opinionBy Fortunate Biri
Harare — "ANGER is just one letter short of danger," former US first lady Eleanor Roosevelt is quoted as saying.
'Anger one letter short of danger'
Sociologists and anger management experts agree as they always warn people against making decisions under the influence of adrenaline.
The media are awash with reports of lovelorn men or women who take their lives in the wake of tiffs or altercations with their partners.
One such woman, Wadzanai Zvenyika from Kuwadzana recently drenched herself with paraffin and torched herself simply because her husband, John Gumido, was having it on the side with another woman.
Wadzanai sustained serious burns all over her body, which eventually led to her death early this month. Sadly she left behind a 10-year old daughter whose life will never be the same again.
Wadzanai's case is just one of numerous cases that see partners, mostly women, kill themselves because of marital problems at times of a very flimsy nature. Take for instance the case of a Chitungwiza woman, who recently set herself ablaze after an argument with her husband. The reason, it was reported that she wanted to go to a funeral with the husband, who told her that he would follow later as he wanted to notify his employer. The irate woman responded by buying 5 litres of petrol that she doused herself with before setting herself ablaze.
Last September, 26-year old Alice Mapfumo of Guruve committed suicide, after a dispute with her husband over bathing water. She gulped cotton pesticide. Her husband had asked her to fetch bathing water for him, which she refused to do, and during the ensuing argument she stormed into her bedroom, reached for the pesticide and downed it before her husband, Partson Gatsi (28), could stop her. Alice was pronounced dead on arrival at the hospital.
On February 21 last year, Tongai Simango (28), a member of the Apostolic Faith sect in Chiredzi committed suicide after discovering that his wife was secretly taking contraceptive pills in contravention of his religious beliefs. Tongai hung himself on a tree a few metres from his homestead.
But the overriding question is; is a cheating partner, argument or a violent union worth taking one's life over? What about the children we would have brought into the world? Who will look after them when we are gone? Most importantly will Wadzanai's death, for instance, stop John from bed hopping?
The answer, is an emphatic, No!
Sisters, killing yourselves over a man simply gives him all the freedom to have his loins lie with as many limbs as possible so to speak. The same goes for you brothers.
What has happened to the traditional marriage system with all its conflict resolution strategies, the aunts, grandfathers, brother-in-laws and father-in-laws? Where are all these arbiters when young couples see death as the only way out? After all in our culture a woman does not belong to the husband per se, but to the clan or community all of whom have a measure of influence when disputes erupt.
Granted, with urbanisation this sense of community may be missing as some couples may be living far away from their relatives but then in this modern day, technology has shrunk both time and space, to an extent where they are not factors anymore. More so there are professional marriage counsellors and many churches ready to assist troubled couples.
Going through press reports in 2009 alone, I came across over 15 cases where marital disputes ended in the death of one or both partners and the question that came to my mind was: Is this evidence of the disintegration of the traditional conflict resolution structures? Or are people simply going into marriages before they understand what it takes to make one subsist?
Professor Gordon Chavhunduka of the Zimbabwe National Traditional Healers Association puts the blame on lack of knowledge about the traditional marriage set-up.
"It (suicide in marriages) is an indication that something is wrong in today's marriage set-up. People think marriage is between individuals but that's not it. A marriage occurs between two families so it's based on groups rather than individuals. If a couple has marital problems; they should inform their families. People have abandoned the traditional marriage set-up.
To curb suicide people should be taught that marriage is not about two people but families and society.
"Churches have also misled people. Traditionally, married people consult if they have problems but churches encourage people to turn to prayers alone."
Sekuru Svikai Madzimbamuto of Mbare concurred, saying there was no reason why people should resort to taking their lives just because of an argument or if one partner strays from the matrimonial bed as the traditional marriage set-up has several arbiters and conflict resolution strategies.
"Tomboti murume arikunyima mukadzi bonde. Mukadzi aimuka pajongwe remurirakamwe, kwakati tsvaa kusviba, otanga kudzvura achiimba, 'kuroorwa kwangu amai mwana, kuroorwa kwangu,' kuti musha wese unzwe kuti nhovo yakatonhora. Richingobuda zuva, vakuru vemusha vaidaidza murume kudare kuti vanzwe zvinonetsa, vogadzira nyaya yacho. Hapana chakanga chisingataurike, pachivanhu chedu."
Kudzai Dodzo a mental health nurse based in the United Kingdom went for a scientific explanation. "Personality Disorder, is the major cause. Some people go through their ordeals alone, they are silent about their problems and can not tell whoever is next to them, hence they can not deal with the pressure and end up taking their lives. Some, on the other hand are cases of mental illness. They should be committed to institutions when suicidal tendencies manifest."
A Pastor who requested anonymity said the Word of God has answers to every issue under the face of the earth. "One's knowledge of the Word of God is important, for if you know the Word, you would know that suicide means that you will not inherit the Kingdom of God. It is, therefore, important for children to be taught the sanctity of life from an early age so that they do not resort to killing themselves."
What can be done to help couples in distress? Much as we would want to say we have traditions, the truth is that industrial, technological and religious factors have eroded these values.
Families are not as close as they used to be . When there are problems most turn to friends or church pastors instead of "tete" or "sekuru". Even if they do turn to these traditional arbiters, their mindsets are poles apart. When Tete says "garira vana vako (hang in there for the kids)", it seems unreasonable, or even unimaginable that someone can tolerate abuse just because of children they can take care of outside marriage.
There is need to revisit how children are being socialised in this touch button generation where most of things seem quite wrong but acceptable or condoned. The spiritual element is also a major factor. Why do some women want this "easy" way out of problems? Is it lack of self-esteem? Do they lack courage to face up to the challenges that confront them?
In most cases, be it in the traditional or Christian spectrums, there is always the spiritual force behind it. And in most cases they always want to know whether there are similar cases in the family of the deceased so that they deal with the demonic spirit there and then.
Whatever the case may be, life is too precious to be snuffed out on emotions.