Friday 23 July 2021


A MAN from Mabhele Village under Chief Tategulu in Tsholotsho allegedly raped and impregnated his mentally challenged niece before committing suicide.

The man whose age could not be immediately established, allegedly committed suicide last Friday as he was facing arrest.

The incident comes at a time when the Covid-19 lockdown is worsening domestic and sexual violence cases as perpetrators are stuck with victims.

In rural areas, victim friendly services such as health care centres and police are not readily accessible to communities and some people have to go long distances to report cases.

Sources said the man was dumped by his girlfriend when she learnt that he had sexually violated his niece, a known mental patient.

“It’s sad really because the niece was born with a mental illness. She is someone who has always stayed at home and the community was shocked to learn that she had been impregnated. After being interrogated, she then revealed that her uncle is responsible for her pregnancy and the matter was reported to traditional leaders. The biggest concern is how his victim will raise a child because I don’t think with her mental state, she can be a responsible mother,” said a source close to the case.

Mabhele Village head Mr Thayimoni Sibanda said the community is still shocked as the accused did the unthinkable.

“This happened last Friday. This man is said to have impregnated his younger sister (cousin) who is also a mental patient. He had turned her into a wife and impregnated her. This is taboo lihlazo elikhulu. We summoned him to a traditional court on Thursday so that he could explain what he was accused of doing by members of his family. We instructed him to hand himself over to the police or we would forcefully take him there,” said Mr Sibanda.

“So, on Friday we discovered that he torched his home, burnt all his belongings and had committed suicide by hanging on a tree. We called the police who conducted investigations and concluded that he committed suicide as there were no signs of foul play.”

Matabeleland North provincial police spokesperson Inspector Glory Banda confirmed the case saying it was worrying that those who are supposed to protect the vulnerable turn out to be abusers.

He said of concern is that Tsholotsho District has the highest rape cases in the province.

“Rape cases are most prevalent in Tsholotsho. We have engaged traditional leaders and have been able to reach out to community leaders educating them that it is illegal and would land them in jail. We will implore community leaders to cascade the message to their subjects that rape is criminal. We are aware that some of the people rape their relatives on cultural basis such as umlamu/chiramu flirting. But we want to warn the public that this is still rape and we are saying that we should not rape in the name of culture and tradition. We should all live by the contemporary rule of the day,” he said.

A mental health expert said this case exposes how people with disabilities are abused and may have nowhere to turn to.

Ingutsheni Central Hospital clinical director Dr Wellington Ranga said sexual abuse cases targeting mental patients are rampant in communities. “On Mondays we always run a clinic especially for victims of rape. Rape occurs when men forcefully take advantage of the psychologically weak and mental patients are among the most vulnerable group of people. If you come to Ingutsheni Hospital, we can show you a whole group of victims which shows that some men are not really fair to our people with mental illnesses,” said Dr Ranga.

He said worsening the challenges of mental patients is that when they are sexually abused, they rarely get help on time.

Rape victims are expected to report to health facilities within 72 hours so that they can be provided with medication to prevent them from being exposed to sexually transmitted diseases and also pregnancies.

“But most of the cases involving mental patients are not reported until it’s too late, making it impossible to terminate the pregnancy. The cases mostly come to light when the pregnancy becomes visible,” said Dr Ranga.

He said there is a need to strengthen social protection nets for mental patients who are largely neglected by society.

“Looking at such cases, social services are what is really needed to be able to protect them in a safe environment. If the home environment is not safe, we always wonder where the safety will come from. Communities should be encouraged to create safe environments for mental patients as prevention is better than cure,” he said. Chronicle


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