Betty Makoni: Mazara owes no one an apology over Makanaka article

By Betty Makoni
Excuse me people! I have been following the debate on Makanaka. By the way, my heartfelt congratulations to this young woman for finally sharing her story. She has also formed a charity for her cause, which is fantastic.

I see many young women forming their charities daily and what great work they are doing.

I waited for long to see her do this one day — not as a victim but as a happily married young woman she said she would be. Sadly as I read all that has happened to her, I could not help wondering why she had to take that long route of suffering when help was right at her doorstep.

To allow my thoughts to flow smoothly in this article, I sent a message of forgiveness to Makanaka for all the insults she hurled at me in public when I stretched my hand offering help. It is something that embarrassed me and put my name into disrepute.

Due to her actions and the lies she peddled against me, I was banned from rescuing girls in forced marriages. But despite what I went through I still forgive her. Her case file is still with me and I will keep it for as long as I live. Now since she has opened up this case and made it public, I would also like to follow up on it and give a testimony and pose some helpful tips to other young girls.

I read the opinion that came out last Sunday entitled ‘‘No Makanaka, you can’t fool us again’’. Ruthless just as his words sound, I dug deeper to find out why Garikai Mazara, as a man, would express such anger and bitterness towards a “rape victim”.

I felt compelled to share a testimony so that his opinion is with some background information.

So hold on, my dear sisters who are asking for an apology from Garikai Mazara.
Betty Makoni: Mazara owes no one an apology over Makanaka article
To be told to report rape on time is not an insult. To be advised to start your charity with a straightforward life experience where the story is truthful is not an insult. Do not twist the tough talk by Garikai.

All he wanted to say is that — girls with all the support you have around you, do not take such for granted because there are many girls with no rights and with nothing. He is not wrong to question our behaviour as women and girls. We make wrong choices in life and we ought to be corrected.

Why would we demand apologies for advice given to us in such an honest way? For sure, one cannot apologise for such tough talk to teenagers. Tough talk to teenagers and women like Makanaka makes them look at life more differently. The birth certificate is not enough to classify people as either children or adults. There is so much about their experience in life that tells us how old they are.

I think Chiedza Simbo, who demands an apology from Mazara, missed the background to the whole case of Makanaka. I do not think before she (I am assuming Chiedza is a she) wrote the article she asked either The Herald or The Sunday Mail to pull out archives on this story because what actually happened with Makanaka is fully documented.

Hang on there as I will try to give a brief background of what happened and this is my personal testimony. I will try to make you see and understand child abuse, child neglect and child bullying below.

Statutory rape or rape?

I heard that the businessman, Obvious Sambadzi of Alcatraz clothing label, was having sex with Makanaka. He had signed up as a sponsor to the Kidsnet show where Makanaka was hostess. I think she must have been around 14 years when he expressed “his desire to fall in love” with Makanaka.

I immediately set up an investigation team and succeeded in putting all facts together. Yes, indeed, Obvious had had sex with a minor but, as you are aware, it was not clear whether it was “rape,” meaning sex with a girl under 12 years whether she consented to it or not, or “statutory rape”, meaning having consensual sex with a girl who is over 12.

I wanted to get Makanaka to our charity organisation, Girl Child Network, to get her official story. I then sent a team of ‘‘rescuers’’ to the house which she had been given to occupy after Sambadzi had evicted his wife. When my team got there, Makanaka did not have any kind words for the rescue team.

Mind you, we always followed rules, police officers were always present at rescue missions. She hurled insults at them, “Leave me and my husband alone. You people are very jealous. Go away with your fake charity. I am living well here and I don’t need your services. Don’t you have poor girls out there to help? I am happily married.”

Within a few minutes a senior officer called the police officers accompanying the rescue team to vacate the place immediately. Therefore since Makanaka refused to take our voluntary services, my officers could not ascertain whether it was rape or statutory rape.
Betty Makoni: Mazara owes no one an apology over Makanaka article
I felt that I had to go and check whether indeed Makanaka had refused the support which came to her doorstep. I made a secret trip to the house and actually saw Makanaka’s mother getting into this house. Someone told me she drove from her house to stay with her son-in-law and daughter.

