” she said, her voice breaking with emotion.
Ms Mabika said her sister — Memory’s mother — was equally bitter, but cannot do anything about it.
“Memory’s death devastated her and she is bedridden at her home in Kwekwe as we speak. She cannot do anything about it as she respects the wishes of her husband.
“People should not be slaves of these religious doctrines. Our hearts are bleeding and we pray that one day justice will prevail,” she said.
Ms Nyaradzai Gumbonzvanda, African Union Goodwill Ambassador on ending child marriages posted on her social media platforms: “This child’s death has created outrage. We are all angry because it is not a single child, thousands of them are being sexually abused in this country. May the perpetrator of this crime be arrested so that he faces justice? The accomplices are known — those who gave away the child and those who took her to the shrine are all guilty . . . ”
Mutare human rights lawyer, Mr Passmore Nyakureba chipped in: “This story is heart-breaking. It runs against everything that we stand for and believe in as a nation. This is a violation of the rights of the girl child committed by paedophiles hiding behind the cover of religion.
“This is a case of child marriage. All those behind it must face criminal prosecution as the deceased was a minor, the man behind the pregnancy violated the law by being intimate with a minor. The circumstances leading to the burial must also be properly investigated as they smack of every deliberate effort to conceal a crime. I am hopeful that the relevant officials from the concerned Government departments are leaving no stone unturned in addressing this issue.”
According to the Constitution of Zimbabwe, the legal age of consent for sexual activity is 16, while the minimum age for marriage is 18.
— Manica Post