Domestic violence scourge hits Chipinge

HARARE - Tsenekai Mabika was butchered by her husband Kudzai Ndongwe after a heated argument.

The loving mother, as her family would like her to be known, came from Mbeure Village in Chipinge. She had two children aged five and two. She had strong family support. She was loved.

Mabika died at a borehole in Ward 20 after being butchered by her husband in full view of other villagers for allegedly taking her sweet time at the water source. Mabika, in the words of one who knew her, was a “lovely soul” and a “mother trying to survive”.

The investigation is now in the hands of the police and the courts. While there are many accounts in that village, it is not possible to stray into details amid the court case.

But Mabika’s death has made the women of Mbeure very angry. They have organised a march against domestic violence.

On an unusually rainy day for Mbeure, villagers attended in support of the aims of the marchers and in honour of Mabika. It was a short march to lay a wreath, but the police encouraged them to take a longer route in order to pass the pubs.

The turnout surprised them. The victim’s family would like it to be an annual event. It would be easy to go into the little village and represent it as a basket case. In the media, villages such as Mbeure are often painted as backwaters, filled with no-hopers — centres of boredom, petty vice or thuggery.

Instead, more instructive is to honour Mabika by drawing attention to a lot of women in her plight — those mothers and daughters who will miss their hug today because no one spoke up for them.

Mabika’s death has prompted local pressure group Platform for Youth Development (PYD) to initiate a campaign to raise awareness on the Domestic Violence Act.

Enacted in 2007, the Domestic Violence Act advances women’s fight against gender-based violence (GBV) in Zimbabwe.

In its preamble, the Act intends to “make provision for the protection and relief of victims of domestic violence”  and conceptualises domestic violence as including physical abuse, emotional, verbal and psychological abuse, economic abuse and malicious damage to property.

Away from this case, we know, due to the relentless efforts of domestic violence campaigners, that more and more women are dying at the hands of a partner or an ex.

And in recent years, dovetailing with this unvarnished statistic, is a disturbing rise in domestic violence in Chipinge. This deadly combination is affecting all villages and communities here.

Statistics, recorded by police, tell the story.  In one recent incident that left villagers in Mwangazi village in Ward 21 of Chipinge shell-shocked, an identified man hacked Mbuya Zibuke Dhliwayo’s head with a machete.

Dhliwayo only survived after screaming and calling District Development Fund (DDF) officers who were nearby, who rushed to rescue her.  And in the Rimbi community, Edgar Chiororo was stabbed by his wife for allegedly cheating with another woman.

This violent string of cases has been recorded by PYD community activists and citizen journalists. Common sense would suggest they are a tip of the iceberg as many assaults go unreported.

Sally Nobuhle Mlambo, the PYD board chairperson, said domestic violence has contributed to the insecurity of the Chipinge community where women have become the major targets, adding women were not utilising the Domestic Violence Act to protect themselves or to report the abuse.

It is hoped that dissemination of information on the Domestic Violence Act will increase reporting and incarceration of perpetrators, thereby reducing this worrying trend, PYD campaigners said, adding statistics of domestic violence in Chipinge District were alarming and should be deliberately intercepted.

The community-based pressure group said it was looking to address harmful practices and behaviours that prevent young women from enjoying a life that they value.

The intervention seeks to advance women’s socio-economic and political development in order to reduce their vulnerability to domestic violence.

"...we have observed that much of the causes are linked to cultural tendencies that have been weakened by poverty, and increased masculinity without responsibility," Mlambo said.

Because of thinning employment opportunities, most men have become disempowered, emasculated and isolated economically, leading to emotional cases where they unconsciously use physical violence, sexual and economic abuse as an expression of power and control, she said.

According to a recent Zimbabwe Demographic Health Survey, 30 percent of women have experienced physical violence at some point since the age of 15. Of these women, eight percent experienced physical violence within the past 12 months.

Mlambo said PYD’s advocacy and outreach plan will involve law enforcement agents who would be lobbied to arrest anyone who is caught on the wrong side of the Domestic Violence Act.

Campaigners said they will assist the police efforts in Chipinge to effectively investigate and prosecute the perpetrators.

“By end of 2017, we would have drastically reduced the cases of domestic violence by increasing the safety and independence of victims to report abuse,” Mlambo said.

 

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