Ruth Butaumocho Gender Editor
Ninety-two-year-old Phillimon Jowani Kayiboni is a troubled man. After winning his battle with Anjin Investments of China to have adequate accommodation for all his 14 wives and his brood after being relocated from Bocha to pave way for diamond mining, Mr Kayiboni thought his woes were over.
He was soon to realise that a much bigger challenge awaited him. Having lived with his large family all his life, revelling in marital bliss, Mr Kayiboni was dealt a near-fatal blow in 2015 when his 14 wives were allocated homesteads in two different locations, 15 kilometres apart.
His eight wives are housed on the other side of Anjin Investments of China known as “KumaChina”, while the other six live with him in Arda Transau’s Zone Six.
Being a man of lesser means has not made life any easier for the “stud” of Bocha. With no car, let alone a bicycle to shuttle between the two communities to visit his wives and fulfil his conjugal rights, among other roles, Mr Kayiboni has found life tough at his new home. “My family has been disenfranchised after we were allocated homesteads here. It has been difficult to manage my family in such a situation and keeping abreast of what is happening on the other side,” he recently revealed during a visit to his new home.
The Kayibonis’ six new houses arranged on a cul-de-sac at one of the Anjin’s settlements are easily recognisable not by any special design features, but by the heart-rending love story of a man whose family was disenfranchised, not out of his volition, but as a result of a logistical decisions beyond him. A member of Johanne Marange apostolic sect, Mr Kayiboni and his family are among hundreds of families moved from their former homes in Chiadzwa’s Marange area in 2011 to pave way for diamond mining.
The polygamist made headlines in 2010 when he refused to move into two houses earmarked for polygamous men, arguing that the residence was too small and would not accommodate his 15 wives then, 75 children and several grandchildren.
Anjin had to temporarily relocate him and his family to the former Arda Dairy Farm in Odzi for five years, as the mining authorities battled to meet his requirements, which included $ 1 000 relocation allowances for each of his wives – the amount given per household. Although it took him longer than the rest of the group to move in since there were no adequate homesteads, his family was eventually allocated houses in 2015.
The Kayibonis are part of the community now living in Odzi’s Arda Transau in Mutare North Constituency, in some of the houses that were built by Anjin Investments of China. While he has since settled and is adjusting to his new life in this communal settlement where he has attained celebrity status and has become the envy of other men, Mr Kayiboni wishes all his wives were together.
Mr Kayiboni, who was at his fifth wife’s homestead when the news crew visited, said having lived in a compound for five years while battling for recourse – and was at one time arrested – he never expected the authorities to separate his family.
“I have been trying to adjust to this new arrangement for the past two years, and it has not been easy. “It is a lifetime decision that I have to live with. What makes it worse is that I am now a poor man after this relocation exercise. I lost all that I had worked for in my life “I had to sell most of my livestock including furniture during the time I was battling with the Anjin authorities and local leadership to have adequate accommodation for my big family.
“When we finally got houses, we no longer had anything, not even a goat. To worsen the situation, the land is too small here, so we are unable to produce excess, for resale,” bemoaned Mr Kayiboni.
Instead of concentrating on livelihood projects that should be generating some income for his family, Mr Kayiboni has to dedicate part of the time shuttling in between the two locations. Travelling such a distance requires a healthy and agile man, and Mr Kayiboni can no longer measure up to that, due to ill-health. He has been battling with his legs, which are swollen and are in constant pain.
However, Mr Kayiboni’s waning fortunes and failing health have not withered his wives’ love for him. They still look up to him for everything and expect him to dutifully fulfil his fatherly roles in the same way he used to when he was still fit.
His ninth wife, Luca Kayiboni (59), with whom he sired seven children, said they still expected him to perform his fatherly duties. “He has been sick for some time. As you can see, his legs are swollen, but he has been doing his routine visits.
Under the weather
“Whenever he is under the weather, we sometimes have to hire a scotchcart to take him around and visit his wives. Ndiyani angade kuti baba varwarire kumukadzi mumwechete isusu tisingaonekwe? (Who would want our sick husband to stay with other wives while we are here?) Sesu tiri padhuze, tinotombovabereka, tichiuya navo kuno,” she said unapologetically.
Despite the wives’ insistence, Kayiboni is clearly overburdened and he now has to rely on some of his wives to superintend over household issues such as payment of fees for some of his school-going children. “They (wives) now assist me in managing the household, keep family records and coordinate activities,” he said.
Without vocalising his fears, Mr Kayiboni knows that the immediate demands of his fatherly role, his deteriorating health vis-a-vis the availability of young, energetic men in the vicinity, overwhelm good intentions and even love.
He now silently prays that the Zimbabwe Consolidated Diamond Mining Company will fulfil outstanding dues to his wives to make up for his inadequacies. “Dai mari yachindouya, madzimai angu awana kuvarairwa,” he said.