Saul Gwakuba Ndlovu
Zimbabwe has lately been experiencing a possible increase in the occurrence of ghastly crimes, particularly the murder of one spouse by another.
One case involved a man who murdered his wife and thereafter killed himself. The double tragedy orphaned a couple of young children, another tragic situation brought about by a deplorable human weakness involving their father.
Some crimes concern the rape of baby girls, some as young as three years by men well more than 40 years old. Some of Zimbabwe’s print media refer to those babies as “girls”, a lack of understanding between the fine distinction between a baby girl and a girl.
That apart, such cases occur with nauseating frequency in Zimbabwe. It is strongly rumoured that some such rapists would have been told by traditional healers that they were HIV positive, and that to get cured, they should have sexual intercourse with a baby girl.
Some crimes involve armed robbers some of whom commit actual murder in the process.
Zimbabwe has its share of drug production and vending; the drug, being dagga, mbanje, insango. Some people have been found with dagga plants in their backyards, usually a large number of plants indicating that they are meant for sale and not only for the grower’s personal consumption.
The country is currently passing through a difficult economic phase in which some people do anything, including drug peddling and armed robbery, to make ends meet.
Such a situation causes a great deal of anxiety, frustration, depression, tension and worry, leading to one or other mental condition.
Domestic violence occurs much more in economically disadvantaged than in relatively well-off communities. Wives expect husbands to provide for the entire family, and husbands expect to be given food every evening.
That vicious circle breeds tension where poverty is the main economic environmental factor. Physical confrontation between spouses occurs in such circumstances, and the consumption of alcohol or any other drug worsens such a domestic environment.
If the situation can be bad in the rural areas where livelihood is from the soil and the soil is plentiful, it is much worse in urban centres where livelihood is from the sale of labour power (employment), and opportunities for such employment are slightly higher than a meagre five percent.
Poverty breeds desperation and desperation generates immorality and crime, particularly thievery and a host of other crimes, that are caused by dishonesty. The crimes comprise fraud, forgery, impersonation, drug peddling and telling lies about one’s and other people’s lives.
Prostitution is a typical poverty product and so are some so-called church organisations that sprout overnight with self-anointed “prophets” whose salvation message is in what they call “holy water” that is sold at usually $10 per bottle.
Both the seller and buyer of such “holy water” are desperate products and victims of poverty.
The murder of one spouse by the other is usually caused by very high passion, that is to say love with one’s heart minus one’s mind.
This is a very controversial matter, and has been so since the existence of the human race. Wars have been fought, thrones have been abandoned, parents have been deserted by their children, and religious leaders have been excommunicated because of love between man and woman, love that involved hearts minus minds.
In such love issues, emotions become so high that they submerge the minds. Most Christian church leaders say those experiencing such a situation would be under a demon’s influence.
However, in Zimbabwean traditional beliefs, those who show such emotions are said to have been surreptitiously given a love potion (badliswa, vakadyiswa) so that they are permanently infatuated.
Leaving that controversy to pastors, psychologists and herbalists, we now turn to the role the Zimbabwe Republic Police (ZRP) can and should play in all this, especially to try and reduce the incidence of the murder of some matrimonial partners by others.
The author of this article deeply believes that regular meetings convened by the ZRP and their respective local publics to discuss such matters as this and admonish the public accordingly could be of much help.
Called by the ZRP’s public relations department, such meetings can educate people about social matters of interest and value such as HIV and Aids. The rape incidence of children especially, and of even grown up women could be reduced by such meetings as the ZRP could emphasise two very important facts: one that it is utterly nonsensical that one can be cured of HIV and Aids by having sexual intercourse with a baby girl or with any other person, and, two, the public could be educated that crime of rape commands a very long sentence.
These are two educational facts that can and should be hammered into every Zimbabwean’s head by the ZRP and the public media to help reduce the country’s crime rate. The ZRP can and should replace ignorance with knowledge, an important public relations function. Resource persons at such meetings could come from medical professional personnel, preferably from the Ministry of Health and Child Care, and also from the Ministry of Primary and Secondary Education.
Regular ZRP meetings can also enable law enforcers to sensitise the people about how to secure their homes and any other property against thieves.
Nothing but good can come out of such meetings which can be held quarterly in every urban ward, and probably half yearly in rural wards.
We now end this article by commenting on court fines and sentences on criminals of various categories. Some, if not many, sentences are so light they do not match the seriousness of the crimes concerned. Imagine an HIV positive rapist of a three-year-old toddler being sentenced to three light strokes with a cane! An effectively meaningless punishment!
Suspended sentences ought to be a very small proportion of the entire sentences, a very small pact indeed. A convicted rapist ought to serve the whole sentence in as much as he himself did not suspend any part of his beastly crime. He went the whole hog when he raped.
We now turn to whether or not the death penalty should be passed and carried out in Zimbabwe. Yes, of course, particularly if one has been convicted for murder. The national constitution upholds it (the death sentence), so, it must be applied as stipulated by the nation’s supreme law.
That is, in fact, what is meant by “the rule of law” about which so much is said in Zimbabwe. We should remember that crime is reduced, all other factors being constant, where punishment is severe and is maintained, and that to empathise or sympathise with a convicted offender is to reject and oppose the cries of the offended.
Saul Gwakuba Ndlovu is a retired, Bulawayo – based journalist. He can be contacted on cell 0734 328 136 or through email firstname.lastname@example.org