By Nkosana Dlamini
Justice minister Ziyambi Ziyambi has made startling claims that police were being outdone by members of the apostolic church in their investigations of the death of 14-year-old Memory Machaya at a shrine while giving birth.
He was responding to Bulawayo proportional representation MP and veteran women’s rights activist, Priscilla Misihairabwi-Mushonga in parliament Tuesday.
The legislator had asked the minister to bring a ministerial statement that would inform the house and the nation on what was holding progress in the investigations of the widely publicised matter and what government was doing to end the scourge of child marriages within a church that still holds dear the controversial doctrine.
But Ziyambi, standing in for the Home Affairs Minister, said investigations into the matter were “not as straightforward as honourable Misihairabwi is trying to say”.
“Indeed, Government is doing a lot. Investigations were started and it goes to the root of the culture of that particular community.
“Initially, there was total lack of cooperation from the whole community, to the extent that the police were not even told where the girl was buried.
“Investigations which include trying to engage the community are ongoing,” he said.
The minor died and was later buried by the church during an ill-fated attempt to help her deliver at the church shrine.
Despite continued police claims they were investigating the matter, the husband of the late minor still walks free.
Her case has become the rallying point of a renewed public campaign against rampant child marriages by members of the white robbed congregation.
The practice continues despite the law having made it illegal for children under 18 to get married.
There have been claims that government was reluctant to take a firm stand against the oppressive church practices for fear of losing votes in the next coming elections.
Zanu PF enjoys a lot of support from the church.
Ziyambi said in parliament that “it is not correct to say that government has not been doing anything”.
“It is something that goes deep into the cultureeligious practices of that community.
“The police are trying to get to the bottom of it, but they are faced with resistance from the whole community, and they are working on it.
“At this juncture, I think it is too early for the Minister to come with a ministerial statement because they are doing something.
“Once they have managed to get to the bottom of it, then he will be able to give a full and informed statement to the House.”