Is this not possible?
Well, then you have not been to Zimbabwe lately!
This troubling mindset – in all likelihood a result of prolonged subjugation and indoctrination that finally becomes so normalized and entrenched in the victim’s psyche that, as time passes, can eventually be translated as not only something good, but actually to be proud of, as a sign of privilege.
Let me start with a more common place illustration – before moving on to the more controversial political space.
As I was waiting for someone at Kwekwe bus and commuter omnibus main terminus – I sat watching those who were walking by, and going about their business – and, I set my eyes on a mother carrying a baby on her back.
What captured my attention was her age – as she appeared no older than 15 years old.
Could the baby strapped on her back be a younger sibling, or relative – I pondered to myself!
However, the garb she was donning made me think otherwise.
She was, without a doubt, a member of the Apostolic Sect (Mapostori, as they are commonly referred to in Zimbabwe) – with her unmistakable white garments betraying this fact.
This is a Christian sect notorious for its propensity for marrying off very young girls – some barely in their teens – usually to much older church elders, likely already in polygamous unions.
Who can forget the harrowing tale of Memory Machaya – who, at only 14 years of age, bled to death whilst giving birth at a shrine in Mutare, Manicaland Province, in July 2021?
Then, only last month in October, another young mother – 15 year old Nokutenda Hwaramba – faced a similar tragic fate at a shrine in Norton, Mashonaland West Province.
Yet, why I brought this issue up is what I believed I noticed on the girl in Kwekwe – as she carried her baby across from where I was seated.
Judging from how she was talking, she appeared proud of being a mother.
I naturally began wondering if, within her sect, being chosen – since most of these ‘marriages’ are entered into not after romantic courtship, but supposed ‘prophecies’ by some church elders – was not perceived as a sign of honor.
Surely, if these girls are brought up under such an oppressive, abusive and manipulative environment – could being picked or chosen amongst a host of other young ‘contenders’ not eventually be interpreted as a great privilege?
How do those who, let us say, reach the age of eighteen years without ever having been ‘dreamt of’ or ‘prophesied’ feel?
Do they not end up feeling as if there was something wrong or unlovable about them?
As I sat there, my mind racing as contemplating all sorts of things – none of which pleasant, but actually each appearing more horrid than the last – the possibility of these young girls being socialized into looking forward, with bated breath and anticipation, to these ‘marriages’ became even more nightmarish.
Could indoctrination really reach such terrifying levels?
Before a second passed by, fate seemed to give me an answer.
Along came a young man – possibly in his early 20s – strutting as if a peacock, in a clear manner of showing all present that he was one of the ‘top dogs’ in the terminus.
Of course, he was also putting on his mark of authority – a worn-out dirty ruling ZANU PF party t-shirt, bearing his leader’s smug face.
It was not too hard to tell that he truly felt ‘king of the castle’ – able to order around all the other vendors and bus crews (as well as passengers) plying their trade within the premises – peculiarly, owned by the opposition-led municipality of Kwekwe.
The ‘power’ he had been bestowed – by who knows who – had obviously gotten into his head…in truly ‘big fish in small pond’ fashion.
The troubling similarities between these two scenarios was not lost on me.
Here were two people who were facing some form of abuse by those in authority – yet, clearly none of them perceived their sad and heart breaking status in this light.
Due to years of indoctrination and repression each actually believed that being placed in the regrettable position they were in – was a badge of honor.
The young girl may have thought being chosen by a far older man as his wife was a privilege – which made her more special than the other girls of her age.
The young man – filled with alcoholic beverages, and maybe other illicit substances – felt invincible, as the ‘chosen one’ amongst the vendors, bus crews and even passengers.
I seriously doubt if he ever took time off to ponder his plight – most preferably, whilst sober – since that would awaken him to the brutal reality that he had actually been impoverished by the same leader whose face he proudly wore.
Both these victims – as that is exactly what they are – may never ever have considered that, others of their ages, living outside this tragic environment, were, in fact, enjoying a far much higher standard of living.
Their peers, elsewhere, were free, living large and achieving phenomenal things in life.
Nevertheless, for as long as this young girl remained confined in that sect – she will always believe she was favored to be married at 15 years old to an elder of the church.
Is that not why most of these girls will never escape from these ‘marriages’ – and, may actually defend their ‘husbands’ from justice?
As long as the young man continued restricted in the life of the bus terminus – filled with drugs and alcohol – he will always feel a master amongst vendors, bus crews and even passengers.
Is that not why such young people will actually be prepared to unleash savage brutality on any who may dare criticize their leader?
Both will never dream of a better life – for how can they, when this is the best life they have ever known.
In fact, that is the only life they have ever known!
It becomes so clear how being oppressed can quite easily be perceived as an honor and privilege by the victims.
- Tendai Ruben Mbofana is a social justice advocate, writer, researcher, and social commentator. Please feel free to contact him on WhatsApp or Call: +26371566700 | +263782283975, or Calls Only: +263788897936, or email: firstname.lastname@example.org