Zimbabwe: When abuse became the order of the day and sanitised

Date: October 10, 2019
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  My name is Yvonne I was born and bred in Bulawayo but later moved to Gweru after getting married at the age of seventeen. My father dumped his family when we were still young. I only met my father when I was eighteen years old when he was being given his lobola by my first husband. My first marriage to Lobengula*, who was a soldier, was full of sad episodes. He treated everyone in the house in a military style that is beatings, ordering everyone around and was aggressive. I had two baby girls from my first marriage.  

My first husband was transferred to Chiredzi, Masvingo Province when we had only one child and we all relocated there. The beatings I received from Lobengula* hardened me. We stayed in the camp and I would receive a beating whenever Lobengula* got drunk. I convinced myself that I had to fight back in order to survive in my marriage. At first our neighbours would intervene but they later ignored our fights because they had become regular incidents.  

One day whilst Lobengula* was on duty he sneaked from his workplace and came home armed with a service rifle and threatened to shoot me if I ever continued to fight back when he beat me up. He said that he would not kill me but just maim me and get the satisfaction of seeing me being confined to a wheelchair for the rest of my life. Before I said anything he rushed back to his work station after he received a call from his colleagues. The next few months were calm without much violence in our home. Towards year end when he received his annual bonus at his workplace, he started his violent behaviour. I fought back and overpowered him. He had to seek medical attention from the beatings I gave him. When he returned home I had gone to the shops to buys some groceries for the family. Before I returned, he hurriedly packed a few of his civilian clothes and left without a word of where he was headed. His superiors looked for him after they noticed that he was not reporting for duty. A few months passed by without any word of where he was. We were finally told to leave the camp because he had gone away without official leave. I was asked where I wanted to take my family and transport was offered to ferry my two children and everything in the house to Gweru. 

In Gweru, we were left at my mother’s place. I had to start a new life without my abusive husband. I contacted his relatives, friends and his rural home area but no-one had any idea of where he was. Two and half years after he had left us, a distant relative of his returned home from Capetown, South Africa, where he worked. The distant relative said that Lobengula* was then working in South Africa as a security guard. The distant relative convinced everyone by confidently saying that they worked for the same company and he had photographs of Lobengula* in his current job’s uniform. He also said that Lobengula* was now staying with another woman from Zimbabwe and they had a baby girl from their union. I applied for a passport so that I would visit neighbouring countries to buy goods for resale back home. I also decided to move on and I got married for the second time.  

I married my second husband hoping to be loved and cared for. After the birth of my fourth child (the second in my second marriage), my husband, Mukanya*, started dating even people whom I knew. I would confront the women and at times beat them if they did not promise to end the affairs. Mukanya* finally moved out and stayed with one of his many girlfriends. I went to drag him home after beating up the two lovebirds. Mukanya* would constantly lie to me that he was away on business yet he was with one his girlfriends. Whenever I knew who the girlfriend was, I would beat both Mukanya* and the girlfriend. Mukanya did not even take care of me as his wife. For example he would say that it was not his fault that I was born a woman thus should not nag him to buy me some sanitary pads for use. He would tell me in the face that none of his girlfriends ever expected sanitary pads or undergarments from him because he would neither buy such items nor give money for them.  

Mukanya* then had to cheat on me far away from where we stayed. At times when we fought I got defeated by Mukanya* but I never gave in to his wayward tendencies. Whenever we fought at home Mukanya* would use weapons such as knives or chairs and I would also do likewise. He finally relocated to Mazoe, Mashonaland Central, where he started the gold panning business. My friends later told me that I might have pushed him away by beating him and his numerous girlfriends whenever I found out that he was cheating on me. Now Mukanya* occasionally calls but he does not take responsibility for the upkeep of our children. He is always complaining that business is very low. However, rumour has it that Mukanya* is acquiring some assets like motor-cars, a house and marrying other women behind my back. When I ask about these rumours, he says that the assets belong to his brother who is abroad. As for the women he is allegedly marrying, he denies that saying that they are business associates or mere female friends. 

My friends helped me with the start-up capital for my buying and reselling business. They also helped in boosting my self esteem which was then very low. I was considering myself as a useless mother and wife. My self ideal is to uplift the girl child and I consider myself being as a representative for my constituency in the House of Assembly. I later trained as a security guard in Gweru and am now working as a security guard at a local secondary school. I visit neighbouring countries like Botswana, South Africa and Zambia to buy goods for resale in Gweru during my off days. I am staying with my four children and they are all attending school.