Sydney Mubaiwa in Zaka
Traditional leaders in Zaka and Bikita have expressed alarm over the sharp increase in the number of child rape and incest cases in the two districts amid reports that nearly 50 young girls were raped in the two districts over the last two years.
Chiefs, headmen and village heads in the two districts want the police to embark on regular awareness campaigns as part of efforts to curb the vices.
This comes in the wake of claims by traditional leaders from the two districts that most of the cases were going unreported owing to lack of knowledge.
Traditional leaders from the two districts expressed the concerns during a consultative meeting held at Jerera Growth Point recently.
Chief Nhema, Mr Rangarirai Bwawanda said the surge in rape cases in his home district of Zaka required urgent intervention.
He said the biggest challenge affecting efforts to bring the perpetrators to book was a culture of silence among the victims.
“All the relevant arms of Government, who have the responsibility of bringing sanity and restoring order, good and normal human behaviour, must scale up their efforts to bring an end to rampant crimes of child rape so that we move towards the ideal Zimbabwe that we all want, a country where there is a zero tolerance of rape,” said Chief Nhema.
Chief Nhema lamented that most child rape perpetrators were actually relatives to their victims.
He said such a scenario made it difficult to uncover such crimes as the perpetrators will try to use their influence to sweep the cases under the carpet.
“Our communities need to develop a culture of zero tolerance to rape and sexual violence. I encourage traditional leaders to assist in curbing this menace by openly preaching against the act.
“We need community-based protection teams so that we stem cases of child rape,” said Chief Nhema.
According to statistics released by police to chiefs at the meeting, about 46 juveniles and 70 women were raped between the first quarter of 2016 and the last quarter of 2017.
Masvingo provincial chiefs’ assembly member Chief Marozva, Mr Philip Mudhe of Bikita took a swipe at the apostolic sects for perpetuating the culture of silence in cases of child rape and early marriages.
Chief Marozva said the practice of marrying off young girls was rampant within apostolic sects in Bikita and called on the police to deal with such cases decisively.
“We should now shun away from this culture of keeping quiet when bad things are happening.
“If we are to say there are some issues that are taboo and cannot be discussed, then offenders will continue to take advantage by abusing young girls within our society,” he said.
He urged churches and traditional leaders to play an active roles in dispelling some of the myths that are fuelling rape and abuse of women in their communities.