Hard times for Gama’s 6 wives

Most African governments, including Zimbabwe, have enacted legislation and policies to raise the status of women. Women’s issues have been identified as critical for the development of any nation.

Getrude Tivakudze and Rosa Jewu from Gomba village in Gutu South.
Getrude Tivakudze and Rosa Jewu from Gomba village in Gutu South.

But a visit to Gutu South reflects a totally different scenario. It is a winter mid-morning. Six women are busy at work, three of them with babies strapped to their backs, at thefood-for-work project at Ruti Irrigation Scheme. At the far end of the strip of land they are cultivating is a man levelling the ground. He is Timothy Gama (65) and the women are all his wives.

“The important thing is that we are all married to Gama. We are one family and our individual problems do not cascade into disputes or quarrels. Besides economic hardships, we are happy in this marriage,” said 49-year-old Rosa Jewu Chipiwa, the eldest of the wives.

Her younger sister said: “My sister suggested I join her as wife to Timothy after realizing that her husband was earning a substantive income that could take care of us all. Coming from a background where it is the norm to be married in a polygamous relationship, I had no option but to join my sister as Timothy’s second wife,” she said.

Rosa has nine children sired by Timothy while her sister had four – one of whom died soon after birth. She said she does not regret being in a polygamous relationship considering that she had the blessings of her parents and the elders of her Johane Marange apostolic church. “There is no way that I can leave our husband because times are now hard. Back then when he was gainfully employed at ZimAlloys, he would provide for us all. As his wives, we would eat anything we wanted because money was available,” she said.

Dorcas Tivakudze (44) and her sister Getrude (35) concurred with Rosa. Dorcas said she decided to take her younger sister and incorporate her as part of the Gama clan after realizing that “this man was too good to be true”.

“Our husband would bring us lots of groceries. I said to myself why not take my young sister so that she can also share this good life!”said Dorcas. “Coming from a very poor family, I had no option but to encourage my sister to become my husband’s wife,” she said.

“Getrude has eight children and I have six and because times are now hard, we move around as a family working in people’s fields for food,” she said. The youngest of the six wives, Sofia Moyo (31) said their life is now very difficult.

“Life would have been better for us if we were given our own piece of land to cultivate. We have tried as a family to register our names for an allocation of the land under this irrigation scheme to no avail,” she said. Ruth Mufiri (33), the fourth wife in this polygamous union said sometimes they walk more than 20km looking for work. “When we cultivate say 0,25 acres of land for someone, we get just enough food to last us for two to three days and we have to work as a family so that we do the job early and get time to travel back home before it is nightfall,” she said.

The Gama family is a typical example of how difficult it has become for families in rural communities who have not benefitted from the land grab or from development initiatives.

The Ruti irrigation project is an initiative targeting 240 vulnerable households in Wards 13 and 14 of Gutu district. The scheme aims at empowering women through enhancing access to productive resources and decision-making. Just under half the beneficiaries are women. But being part of this noble initiative remains a pipe dream for the Gama family as efforts to get an allocation of land from the scheme is a challenge.

The chairperson, Mrs Mazuru, said the Gama’s lost out because they failed to register on time when the project was initiated. “The project is an inclusive one where everyone had a chance to be part of it. The challenge with some people is that when projects are being implemented, they do not want to be a part of them. They are only forthcoming when results are evident,” said Mazuru. She said it was important that communities come up with their own solutions to problems, rathers than wait for donors to impose solutions.

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