Roselyne Sachiti Deputy Features Editor
A few years ago, Chareka villagers in Chidodo, Dande area, woke up to news of the death of Richard Chimukuchi (Maspikiri), the second husband of polyandrous woman, Doreen Chigudu, popularly known as Mabhau.
While Mabhau and her senior husband, Lameck Tembo, also known as Kanyama, wailed for losing a loved one, the community sort of “celebrated” as God had finally given his harsh judgment to end a societal ill and taboo that even the traditional leadership had failed to correct.
This death, unfortunately, was a moment that many had “hoped” for since the way these three lived had proved beyond the fact that “no man can put asunder what the Lord had made”.
Since the Lord had made his decision, it was well with the society.
A few years on, the same community which thought the death had brought an end to the societal ill are bracing for another ill-fated union.
Mabhau has found a “replacement” of her late husband and this time, it is a married man, Shadreck Kaufeso.
Tracking Mabhau, Kanyama and Kaufeso at their homestead was like searching for the legendary Loch Ness monster.
Mabhau was said to be at some unnamed chicken rearing farm in Beatrice for the past four months where her son, Erestone, is employed.
But other villagers claim she was cohabiting with another man.
Kanyama, villagers said, had woken up early to go to attend a “kurova guva” ceremony (a ceremony where a dead person’s spirit is accommodated or brought home to the village of his kith and kin) that was taking place in their villages.
Others pointed to other directions saying he had gone to help his son till their land while others said he could have gotten too drunk and slept in the bushes. Some suggested he had gone fishing. The fact was he was nowhere to be found.
The search around the villages and back to his home five separate times was in vain.
It took The Herald 10 hours to locate Kanyama who had just returned home. On hearing the sound of our approaching car, Kanyama picked up an axe and menacingly pointed at us before taking to his heels and disappearing into nearby bushes.
We then played the waiting game again since following him would be dangerous.
A neighbour who did not want to identify himself said when Kanyama returned home and saw car tracks he immediately suspected a news crew was looking for him because of the latest developments.
The neighbour said Kanyama had given him instructions to tell us that he wanted a payment in the form of the same model car we were driving, a Nissan Hardbody Double Cab. Reason was newspapers were making money though his story while he languished in poverty.
He also wanted a cash payment US$300, the neighbour conveyed the message.
Only then would he talk to us. Mabhau’s brother, who only identified himself as Sekuru Chigudu, said his sister was living with another man in Beatrice, but did not know where exactly.
“She has another man in Beatrice and only comes back here when Kanyama who works alone in the fields has harvested. She brews six drums of beer and sells it all then disappears with the money, leaving Kanyama broke and lonely. She cannot live with one husband, she wants two all the time,” said Chigudu, who is the fourth child in Mabhau’s family.
He claims her sister’s secret to getting men is her waist, which he alleges can wriggle to seduce any men and leave women green with envy.
Neither husband paid lobola, he says, because Mabhau stopped them saying it was not necessary to do so in Dande. Friday Chigora (63) of Katiya Village said when Chimukuchi died, Mabhau immediately replaced him with Kaufuso, who lives in neighbouring Kabuwe village.
“They are not yet living together but are likely to do so very soon because they are too cosy in the presence of Kanyama. He is aware of it and not moved at all.
“When they brew traditional beer, Kaufuso’s wife comes to clean and cook while Mabhawu drinks beer with the men,” Chigora claimed.
Another villager, Justice Chigao, also confirmed that Mabhau has found a replacement for her late second husband.
“She is aware of the relationship and they would fight at first.
“But the saying goes, if you can’t beat them, join them and Mai Netty did just that,” he said.
At one time before the death of her second husband, he said, they were taken to the chief’s court and were made to pay a fine but they failed and their ox-drawn carts were impounded.
Kaufuso’s wife, Maureen Nyanjira (29), initially expressed ignorance of any friendship between Mabhau and her husband.
“I only know them because they stay in that village and that Mabhau has a reputation of having two husbands under one roof at one time. My husband and I do not have any relationship with them besides that,” she emphasised.
Then she later opened up.
“What I know is my husband was just a go-between when Mabhau’s son who lives in Beatrice wanted to marry in Matanhure area. This was on two occasions, first when the money came and when popped corn, blankets and other things to pay lobola were delivered.
