THE national Constitution guarantees a number of rights.
They include the right to good health, to life and freedom of worship.
However, we have, elsewhere on these pages today, a deeply concerning piece on a family that, in exercising their freedom of worship, appear to be violating the rights of their children to good health and life.
The family in Gwambe in Bulilima District, Matabeleland South Province that worships under the Johane Marange Apostolic Church, consistent with their sect’s traditional doctrine, shuns modern health services. They do not seek medication from clinics and hospitals.
They allow their young to go to school only for them to acquire basic literacy and numeracy. They practise polygamy.
So when one of them falls sick or wants to deliver a baby, they rely on domestic solutions — on prayer and basic midwifery skills that are handed down through generations.
Because of their hardline beliefs, the reclusive Mazali family has lost four children — all aged three and younger — over seven months and they aren’t bothered. They only communicated the deaths within their church and buried the kids.
Sixteen-month-old Mthokozisi Ncube died in September last year, followed by one-year-old Abednico on March 3 this year, then three-year-old Annabel 13 days later and the latest eight months old Peter who died on April 23.
Things however, came into the open recently when daughters-in-law at the homestead protested against the recurrent deaths, dumping a corpse of a kid at the doorstep of their mother-in-law, otherwise a highly respected midwife for the family and the church in the area. The midwife was angered by the young women’s action and reported them to the local leadership who, in turn reported the matter to police.
We can assume if the daughters-in-law had not demonstrated the way they did, the child would have been buried the Johane Marange way.
We are deeply disturbed that the child who died last month only passed away for “failure to thrive,” a condition that health experts say means the kid wasn’t growing well because of malnutrition or chronic illness. This means that if the Mazalis had made use of the conventional health system, young Peter, and others before him, could have survived.
We know that traditionally, the Johane Marange sect across the country are strong in their beliefs against modern stuff. But we also know that many of them have in recent times moved on — they go to school up to university, they receive medical attention at hospitals and so on.
“These deaths are meant to force us to forsake our belief in Johane Marange’s God but we will not be moved, even if it means burying all these children you see here,” said Mr Siza Ncube (36) the eldest son in the family who has three wives.
“Our wives are still young and are shaken by this but as their husbands we will make them understand that this is just part of life. Earthly life is not important. So, we will not risk having our children delivered to hell by taking them to hospital as it is an evil thing not allowed in our church.”
He remains unmoved but it is saddening that the Mazalis appear to be still trapped in the past, dangerously.
As we have said, many members of Apostolic sects have in recent years been demonstrating their recognition of modern medicine. More recently, they came out in support of the ongoing Covid-19 vaccination campaign with many of their leaders appearing in the media, clad in their all-white robes, taking the jabs.
We urge the Johane Marange leadership to go all out to educate their members on the need for them to move with the times. The Government must do the same so that all members of the church can seek medical attention, go to school and so on. Yes, they can continue practising polygamy if consenting adults agree; yes, prayer is powerful but their health and that of their children must be preserved through clinics and hospitals.