Mkhululi Ncube, columnist
The Zimbabwean Human Rights Commission (ZHRC) faced a violation of children’s health rights on Monday when it visited a family of the apostolic Johanne Marange sect in Gwambe village, Bulilima district, who does not believe in seeking medical assistance.
The Mazali family, who lost four children in less than seven months to unknown illnesses, did not take the minors to any clinics or hospitals.
The children belong to four Mazali brothers who are all married polygamists, each having two wives.
The first to die was Mthokozisi Ncube, 16 months, in September of last year, followed by Abednico, one year, on March 3 of this year, then Annabel, three years, 13 days later and the last Peter, eight month. died April 23.
The family did not notify community leaders of the first three deaths and secretly buried the children.
The last child died on a mountain near the farm during a night vigil where he was taken for prayers as they tried to save his life.
When this failed, it is said that the wives of the four brothers took the body and threw it in their mother-in-law’s bedroom.
They reportedly threatened to return to their respective families saying they were tired of losing their children without action being taken.
This forced the mother-in-law to report them to the village chief who in turn reported the case to Chief Kandana, who called the police.
Police took the body to Plumtree District Hospital for an autopsy and the cause of death was diagnosed as “stunted.”
A medical expert said that not thriving means the child is not growing well.
A four-member delegation of the ZHRC commission led by Vice President Ms. Dorothy Moyo and Executive Assistant to Bulilima District Development Coordinator Ms. Erica Makwindi visited the homestead on Monday.
They were joined by Chief Takalinga and the village chief of the region, Bunyonyo.
The commission’s visits follow an article published by Chronicle, revealing the family avoiding hospitals, vaccinations and physician-assisted delivery.
The family, who support polygamy and having as many children as possible, are adamant that death would rather wipe out the entire clan than let one of them set foot in a hospital.
The ZHRC vice-president and her team tried unsuccessfully to convince the family of the need to respect the rights of children enshrined in the country’s constitution.
It also emerged during the meeting that there was a child who had never been to school and did not have a birth certificate because her mother separated with one of the brothers. polygamists because of his refusal to see a doctor.
The mother left three children on the farm; two have a birth certificate but the youngest does not.
Family representative and father of the little girl, Mr Siza Ncube, who did not seem bothered by the problem, said he will explain to her when she is mature why she did not go to school.
Another daughter-in-law, who is pregnant, reportedly returned to her family last week to protest after the deaths.
Mr. Ncube told the delegation that the family is governed only by the Bible and not by the Constitution.
“We’re never going to go to the hospital unless you stop us and put us in chains, but besides, that will never happen.” Our wish is that you leave us alone to practice our religion in peace. We don’t mix religion and medicine because once we did that we would have given up our faith, âsaid the long-bearded Mr. Ncube.
He said that if a cult member went to the hospital, it would be a sign that he had not practiced his area, which the family would not even do at the risk of all of them dying.
He also said the family interpreted the commission’s visit as an attempt to force them to live “their own way”.
âIf you don’t stop us, leave us alone. You will never understand what we are doing because you are in the world and we are in the light.
We can talk all day but nothing will change as we talk to each other. All of these deaths that worry you are the consequences that the Bible clearly says we will experience in this lifetime, âhe said.
Mr Ncube said he views the rights of children that ZHRC educates them about as “the gospel of the world” that has nothing to do with them.
He said that even if they were given hundreds of reasons to change their minds about the hospitalization or if all government departments gathered on the farm, they would not budge.
Family matriarch Ms Percy Ncube, who is the church’s midwife, said she can never deviate from the path her husband left for her and the family.
âI don’t have much to say to let you know I’m on non-hospitalization. You are not the first to come here and we will never change. I will also continue to deliver babies, âshe said.
After about two hours of conversation, the delegation left the farm with the still determined family.
ZHRC Vice President Ms Moyo said it was sad that there are still sects that violate children’s rights through their religious beliefs.
She said the next course of action will be determined by a report they will compile.
âWe came here to the village of Gwambe because of the problem of this apostolic sect family of Johanne Marange who does not believe in the idea of ââtaking their children to the hospital. The family is adamant that their religion does not allow them to do this.
âIt is sad that we still have sects and communities that do not believe in hospitals. They also do not believe that the Constitution binds them. From there, we will compile a report that will determine the next course of action, âMs. Moyo said.
Chief Takalinga said the family is at great risk of being devastated by treatable illnesses.
The chief said traditional rulers are bound by the constitution which gives the family the right to practice their beliefs.
He challenged the government, through its departments, to enforce the law in cases where the community is at risk of infectious disease if the family were infected.
The latter commission hired community leaders who included traditional and religious leaders on human rights at the nearby Magabha shopping center. – @themkhust.