“I have never suspected that he is in love with Mabhau. We only pass by Mabhau’s house to buy worms and on our way to the nearby river. I deny that my husband is in love with Mabhau,” she said.
She, however, said many villagers had warned her of the impending threat.
“People have asked me why I allow my husband to spend time with her. They say she will give him love potions and turn him against me. I don’t think she has put him under her spell yet because he has never abused me since we married eight years ago. I have never heard that they have been caught doing the unusual,” she added.
She says she is intimidated by Mabhau, so are many other women in the area.
“People think she does something to men. But on the issue of my husband I blatantly refuse. Maybe he is doing it since you have heard what other people have said,” she cautiously sought our views.
She added that her husband does not drink beer and that she has never cooked for Mabhau as other villagers claim.
Then she contradicts herself: “Sometime back, I cooked beer and my two drums sold out. Mabhau and Kanyama asked me to sell their beer and I cooked sadza for her grandchildren since they were drunk. They also hired my radio for their event. I would not be shocked by this if it were true because Mabhau has got a bad reputation.”
She said she no longer sees eye to eye with Mabhau.
“We used to get along well since we saw her as a mother. I banned my husband from going there.”
Polyandry is a form of polygamy whereby a woman takes two or more husbands at the same time and is quite rare in Zimbabwe. Polyandry is contrasted with polygamy, involving one male and two or more females. Polyandry is also distinct from group marriage, involving plural participants of each sex.
The practice is, however, not common in Zimbabwe and the region but there individuals that have entered in such marriages. It is, however, common in northern India where fraternal polyandry is practised and among the Masai and the Irigwe of northern Nigeria in Africa.
Only last month, two Kenyan men agreed to marry the same woman, taking turns to stay with her and helping her raise her children.
Joyce Wambui had been torn between two lovers for more than four years and was unable to choose between them. So she joined in a contract stipulating that Sylvester Mwendwa and Elijah Kimani would “share” her.
But Mwendwa’s decision to go public about the unusual deal infuriated Wambui, cost him his job and forced him into hiding to escape a public backlash in Kisauni, Mombasa.
Another Zimbabwean woman, Mbuya Mabewu Mainwa of Mazowe, has for decades lived with her two husbands – Jonathan Snake and his older brother Mr Punguzani aka Kamuzezuru.
She has five sons with Punguzani and a daughter with Snake.
The question that arises: Is it sinful for a woman to have two or more husbands at a time?
President of the Zimbabwe National Traditional Practitioners’ Association, Sekuru Friday Chisanyu, says it is unheard of for a woman to marry two men.
“There is nothing like this. If a woman has two husbands, we call that prostitution. If a man has two wives we call it polygamy. Some things are just OK if done by men,” he said.
Sekuru Chisanyu said chiefs in the area should forbid such practices by heavily fining people who enter in such unions.
“If this woman has kids who will be the father? How do you test for paternity in this remote area? This is different in a polygamous union because people will know the men sired both children,” he queried.
Chienderano Village headman Morkeise Chienderamwano (78) says the ancestors forbid women to have more than two husbands.
He frowned at this practice saying it is a taboo in Chief Matsivo area in Chidodo for a woman to have two husbands
“She should be fined two beasts. All her relatives should pay for what she did. Such behaviour has no place in our Shona culture,” he said
Emilia Murairo (30), another villager, said having two husbands causes emotional trauma for the first husband.
“It is like abusing the husband you already have. There are many diseases out there and higher risk when people, especially women, have two husbands. It is also taboo for a woman to do that,” she also said.
But other women are of different views. A Harare-based lawyer who declined to be named said everyone whether a man or woman should have a proper reason to be in a polygamous union or to practise polyandry.
This is not a preserve for men alone, she said.
“This is a personal choice and women should not be discriminated along gender lines. Why should a woman who decides to have two husbands be labelled a prostitute yet men have as many as 15 wives and society okays it. Some men who are in polygamous unions even force young girls to be their wives,” she said.
She added that a woman knows her reproductive cycle and can easily tell when she ovulates, and plan who to become intimate with only one man during that period hence know who the father of a child is.
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