Castigated by those that she holds dear, shunned by those close to her and hated by almost everybody else, Florence Chigasa is like a leper.
Her crime is doing what any other woman should do under her circumstances, and that is seeking justice for her young one.
Last year, Ms Chigasa came home from a day labouring in the fields to discover that her five-year-old daughter had been raped and beaten by her brother-in-law.
Upon taking the matter to the police and later doctors, it was discovered that it was not the first time the girl had been raped and she had developed health complications as a result.
What followed were a series of traditional court dates, clashes with in-laws, an attempted bribe and finally being exiled to Gweru, away from all she holds dear and everything she has ever known and worked for.
Although the rapist has since been sentenced to 17 years behind bars – with two years suspended on condition of good behaviour – 31-year-old Ms Chigasa is yet to find peace.
“The whole community turned against me from the very first day I reported the case and the perpetrator was jailed. The crime I committed in their eyes was to report the case to the police which they did not want me to do.
“To them what was important was to fight on their son’s side but they did not consider the impact of the rape on my child who is also their grandchild. Up to now they are still angry and have even vowed that this matter is not yet finished.” Ms Chigasa goes on: “I refused to accept the five cows that my father-in-law offered me as bribe so that I do not report the case. My husband, whom I thought was on my side, turned his back on me.
“He beat and harassed me on a regular basis and I live with the wounds on my back as evidence of the abuse I went through for refusing to withdraw the case.
“It got so bad that I even tried to withdraw the case, but the courts refused and threatened to punish me.”
And it appears this is just the tip of the iceberg.
Investigations by The Sunday Mail Extra crew revealed a sinister history that the Mitsi clan does not want exposed.
This is not the first time family members have tried to cover up rape, and indications are that these are performed for ritual purposes.
One other rape of a 10-year-old is rumoured to have occurred in the family, and the clan member is also serving a lengthy jail term.
But the family says the latest rape circumstances are unclear and they believe Ms Chigasa’s accusations are merely meant to tarnish their clan’s.
As such, Samuel Mitsi – the father of the five-year-old girl and husband of Ms Chigasa – has never visited his daughter since the rape was reported.
“There was no tangible evidence that any rape occurred and we only heard from the doctors that the child was raped and needed medical attention.
“They have since left for Gweru we hear, but we do not know their exact whereabouts. I have made several efforts to contact them but she denies me access to see the children.
“I am not even sure how they are surviving or footing the medical bills,” says Mr Mitsi.
Mr Davis Mitsi, grandfather of the victim, denies trying to bribe the girl’s mother so that she would not make a police report.
He says his daughter-in-law left to seek medical attention for the child and never returned.
“All we know is that we never chased her away, she left this place and we were in good books. We never bribed her to withdraw the case at the courts but we were only trying to negotiate as a family.
“The perpetrator we are talking about has since been sentenced to 17 years in Jail, so why is she still bothering us about this issue. What exactly does she want?” the elder Mr Mitsi asked.
Chief Njelele of Gokwe says he handled the case for a while, and spoke of the abuse Ms Chigasa suffered.
“The case came to my attention this year and confirmations were that the child was raped and needed serious attention. However, the mother of the child received several threats from the family to the point that she pleaded with me to withdraw the case so that she could at least have peace at home.
“We do not want that in this community, the Mitsi family has never been really open about the incident, raising suspicions that there is more information that we do not know.
“I have tried to assist the woman in every way possible and we are still engaging the Mitsi family so that they can accept their daughter-in-law,” he says.
- All names – except Chief Njelele – have been changed to protect the identity of the victim.
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