Zimbabwe: Elders Urged to Deal With GBV

Mvuma — Police and the elderly in communities must play an active role in fighting domestic violence, which has increased during this lockdown period, First Lady Auxillia Mnangagwa has said.

Speaking on the sidelines of her Covid-19 awareness campaign here, the First Lady expressed shock at the rise in domestic violence and urged the police and elders to act swiftly to stop the trend.

According to statistics from Musasa Project, between March 30 when the lockdown began and April 9, 764 gender-based violence cases were recorded.

Ordinarily, between 500 and 600 cases are recorded in a month.

As part of her intervention to foster peace in the communities, the First Lady implored the elderly to continue counselling young couples.

There were reports from the First Lady's audience that even elderly women were not spared as some drunk husbands bash them.

"Now if the elderly are fighting, what sort of example are we setting? Vana vanozodzidzei? Because of the lockdown, young couples are spending more time together and I am told some are using this to fight.

"As elders, you should find ways of bringing this deplorable situation to an end," she said.

Chief Hama of Chirumanzu, Mr Joseph Zishiri, said domestic violence was an age-old problem in his area of jurisdiction.

"From long ago, domestic violence cases have always been a challenge, but because some will be old and married, they do not appreciate that they are not supposed to be beaten. Most people bottle up and do not know what to do. In the olden days, local leaders would fine offenders goats and chicken.

"Nowadays we tell our people that domestic violence is criminal violation of their rights and we urge them to report to the police.

"At times the police will counsel them, sometimes they refer them back to us and we advise them on how best they can live together in peace. Domestic violence does not affect women alone, there are men who are being abused in the homes also.

"This time there is an upward spiral in violence because people have nothing to do because of lockdown. The young ones are the most perpetrators of the violence," he said.

Chief Nhema of Shurugwi, Mr Oathnery Munetsi Ngere, weighed in saying cellphones were at the centre of most domestic violence cases in his area.

"This is a worrying trend caused by cellphones. Women often see suspicious messages in their spouses' cellphones and trouble starts when she dares ask. The other challenge is that most people do not follow legal divorce proceedings and end up physically fighting. In some cases, women take matrimonial property to their mothers' houses, fuelling domestic violence," he said.

Chief Nhema said he often refers domestic violence cases to the police who are trained to resolve such disputes.

"We advise the warring parties to visit the courts and continuously warn them against the use of violence in conflict resolution. We take such people to the courts and also fine them goats and cattle to deter other would-be offenders," he said.

He said what the First Lady was doing to tackle this problem was welcome saying the awareness campaign teaches people to behave and respect their marriages.

Sekuru Kota Masenge drew laughter from the gathering when he pointed out that men were used to misbehaving while away from home, but now because of lockdown, their wives were catching them, hence the fights.

He said when men are cornered, they just beat up their wives.

Another villager said there was need to teach young couples what love meant.

"Teach these children love. As old as I am, I have never beaten up my wife all these years I have stayed with her. The problem is that its not just women who are being beaten up. Men are also victims of domestic violence," said the villager.

The First Lady urged elderly women never to take sides whenever they are asked to mediate in a domestic dispute between their sons and daughters-in-law.

"If your daughter-in-law presents a problem to you, do not take sides. Counsel them fairly to ensure this problem is resolved," she said.

During the discussion on domestic violence, Mbuya Esnath Murisa attributed the violence to the increased consumption of beer across communities.

"This is all because of beer which is being brewed almost everywhere in our villages. Our youngsters and some elderly people are taking this beer and end up turning violent," she said.

However, some of the elderly women said they would never report their husbands to the police even when they are severely beaten.

Mbuya Eunice Mapiye said, "When he injures me I will just go to the clinic quietly and if I am asked the cause of my injuries, I would just lie that I fell. Ndikasungisa murume vanhu vanoti chii munharaunda?"

Amai Mnangagwa, however, implored them to make use of the police public relations units and not to suffer in silence.

The First Lady, who is the country's health ambassador, also spoke at length on how communities can protect themselves from Covid-19 which has killed thousands of people globally.

"This disease has no cure that is why we need to protect ourselves. It is my wish that you undergo regular health checks so that you survive. The President invited those abroad to come home and they are still coming and are quarantined. However, there are some border jumpers who come here without documents.

"If you see a neighbour's child who has been away for a long time, inform the village leadership so that this disease does not spread," she said, before inviting her audience to explain to her what they knew about Covid-19.

Amai Mnangagwa implored communities not to stigmatise those who would have tested positive to Covid-19.

Mbuya Pelagia Hamandoona asked the First Lady to continue teaching rural communities about Covid-19.

"Please keep teaching us because there is a lot we still need to know. We do not know what is said on television and we thank you for paying us a visit," she said.

Shurugwi North MP, Ronald Nyathi, thanked the First Lady for the visit and the food donations to the elderly.

Amai Mnangagwa also donated PPEs to local clinics.

While the First Lady was in Mvuma and Shurugwi North, her Angel of Hope Foundation teams were in several other areas around Shurugwi South, Chirumanzu South, Mvuma and Zibagwe Chirumanzu, where they also donated an assortment of foodstuffs to the elderly and educated them on Covid-19.

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