THE National Constitution guarantees a number of rights.
They understand the right to good health, life and freedom of worship.
However, elsewhere in these pages today we have a deeply concerning article about a family who, by exercising their freedom of worship, appear to violate their children’s rights to good health and life.
The Gwambe family, Bulilima district, South Matabeleland province, who worship under the aegis of the Johane Marange Apostolic Church, in accordance with traditional sect doctrine, avoid modern health services . They don’t look for drugs in clinics and hospitals.
They only allow their young people to go to school so that they can acquire the basics of literacy and numeracy. They practice polygamy.
So when one gets sick or wants to give birth, she relies on home solutions – on prayer and basic midwifery skills that are passed down from generation to generation.
Due to their uncompromising beliefs, the reclusive Mazali family lost four children – all aged three and under – in seven months and they don’t mind. They only communicated the deaths within their church and buried the children.
Mthokozisi Ncube, 16 months, died in September last year, followed by Abednico, one year old, on March 3 of this year, then Annabel, three years old, 13 days later and Peter, eight months later, died on April 23.
However, matters recently came to light when the farm’s daughters-in-law protested the recurring deaths, throwing the corpse of a child on their stepmother’s doorstep, if not a well-respected midwife for the family and the church of the region. The midwife was angry with the young women’s actions and reported them to local management who in turn reported the matter to the police.
We can assume that if the daughters-in-law had not demonstrated as they did, the child would have been buried in the manner of Johane Marange.
We are deeply disturbed that the child who died last month only died of “stunting,” a condition which health experts say means the child was not growing well due to malnutrition or poor nutrition. ‘chronic disease. This means that if the Mazalis had used the conventional healthcare system, young Peter and others before him might have survived.
We know that the Johane Marange sect across the country has traditionally been strong in their beliefs against modern stuff. But we also know that a lot of them have changed in recent times – they go to school to university, they get medical treatment in hospitals, etc.
“These deaths are meant to force us to give up our belief in the God of Johane Marange 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 of the family who has three wives.
“Our wives are still young and are shocked by it, but as husbands we will make them understand that it is part of life. Life on earth is not important. Thus, we will not take the risk of having our children delivered to hell by taking them to the hospital because it is a bad thing that is not allowed in our church.
He remains impassive but it is sad that the Mazalis still seem trapped in the past, dangerously.
As we have said, many members of apostolic sects have shown their recognition of modern medicine in recent years. More recently, they have shown support for the ongoing Covid-19 vaccination campaign, with many of their leaders appearing in the media, dressed in their all-white robes, taking the hits.
We urge the leaders of Johane Marange to do everything possible to make their members aware of the need for them to evolve with the times. The government must do the same so that all members of the church can see a doctor, go to school, etc. Yes, they can continue to practice polygamy if the consenting adults agree; yes, prayer is powerful but their health and that of their children must be preserved through clinics and hospitals.