According to her relatives, a 15-year-old girl from Norton died while giving birth at a shrine of a white garment church sect in Bikita. Nokutenda Hwaramba’s death has tragic echoes of the deaths of 14-year-old Anna Machaya in July last year while giving birth in Marange and 15-year-old Ferby Munyafi of Chiadzwa Village in Marange who died in January this year from excessive bleeding while delivering under the supervision of a faith healer.
Nokutenda’s mother, Loice Muparadziwo, said she couldn’t be with her daughter in her final moments on October 4 because she was in Norton for a miscarriage. “She became ill and would simply fall as if possessed by bad spirits.” Her father consulted prophets from his community before taking her to Bikita for additional prayers. He left Nokutenda in the hands of the intercessors, and she died in the shrine while giving delivery,” Muparadziwo told H-Metro.
“The church theology prohibited us from taking Nokutenda to a clinic or hospital to give birth or receive medical treatment.” Muparadziwo claimed Nokutenda was impregnated by a man only identified as Aaron, a Norton neighbour. Aaron allegedly vanished after learning of Nokutenda’s pregnancy. The latest shrine death of a young girl will cast additional light on the groups’ practises, which have been condemned by the UN.
Following Anna’s death in July of last year, the UN asked Zimbabwe’s government to do more to combat the epidemic of child marriages, which are common at clandestine sect shrines. Activists claim that by limiting teens access to professional health care, religious leaders are denying them control over their own bodies. Anna’s parents, Edmore Machaya, 45, and Shy Mabika, 36, were sentenced to nine months in prison – entirely suspended – for lying to detectives about her age in order to conceal the fact that she was a child when they married her off to Hatirarami Momberume alias Evans Michael Momberume, a 25-year-old devotee of the Johane Marange apostolic sect who is charged with her murder.
In the death of Ferby on January 12, 2022, police charged her “husband,” 29-year-old Arthur Chitombo, with having sexual contact with a minor. She began having labor pains on January 9 and was transported to a faith healer in Mafararikwa Village, the headquarters of the Johane Marange religion in Marange, Manicaland. Ferby went into labour three days later and bled extensively. She died alongside her unborn child.