To be frank, nothing looked amiss at this house. I told the guard at the house that we had come to get facts on Makanaka and that I was leader of a charity organisation. He went inside the house only to return with threats.

In a few days’ time I read through the papers that Makanaka had issued a statement against me and I read her vile words directed towards me. I started getting hundreds of messages from all over the country, people threatening me and telling me that I was such a big shame, a marriage breaker.

Thereafter, I learnt of the big baby shower bash that Makanaka had for her baby and that quite some powerful women in the business sector attended. According to what I saw, Makanaka was living in a mansion and had “taken” her husband. The other woman previously married to Sambadzi was the most tormented. Everything ‘‘good’’ went so quick for Makanaka and by the time she got to be 16 we lost it because what might have been statutory rape was turned into marriage. This marriage was done according to all traditional customs and procedures.

The rapist won and he had the support of his supposed victim and her mother. The father was kept out of everything, but he kept communicating with me on how his daughter could be helped. But since the parents had separated long before, the rapist played divide-and-rule.

The Garikai Mazara’s tough talk to girls

However, for thousands of girls out there whether your story is known or not, I advise that you say the truth about what has happened so that society as a whole supports you without question. Also we are all mature women and why should we be hurt if men like Garikai Mazara come to pose powerful questions about where we went wrong and we were ought to be corrected.

Of course, there are those who rush to dismiss the Garikai Mazara tough talk to girls, but I am so sure in his message there are issues girls must reflect on as a matter of urgency. He is not trying to side with rapists. His anger is directed to those he cares about the most.

He decries the lost opportunity for Makanaka. The girl had everything to even form an empowerment trust and not a victim trust for girls. For how long are we going to form charities because we were once victims?

For girls like Makanaka who have the opportunities, please stay on the educational route. Do not move from classrooms to bedrooms, or from books to babies.

Making wrong choices always happen but when kind people intervene and offer help, never mobilise against help, dear girls. We always have a tough time with girls siding with rapists at first, only to come out too late to press charges when evidence is already lost. So Makanaka’s case of rape is not complete if she does not go through the court processes. If we leave this case to be lost we are not genuine about our support to her.

For her story to change Zimbabwe, Makanaka must proceed with a court case and show up at the police station to give the statement we wanted to get from her. It is not too late to start her work from claiming justice for herself. Charity begins at home.

Garikai Mazara is right to suggest that we have some degree of truth in rape claims because consent to marry and forced marriage are two different things. We want legal closure so that her future work becomes more transparent.

Lastly, do not tell me that Makanaka has forgiven the man who raped her. If so, this is going to set a very bad precedent. Rape is an evil crime and if Makanaka now has come forward with rape allegations, please law enforcement agents intervene.

Garikai, in his opinion, was very clear that the rape of children is not tolerated anywhere in the world. By being so bold to ask Makanaka to take action on historical rape, he suggested a better way to have ethics and values as she starts her work. It is better for Makanaka to be remembered as a young woman who fought for her justice after many years of keeping silent rather than for her to be remembered for telling future victims to do what she failed to do. Tough talk, indeed.

Well my opinion remains that Garikai raised serious moral and ethical issues for any woman starting a charity. Let’s not go into this work as victims but as leaders with moral values and ethics. There are many girls with great stories who grew up orphaned but because they listened and took advice, today I celebrate the big professionals they are. If they had quit education to pursue money and sugar daddies, today we would be talking about victims and not leaders.

Yes I agree with Garikai that lest we forget, we have the rural poor waiting to share genuine stories of forced child marriage and how genuinely ruined their futures are.

A girl with rights is different from a girl with no rights. There is no apology to be given by Garikai Mazara to Makanaka. He has done an honest thing of giving Makanaka tough and open talk. Every girl must read what Garikai has written because in his advice to girls he said, never you lose sight of opportunities.

We have educational opportunities, girls. Let’s build our work on the great opportunities we have. Playing victim cards will not support our cause.

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