By Br. Alfonce Kugwa
The killing of children is a phenomenon that was commonly practiced in the pre-Christian era in Africa and Zimbabwe in particular. This included the killing of children whose birth was considered to be a curse to the family. This resulted in the elimination of twins, albinos, breech deliveries, children born with disabilities, those who developed upper incisors before the lower ones and others whose circumstance of birth was considered to be absurd and a curse. Many children were killed because of these ill-fated beliefs and ignorance about biology and paediatrics by our forefathers and foremothers. Yes, this was tradition and belief, lacking scientific education and evidence.
The coming of Christianity has helped to evangelize the African people and to shape the African mentality through dispelling of counterproductive beliefs and myths. The missionary thrust to evangelise our society bore many successes in bringing about enlightenment, education and knowledge. But the recurring murder of innocent children boggles the mind as it is clear testimony that there are some people who still live in darkness and in the shadow of death; those who think that the head of a child can transform the situation that their own heads have failed to change. Wielding and nurturing such beliefs that children’s heads and the human body parts of those who are killed for ritual purposes will turn around one’s fortunes is a sign of brains that have stopped functioning.
Success comes from hard work and having a good business means abiding by set objectives and following business ethical standards and not charm and some ritualistic practices. God himself instructed that from our sweat we shall eat until we return to dust (Gen 3:19) and St. Paul teaches that he who does not work shall not eat (2 Thessalonias 3:10). Why then would one be fooled into believing that money and other fortunes should come from killing someone.
Successful people are reasonable and know that there is no connection between children’s heads and making money. The story of “mabhinya” is very popular in almost all communities and those cheap business people who are suspected of beheading children to enhance their business aptitude usually remain poor and die poor. Their business follows them to the grave when they die because the enterprise is not supported by reason, ability and technique but by charms and rituals that cannot sustain it. Successful businesses use resources effectively and efficiently to execute business strategies.
Some beliefs and rituals do not mean anything at all. Instead, they invite trouble and unending suffering for those who practice and depend on them. Human life is sacred and spilling human blood especially that of innocent children for sacrifices and rituals is obnoxious, barbaric and a crime that should not be forgiven.
It is very much disturbing that some fellow Zimbabweans, educated though they may be, still hold on to the belief that money and riches can be sourced through killing someone as directed by some fly by night prophets or n’angas. Zimbabwe has experienced many deaths of children owing to ritual murders since 17 September 2020 when Tapiwa Makore was murdered allegedly by his uncle. Many more deaths of children followed in Manicaland, Hwange, Masvingo and in many other parts of the country. Catholic Church News has investigated the causes of spilling blood of innocent people especially children and why the rot was bourgeoning in Zimbabwe.
Masvingo Diocese Coordinator for the Catholic Commission for Justice and Peace (CCJP), Simon Parwaringira confirmed that a good number of Zimbabwe’s population still believe in the nexus between ritual killings of children and money making.
“Recent trends suggests that there is a sizable number of people who strongly believe in rituals to the extent of killing a fellow human being. The rate at which the murders are occurring may also suggest that there is an increase in the percentage of people who are facing economic difficulties and with limited opportunities. There seems to be a belief that performing rituals can improve one’s economic status particularly in our African context,” Parwaringira said.
He said other problems that have been dominating the media include marriage problems leading to the parents killing their children. However, Parwaringira challenged the law enforcement agents to root out the rot by all means. He said the primary role of the government is to protect its citizens and that children are also citizens that need the government’s protection.
“The killing of children must be condemned in the strongest terms possible and as a parent, I think the government must enact a law or amend existing ones so that offenders are punished heavily and potential offenders are deterred by the stiff punishment attached to such murders,” Parwaringira reiterated.
He also challenged the Church to enact child safeguarding measures that protect the interests of children from such kind of abuse and to raise awareness on the importance of protecting children. He proposed financial investment dedicated to ensuring that children are safeguarded both at family and community level.
Parwaringira pointed out that the ongoing murders will have long term effects for children. He said being socialized in an environment of fear does not only affect them psychologically, but can affect even their conduct and behaviour in the community thereby leading to a culture of perpetual violence. Obviously, the immediate effect however is that some children might feel unsafe and drop out of school.
Mabhinya is one thing that traumatises every child and their suspected or real presence in the area instils fear and confusion in the community. This affects children as they move to and from school or as they go about other family chores like herding cattle or fetch water at a community water point. Parents, especially women cannot move around freely as leaving children on their own becomes a risk. This phenomenon has social implications, divides communities, creates mistrust and suspicion among relatives and neighbours.
The Education Secretary for Mutare Diocese, Lawrence Chibvuri backed Parwaringira’s worldview saying those murderers take advantage of children’s inability to defend themselves and children’s trust in adults. Chibvuri stated that ritual murders are strongly embedded in a ‘get rich quick’ mentality backed up by black magic. He called on the church to come up with strategies of protecting children and to embark on serious evangelization insisting on the sacredness of life.
Chibvuri stated: “Child protection issues and strategies must be discussed and implemented from parish and Small Christian Communities and coordinated by appointed child-safeguarding officers. In short, child-safe-guarding committees must be set up at all levels.”
He said cases of murders of children affect other children that they cannot concentrate in their studies or explore their talents due to fear. Chibvuri called on government to take issues of child murders seriously and consider it as a matter for discussion in Parliament and Cabinet. He also challenged the Ministry of Education to promulgate a policy compelling parents to escort learners to and from school.
According to Chibvuri, cases of this nature must be dealt with thoroughly and communities should be informed about when and how they are concluded so as to instil confidence in the people.
The Headmaster of Sacred Heart High School, Rutenga, Br. Joachim Kamwana, urged the government to deploy security offices in all communities as a way of reducing the killing of children for ritual purposes. He encouraged communities to be united and to desist from believing in theories that are sold to them by sangomas and false prophets that money and riches can be unlocked through sacrificing children.