Turning spotlight on wife bashers

HARARE - Nobuhle Moyo never imagined showing concern for her husband’s behaviour would upturn her married life for worse.

When the mother of four dared ask her husband why he had come home late and drunk, as one way of expressing her disapproval, she was oblivious she would rue her show of concern for the remainder of her life.

Today, Nobuhle has to contend with the fact that she can only perform her daily chores in rural Kezi of Matobo District, from the wheel chair following severe assault by her enraged husband who pummelled her unconscious with an iron bar.

 She regained consciousness from a hospital bed.

While Moyo’s husband was arrested and jailed for the crime, he served his sentence and is a free man, but one thing remains — his wife is permanently disabled.

Moyo’s story is just but a tip of the iceberg for many cases that have been reported in Matobo District in Matabeleland South Province where married women put up with gross physical abuse.
Some have lost their lives.

It is the increase in such cases of domestic violence that triggered prompt intervention by a Harare-based Non-Governmental Organisation, Africa Book Development Organisation (ABDO).

For an organisation that usually deals with rescuing resource-short schools in marginal areas through a voluntary supply of writing material and text books including paying school fees for the disadvantaged families, swelling cases of domestic violence prodded ABDO into “skipping” its line, and focus on something deserving immediate attention.

Last Wednesday at Maphisa Business Centre in Matabeleland South, ABDO launched a campaign against domestic violence.

Themba Mhlobo (78), a villager from Silawa where one of the domestic violence-related murders occurred recently, said domestic violence was increasing in the area due to ignorance in traditional norms.

“It’s unheard of. The manner married people are killing each other nowadays is really frightening,” Mhlobo said.

“It’s sad that people no longer observe our traditional values where when a husband and wife have differences, there were steps taken to solve such issues amicably.

“Incidents of domestic differences would go as far as the local chief depending on the gravity of the matter but now people think fighting is the best solution,” Mhlobo said.

Samukeliso Ndiweni, a teacher at a local primary school, said some factors contributing to the increase in domestic violence in the district were cultural tendencies and women’s economic dependence on men.

He also said domestic violence had serious effects on the future of the children as well as their academic performances as all   domestic disadvantages will always come back to haunt the child in many ways.

“At school, as teachers, we can easily identify pupils who are coming from such families where there is domestic unrest and we always try to assist them. “Sometimes we invite the parents to school to discuss the issues and for some, you see changes but for some the situation remains the same,” Ndiweni said.

Acting Matobo District community development officer under the ministry of Women Affairs, Khulekani Dube said although he was not sure of the statics of domestic violence in the area, his office was worried at how these domestic violence cases were turning out to be.

“What I can safely say is, we are really worried at the cases which end up claiming people’s lives.

“We have also been closely working with the law enforcers to try and minimise these cases by providing moral support as well as counselling to both the victims and the perpetrators,” he said.

“As an organisation, we have also discovered that some people are suffering from within their homes while they are abused by their husbands because they will be shy to open up or afraid of the unknown,” Dube added.

 Police officer, identified as  Chigede who was part of the event admitted the rate of domestic violence in the district was alarming.

“Almost everyday, we receive reports of domestic violence from the surrounding areas. It’s really sad,” said the police constable.

“As a result, we have a Victim Friendly Unit as well as Community Relations Liaison Offices that are designed to assist the communities shun domestic violence.

These have been very useful so for those who have any problems you are free to approach these departments,” Chigede explained.

He also noted the worrisome factor that women were mostly the victims of domestic violence but they were unprepared to have perpetrators prosecuted.

“From the reports that we receive almost on daily basis, women are the most affected but sadly, they are the same people who after reporting the case to us want to withdraw the case afraid of being left out to look after the family alone.

“We really have a challenge there because in the end they prefer counselling than allow the husband to be sent to jail,” the constable said.

In recent weeks, quite a number of shocking incidents of murders were reported in Matobo area of Matabeleland South Province.

ABDO projects officer, Antony Sungisai said his organisation was touched by the disturbing trend.

“The incidents are disturbing, particularly the way incidents seem to continue unabated in this district.
 It attracted our attention since Kezi falls under our area of operation.

“From our records, we also discovered that the district was one of those with high incidents of this kind of violence,” Sungisai said.

He said lack of information amongst the communities was one major factor contributing to the increases in cases of domestic violence in usually marginalised communities.

Reported cases of domestic violence in the country have steadily increased since 2008 where 1 940 cases were reported, with recent reports showing that 10 351 cases were reported last year.

However, projections show if the trend for 2012 continues, statistics might surpass the 2011 figures as the country recorded 3 141 cases of domestic violence for the first quarter of this year.

Police say most of the cases recorded were allegedly committed by men and the remainder by women.

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