By Celia Mukwewa
Who would have known that even right in our own homes, where we are supposed to be in comfort as they say, we are not safe, no not anymore?
The call came around 2.30pm in the afternoon of September 2020. Yes, it has taken me almost a year to talk about it but I have since found the courage and in talking about it, I want others to be aware and to know that safer at home is under threat.
The call was from Gogo Moyo. I had known Gogo Moyo for the most part of my 5-years residency in Figtree, but this was her first time calling me ever since I had saved her number. “NaNyasha, you need to come back home now, your daughter is not well!” I could tell that she was struggling to keep calm and with that, I grabbed my handbag and dashed home. My mind was a whirlwind of thoughts about what could have happened to my daughter. Nyasha is my second child, and the eldest girl out of my family of five. At 10 years, she was doing her grade 6 at the local school and was excellent in her studies. Nothing but a bright future awaited her. But on the day, a dark cloud seemed to have enveloped her.
The 25km drive from town to Figtree seemed to take eternity and as soon as I disembarked, I sprinted towards Gogo Moyo’s house. The sight that greeted me was that of a funeral wake. From the corner of my eye, I could see Baba Mpofu standing, arms folded across the chest with his head bowed, Malume Themba was shaking his head and Aunt Betty slowly crossed to stand in front of me, “sorry shuwa Mama, kanti kungene satani bani.” I could not withstand the suspense any longer, tears were already welling up in my eyes. I wanted to ask Aunt Betty what had happened but no sound came out, I felt like I had developed a lump in my throat. Fearing the worst, I entered Gogo Moyo’s room and there was Nyasha… slumped on Gogo’s battered sofa, ashen-faced and tears flowing down from her eyes. Relieved that she was alive I bent to embrace her, but the relief soon gave way to anxiety – what could have gone wrong?
Then began the chilling recollection of events that had transpired that day. Shumba, our gardener, was the cause of this. The 48-year-old gardener had approached my house after realising that the maid had gone out. When he got to the house, he asked my son Nelson, aged 7 years, to go and play outside as he wanted to talk to my 11-year-old Nyasha, in private. At first the boy refused and ended up giving in and going to the other room. Shumba asked Nyasha for my phone number, and she, unsuspectingly went to collect one of my business cards from my bedroom. Upon her return to the sitting room, she found Shumba cunningly sitting before he invited her to join him. “There is something else I need to ask from you,” he told Nyasha. Before Nyasha could reply, he had sprung to his feet dashed to where Nyasha was standing and before Nyasha could understand, he was fondling her breasts. “Today I want to teach you something that will have to remain between the two of us, something that your parents do at night,” Nyasha recollected Shumba’s words. Realising that she was being abused, Nyasha tried to free herself while screaming, and Shumba, realising that he would be heard, tried to appease her by offering to buy her a packet of chips. Nelson, realising the commotion, ran to a member of the neighbourhood watch committee where he raised alarm…and that was the attempted rape of my daughter.
Imagine a mother witnessing a near rape attempt by someone I had taken under my roof for the past 2 years. My daughter being attacked right in her own home. For others, the attack has happened right in school where those that are supposed to be taking care of our children take advantage of them Just last month, parents at Rhodes Estate Preparator School (REPS) in Matobo District, Mat South were up in arms with school authorities following the disappearance of the assistant boarding Master who allegedly raped two pupils.
A similar scenario that occurred to Nyasha, just recently happened to my neighbour known as Nyathi. Her eleven (11) year-old, Lillian was raped by a builder in her own parents’ home.
Cases of child sexual abuse and rape are increasing, and in a daily news article of the 8th of June 2021 the women’s Affairs minister Sithembiso Nyoni was quoted saying “there was a spike in the cases during the Covid-19 induced lockdown after 1 274 cases were reported in the last quarter of 2020.” And the Adult rural clinic has it on record that “at least 22 women are raped on a daily basis.”
It is unfortunate that Shumba was only sentenced to one year in custody and five months were suspended. What even pained me the most was that his sentencing collided with the Presidential amnesty, and he was released. Do we really need such people in our society to be awarded such light sentences and be pardoned during amnesty? I feel those that sexually abuse and rape our daughters should be given heavy sentences, with the trauma that our children go through, some become prostitutes, some may turn into being lesbians or gays because of the trauma they would have gone through. Nyasha had anger and trust issues, it also took time for her to sleep properly as she would have nightmares at one point, she even said she does not wish to get married.
If only the courts could give the maximum sentences for rape and our government strengthen the current laws against child sexual abuse and rape that underscore the need for deterrent sentences for the worst offenders. I personally think that the maximum sentence for rape and aggravated indecent assault should be life imprisonment. In some countries the penalties for statutory rape or defilement are far more severe than in Zimbabwe. For example, in Zambia the sentence for child defilement carries a minimum of fifteen years imprisonment and a maximum sentence of life imprisonment. In Uganda, the death sentence may be invoked for defilement of a girl under the age of 18. So, what is so wrong with us that cattle rustlers are punished more than rapists. We need to protect our young children as a nation.
Worried and concerned citizen.!!!
Celia Mukwewais a Projects Officer at the Zimbabwe Human Rights Association. Comments to this article can be send to firstname.lastname@example.org For more information about our work, please visit our website on www.zimrights.org.zw