THE harmful cultural practice of bride kidnapping (musengabere) is still prevalent in some pockets of Manicaland, with local men based in neighbouring countries usually being the perpetrators, The Manica Post has established.
Zimbabwe Chiefs’ Council’s provincial chairman who is also Senator in the House of Assembly, Chief Makumbe confirmed the development and said the country’s laws frown upon such practices.
He said the practice is common in Buhera Central, Buhera South, Buhera North, Marange and Chipinge.
Traditional leaders and the police in Manicaland have raised a red flag over the practice as numerous cases are finding their way to the criminal and traditional courts.
According to the national Constitution and the Child Abduction Act, bride kidnapping is a criminal offense.
“Musengabere has become a menace, especially when some of our citizens come back from neighbouring South Africa and Mozambique during public holidays.
“They take the young girls to their foreign bases without their parents’ consent. What is worse is that the young brides are smuggled out of the country through the illegal exit points dotted along the country’s border with Mozambique and South Africa. The perpetrators know very well that their actions are criminal,” said Chief Makumbe.
“I have dealt with several musengabere cases at my court. Most of them are brought to my attention soon after major public holidays. At times l preside over five such cases after these holidays. I last presided over a case of this nature early this year. However, I cannot disclose the names of the parties involved to protect the identity of the minors.
“Usually they are brought before us when the relationships turn sour. Some parents will be demanding bride prices from the families of those who would have disappeared with their daughters.
“Some of the minor girls are usually dumped after getting pregnant. We descend heavily on perpetrators so as to send a clear message to would-be offenders,” said Chief Makumbe.
He said the perpetrators, popularly known as ‘majonijoni’, lure the young girls with their vehicles and promises of a better life in the neighbouring countries.
“Parents in those areas live in fear of having their children lured and kidnapped by foreign based men during public holidays,” said Chief Makumbe.
“Generally, child marriages and teenage pregnancies are being fuelled by the fact that people are turning a blind eye to the practices due to poverty. Some parents view the practice as an easy way out of poverty.
“As chiefs, we have roped in our headmen and village heads in a bid to educate our communities on the dangers of these harmful cultural practices. We encourage parents to quickly report such matters so that the perpetrators are quickly brought to book before crossing the borders.
“We also encourage parents to educate their children on the dangers of child marriage,” he said.
Chief Makumbe stressed that since culture is dynamic, it is important for traditional practices such as bride kidnapping, pledging an unborn female child for marriage (kuzvarira) and using young girls to appease avenging spirits to be discarded.
Acting Chief Mutasa, a renowned gender champion, said there is need for traditional leaders to work tirelessly in educating their subjects on the dangers of such harmful cultural practices.
“We are educating our subjects to appreciate that musengabere is a criminal offence with a custodial sentence. As custodians of our cultures, it is our duty to preserve them, while condemning these harmful cultural practices,” he said.
Chief Hata of Nyanga said while bride kidnapping is not prevalent in his area, such cases have been reported in other traditional courts.
He warned perpetrators against contravening the Child Abduction Act.
“As traditional leaders we have declared zero tolerance to any form of child marriage. Marrying off a young girl is abhorrent. We are working tirelessly to eradicate these harmful practises by incorporating family centeredness in our advocacy so that our female children can stay in school for as long as they can,” he said.
Manicaland provincial police spokesperson, Inspector Luxson Chananda said the abduction of young girls is prevalent in the province, especially along the borderline in ChipingeHe urged the public to report the perpetrators to the police as well as to traditional leaders.
“These cases are prevalent in some areas in the province. If the parents are in support of this musengabere practice, then the public can report them.
“The perpetrators can also be charged with human trafficking because usually these are young children who are being trafficked into other countries. These young people are protected by the law and if reported, the perpetrators will face time in jail,” he said.
Manicaland is among the leading provinces with high cases of child marriages.
Manicaland provincial administrator, Mr Edgars Seenza, is on record saying child marriages in the province are a major concern, adding that there is need to engage all stakeholders to arrest the practise.
“We need to go into the communities and speak with parents, traditional leaders and the men themselves for us to find a lasting solution to the problem,” said Mr Seenza.