The Chairperson of the Parliamentary Portfolio Committee on Primary and Secondary Education Priscilla Misihairambwi-Mushonga Tuesday demanded Home Affairs Minister Kazembe Kazembe to make a ministerial statement explaining circumstances surrounding the death of a 14-year-old girl Memory Machaya who died a couple of weeks ago while giving birth at an apostolic sect shrine in Bocha, Marange-Mutare.
Misihairambwi-Mushonga made the remarks during a parliamentary sitting yesterday (Tuesday).
Machaya’s death on 15 July 2021 revived the child marriages discourse in the country with the Zimbabwe’s Apostolic Church, coming to a spotlight once again.
Misihairambwi-Mushonga said the Marange religious sect has for decades been reported to have a culture of abusing minors yet little has been done to bring the perpetrators to book.
“I think this country has faced, in the last two to three weeks, a very worrisome incident of the young girl who was pregnant and died at a shrine,” Misihairambwi-Mushonga said.
“I stand to raise this as a major concern, particularly in that the country still awaits a full statement of what actually happened in terms of this child and what Government intends to do on this particular aspect.
“For some of us that have been in women’s rights for a long time, we are particularly concerned that the issue of Marange and the abuse of children within that particular sect, has been on the table for more than two decades and it has been known that this is what is happening.
“It is worrisome that even today when something has happened so publicly, we have since not heard what is going to happen vis-a-vis the perpetrators.”
Misihairambwi-Mushonga pleaded with the National Assembly speaker Jacob Mudenda for Kazembe-Kazembe to submit a ministerial statement regarding the Machaya’s death story.
“I therefore would ask, through you Mr. Speaker Sir, that the Minister of Home Affairs comes to this House and gives a ministerial statement to explain what happened in terms of this child, and what is happening in terms of the abuse that we all know is happening within the Marange sect so that we can at least understand and appreciate that Government is indeed doing something to protect our young girls.”
Leader of government business in Parliament and Justice Minister Ziyambi-Ziyambi said the police are seized with the investigations to get to the bottom of the matter.
“Initially, there was total lack of cooperation from the whole community, to the extent that the police were not even told where the girl was buried, Ziyambi said. “Investigations which include trying to engage the community are ongoing.”
Civil society organisations, child rights protection groups including SAYWHAT strongly condemned child marriages and the violation of young people’s sexual and reproductive health rights.