In a tale of tragedy, Ms. Zandile Sibanda held her 14-year-old daughter, Sikhulile Sibanda, in her arms as the young girl took her last breath, victimized by an early child marriage that led to months of severe illness. The story unfolds in Lumene, Gwanda District, where the consequences of a disturbing early marriage have shaken a community.
Sikhulile, just 13 years old at the time, was impregnated in April of the previous year by Munashe Ncube, a 27-year-old man. She had her whole life ahead of her, yet it was forever altered by this illicit relationship.
Ncube eloped with Sikhulile when she was about to start Form One, effectively robbing her of her education and childhood. Her family reported her disappearance, unaware of her whereabouts until they received the shocking news that she had given birth.
Sikhulile’s maternal grandfather, Mr. Stanley Ngwenya, recounted the family’s efforts to locate the missing teenager. They reported her disappearance to the police, but Ncube’s absence made the search more challenging.
However, a phone call from concerned community members in Inyathi revealed a dire situation. Sikhulile had fallen critically ill, and her family rushed to her side, only to discover the full extent of her ordeal. She had secretly given birth without her family’s knowledge, and her health had deteriorated significantly.
After giving birth, Sikhulile suffered from a heart problem and internal organ damage due to prolonged labor. She was hospitalized several times until she tragically passed away in the early hours of September 9 while living in South Africa under her mother’s care. Her young life was cut short, and she was laid to rest at her mother’s homestead in Lumene Village.
Sikhulile’s maternal grandmother, Ms. Patricia Tshuma, described her granddaughter’s dire medical condition upon arrival in Inyathi. Ncube had deceived health officials about her age, presenting her as 18 years old. However, it became evident that her health was deteriorating rapidly, prompting neighbors to alert the authorities.
Despite efforts to save her life, Sikhulile’s condition worsened, leading to her untimely death. Her last words, uttered to her grieving mother, were “mama, mama umntwanami” (mother, mother my child), a heartbreaking plea.
This tragic incident sheds light on the devastating consequences of child marriages in Zimbabwe. According to the Zimbabwe Gender Commission (ZGC), nearly 34 percent of girls under 18 are married countrywide, highlighting the urgent need to address this issue. The passing of the Marriage Bill in Parliament, which prohibits child marriages and provides legal protection for young girls, represents a significant step toward combating this harmful practice.
Sikhulile’s story serves as a painful reminder of the importance of protecting the rights and futures of young girls and ending child marriages in Zimbabwe.- state media