A 40-year-old man from Harare’s Mabvuku high density suburb and a 13-year-old girl have been living as husband and wife for the past two years, a relationship that has left the minor’s mother heartbroken and the community stunned.
Collen Bhamusi allegedly started abusing the child when she was 11 and the matter was reported to Ruwa Police Station, resulting in his arrest.
He later appeared in court and was granted bail, but allegedly continued co-habiting with the minor.
The mother of the child, Ms Metrina Fred, said she was a vendor and could not provide all the basic items for her daughter.
Taking advantage of her vulnerability, Bhamusi allegedly dangled gifts at the child who fell for him.
Ms Fred said her daughter, who is supposed to be in Form 1 this year, initially got pregnant by a different man when she was just 10 years-old.
The pregnancy was terminated because the girl was not in a position to deliver the baby in a safe way.
“I am in great pain because of my child,” said Ms Fred. “She got pregnant when she was in Grade 5 and health experts at Harare Central Hospital (now Sally Mugabe Hospital) terminated the pregnancy according to the law. The accused man went to South Africa after committing the crime.”
Ms Fred recalled how after the legal termination of the pregnancy, the minor was reintegrated into school, but was expelled for indiscipline.
According to Ms Fred, Bhamusi is the second man her daughter is staying with.
“My child is very young,” she said. “How can Bhamusi stay with an under-age girl? Authorities should help me get my child back and justice should prevail.”
The teenage girl is now heavily pregnant.
Failing to stomach the pain, Ms Fred said she approached Bhamusi.
“Instead of apologising, Bhamusi threatened and accused me of being a prostitute, and a mother who failed to raise her children properly,” she said.
Ms Fred recalled how she used to take her minor child home several times, but she would go back and live with Bhamusi.
She said organisations like Musasa Project played a pivotal role in counselling her daughter and shelter her, but all these efforts were fruitless.
Bhamusi allegedly found ways to take back his lover.
When contacted for comment, the 13-year-old girl said people should not worry about her because she was enjoying her marriage.
“Do not waste your time thinking that l will go back and stay with my mother,” she said. “There is nothing like that. I love my husband and he loves me too. I am seven months pregnant and l am happily married.
“My husband is caring for me. If l say l want anything, he will quickly bring it to me, that’s showing a sense of responsibility and a loving husband.”
The teenager, who when called answers to the name Mai Bhamusi, said while she was aware that she was still a minor and could not be on the marital bed, age will not tear her marriage apart.
“Take action, but do not destroy my marriage please, l am satisfied with my husband,” she pleaded.
Asked to comment, Bhamusi said he knew nothing about the matter.
“I do not know where this is coming from,” he said. “They were just allegations and l was granted bail. l am not staying with her daughter even if you come to my house you will not see her. I do not see why she is accusing me of living with her daughter.”
Women Action Group (WAG) director, Ms Edina Masiiwa, said Bhamusi was taking advantage of his age to abuse the innocent child.
“This is not a marriage, but a sexual abuse case,” said Ms Masiiwa whose organisation works to protect the rights of women and girls. “I want you to track these relationships, they will not go anywhere and will break with time. We do not encourage underage girls to get married, intergenerational relationships are very dangerous.”
A phychologist, Noreen Winidari, said there were many factors that influenced the bahaviour of a child, especially the background and the environment where she grew up in.
“The man was taking advantage of his material wealth to lure the girl because of the poor background,” she said. “Maybe the community does not see anything bad in intergenerational relationships that’s why the child also found it normal to be in that kind of relationship.”
In Zimbabwe, girls usually complete their primary school education when they are between 12 and 13 years old, a time when their bodies are not fully developed to carry a pregnancy, let alone go into labour.
Such girls are at a higher risk of birth complications that include obstetric fistula – a hole between the birth canal and rectum or bladder, that is caused by prolonged obstructed labour, leaving a woman incontinent of urine or faeces or both.
Many other complications that may lead to death during or after giving birth have stalked the pregnant teens.
Young girls engaging in early and unprotected sex are not just exposed to unintended pregnancies, but are also at higher risk of HIV infection and sexually transmitted diseases.
In the SADC region, countries like South Africa, Namibia and Mozambique are also battling with teen pregnancies.