By Nhau Mangirazi
HURUNGWE— Mashupiko Manzini (45) prefers to call himself “Lion of Zaka” and as a true lion, he has come all the way from Masvingo province to ‘instil responsibility among men who ran astray by sexually abusing minors’ in Hurungwe district, Mashonaland West province.
Like the king of the jungle, Manzini (pictured) is one of the few male advocates fighting for girl child rights in Zimbabwe’s second largest rural district where traditional norms and some bizarre “religious” practices reign supreme in fuelling child marriages.
Although several cases have been swept under the carpet for various reasons including where some teachers fear community backlash, Manzini’s fight is worth digging deeper.
He says the training he got at Morgen Zintec College as a member of Health Life Skills Club opened his eyes to see girl rights as a priority.
“My project about nutrition and children growth from 2011 till 2014 has not been in vain,” he says.
From the remote rural areas under Chief Dandawa, Hurungwe West constituency, he has become a thorn in the flesh for sexual perverts who are used to prey on vulnerable girls in these communities.
“I trained at Morgan Zintec College and did a study of girl rights as my project study. Blessed with two minor girls, I am passionate in protecting their rights against any abuse,” Manzini told The Teacher Magazine in an interview.
Relating how he first encountered a rape case involving a minor, Manzini recalls that in 2016, he was deployed at Chingurunguru Primary School in Nyaodza area in Hurungwe West.
“It was my first encounter with the skewed justice system as the suspect aged 35 sexually abused several school girls at the school but used a lot of money to silence the victims. I pursued the case until one victim aged 10 by then opened up and the suspect was arrested. Karoi Magistrates Court later granted him bail. He absconded and has never appeared for trial. This forced me to be transferred as locals were not happy,” added Manzini, a victim of social injustice.
However, he was transferred to Denderedzi Primary where his ‘punch’ for girl child rights continued.
Manzini discovered that one of the schoolgirls aged 13 who was doing Grade 5, was being sexually abused by her uncle, a tobacco farmer who also passed himself as a “prophet” in the area.
“The case came to light following a session by locally-based Sister2Sister programme under Family Aids Caring Trust, (FACT).”
FACT is a national developmental Non-Government Organisation implementing sustainable development initiatives to improve people’s livelihood, Sexual Reproductive Health (SRH), HIV Prevention, HIV and AIDS care and support as well as health activities that complement Ministry of Health and Child Welfare.
The victim opened up to the female teacher and Manzini who was the deputy head, he was alerted of the case.
“We made a formal report to Magunje rural police station where officers pushed us off claiming they had no transport to arrest the suspect,” he said.
But this didn’t deter him as he made investigations in this case where the suspect who is a brother to her late mother was looking after the victim, who is an orphan.
“She suffered double trouble as she was again victimized for going to the clinic for health inspection after she lost virginity. I was forced to transfer her without relatives’ consent to a safe house in another town far away from the rural area. The rape suspect confronted the school authorities demanding that we give information about her whereabouts,” narrated Manzini.
“I left her at the Social Welfare Department and arranged an arrest of the culprit (who name is withheld to protect minor). With the assistance of some locals, a citizen’s arrest was effected around 3 am and the suspect was brought to Magunje police station,” he adds.
The uncle, aged 38 years, appeared before Karoi regional magistrate Solomon Jemwa who handed him 17 years imprisonment, but suspended two years, leaving him with an effective 15-year jail term to serve.
Temptation Maromo prosecuted where suspect was facing rape as defined under Section 65 under Criminal Law and Codification Reform Act Chapter 9. 23.
In his ruling, Jemwa noted that under common cause factors, the accused and the victim are related, as the rapist is a brother to the late victim’s mother.
“The late victim’s mother and father are both late that saw the suspect taking care of her as an orphan. The court is therefore inclined to believe the victim who gave detailed of how she was awoken around 3 am to accompany the suspect to a tobacco barn. She was raped in the barn and was threatened not to tell anyone. During the trial, she broke down several times confirming that she was raped and rapist’s wife tried to force her out of their homestead if she insisted about exposing the rape charge. The court believed her as a credible witness. Her evidence was intact,” said the magistrate in his 10-page judgment.
He went on to reveal that the State proved beyond any reasonable doubt as witnesses including Manzini collaborated well in their evidence with the victim.
“Now that the victim is no longer at the school after securing a safe house and another school to go to, the court has not hesitated to keep the suspect behind bars for some time, so that the victim is less haunted by what she experienced as a minor,” added the magistrate.
Justice for Children’s Chinga Goviati agrees that some teachers fear to follow up with sexual abuse cases.
She says, “Our latest survey show that teachers don’t want to expose sexual abuse of minors for fear of reprisals and this a challenge especially among the vulnerable who are now majority in our communities.”
Ironically, teachers spend most of their time with pupils at school during daytime.
But Manzini is standing with his head high among his peers, making a difference in protecting girls from abuse, being as he is, an unsung hero of girl child rights in Hurungwe.