INFIDELITY has been cited as the major cause of family break-ups in the country with this year’s statistics showing that at least 1 351 couples filed for divorce at the High Court, an increase from 1 117 cases handled in 2020.
More marriages could have collapsed without any record, as those married under unregistered customary unions just pay a divorce token “gupuro” in line with most African cultures.
A check with the divorce court files show that infidelity claims and conflicts linked to finances were dominating.
However, in some cases, the parties decide not to disclose the actual reasons, preferring to hide behind the common phrase used in divorce proceedings “the union is irretrievably broken”.
Statistics show that this year alone, 1 351 divorce files have so far been opened at the country’s five High Court stations in Harare, Mutare, Bulawayo and Masvingo.
Last year, according to the official statistics, the courts handled 1 117 divorce cases. In that year, the Harare High Court which had the highest number of divorce cases, opened 724 divorce files, followed by Bulawayo which handled 263.
Masvingo opened 75 divorce files while Mutare recorded 55 new cases.
Marriage officers and counsellors who spoke to The Herald said infidelity had ruined most marriages in Zimbabwe.
Bishop Davison Kanokanga, a lawyer and head of The Marriage Centre, said infidelity and social media have destroyed marriages.
“Infidelity is one of the leading causes of divorce. Cellphones and the internet have made the commission of adultery easy.
“Cellphones have become huge sources of marital conflicts. Most married people spend more time on social media than they do with their spouses. Social media has destroyed communication in many marriages with most spouses chatting to people outside their home.
“Not much effective communication is taking place between couples,” he said.
Bishop Kanokanga said the migration of couples to the Diaspora also contributes to the collapse of marriages.
“Some spouses fail to get visas for them to be able to join their spouses in the diaspora. Such forced separations have led to divorce.
“Some Zimbabweans in the diaspora are divorcing due to challenges associated with life in the diaspora, for example, lack of quality time together,busy work schedules,trying to stick to the Zimbabwean traditional spousal roles in the diaspora among others,” he said.
United States of America-based marriage counsellor and clergy Bishop Molly Nyabereka said infidelity was the root of most marriage break-ups in Zimbabwe.
“Infidelity is the major reason for most divorces with couples engaging in extra-marital affairs for various reasons.
“Others enter adulterous relationships for financial gain while some are just not contend with their spouses,” she said.
Bishop Nyabereka said interference by in-laws was also contributing to the collapse of marriages.
“We have those so-called mummy’s babies, who marry, but remain so much attached to their parents. Be they women or men, their dependence on parents affect their marriages and in some cases, couples break up because of in-laws’ interference,” she said.
A family law expert, who spoke under anonymity said most people are now getting married for wrong reasons.
“Infidelity is major reason, but its not in isolation. People are getting married for wrong reasons. Some are being forced in churches to get married. Pastors are playing go-between and help in match-making for congregants, a practice popularly known as “kumasofa”.
“Such people do not have time to get to know each other.”
The expert added that some women are now “loaning” their boyfriends money to pay lobola and then also fund the white wedding, a development that results in some men taking advantage of that desperation.
“Once in marriage, you realise that you are incompatible then you start dating someone else leading to a marriage collapse,” the expert said.
She also cited financial problems as a cause of divorce.
“Finance issue is in two ways. Too much money is causing divorce. We have couples with lots of money and assets all over the world. They end up so attached to riches and forget each other. If the money is too little, marital problems also start.”
She added: “We are also experiencing a new phenomena of older women, over 55 years filing for divorce. They are saying we endured years of abuse and we cannot take it anymore.
“Since they no longer have children to look after, they find no reason to continue in an abusive marriage.”
Harare lawyer Mr Rodgers Matsikidze who deals with divorce cases at the High Court said poverty was also a contributory factor for divorce.
“There are quite a number of reasons why people break up. Migration of Zimbabweans to UK and other country is splitting families. Poverty is also causing marriage break-ups in Zimbabwe and other countries”.
Another lawyer Ms Jacqueline Sande said cheating was now prevalent on both men and women marriages.
“Infidelity by both men and women in marriages has contributed to the high divorce rate.
“Men and women are cheating.
“The other reasons for the increase in divorce cases in my experience, have been due to various issues such as couples growing apart, financial challenges, differences on important social issues, religion or life perspective.
“Nowadays couples seem less eager to work through their problems, opting instead, to terminate their marriage than to work through their issues.
“There is less stigma on failed marriages and as more and more women are emancipated, there is less reason to stay in a difficult marriage unlike days of old where women would stay in tough marriages because of financial dependency on the husband,” she said.
Drug and alcohol abuse has been cited as one of the causes of divorce.