Zimbabwean Baby Survives Night In A Grave

A mother buried her baby alive in Zimbabwe last week. The baby miraculously survived a whole night buried in the "grave", which was really just a pit. She has been hauled before a traditional court and fined a goat and a cow by Chief Negomo. It reminds me of the infamous incident when my friend Noreen Welch and the late Tsitsi Vera were suspended by Zimbabwe Television after failing to contain themselves while reading the story of a woman who had gone to the toilet on a train and given birth thinking she only needed to relieve herself, unaware that she was pregnant. This is much sadder, obviously and the mother deserve much more than being fined a cow and a sheep

Harare, Zimbabwe, 24 January 2010

A new-born baby buried alive by her mother survived for a whole night in the grave before being rescued by an alert man who lives near the graveyard.

Phibian Chinehasha (the surname means "that which has anger"in the Shona language of Zimbabwe) says he became suspicious after realising that a fresh grave had appeared in the graveyard overnight.

He teamed up with other villagers and dug the grave up. They got the shock of their lives when they unearthed a baby, alive and struggling to breathe.

The mother was identified as Margaret Munjanja, a farm worker at nearby Bermaside Farm. The villagers arrested her and took her to their chief.

The woman said she attempted to kill the child because she had an affair with her husband's nephew and suspected that he was the father of the child. The chief fined her a sheep and a cow and said he would also refer her matter to the police.

It turns out there is something in the water around the area, ruled by Chief Negomo. According to State media, recent cases of infanticide included one occasion when a mother doused her baby in petrol and burned it alive. Another mother threw her baby into a Blair toilet (pit toilets dug in Zimbabwe's rural areas where there is no modern sewage system).

Zimbabwean traditional practice is that a nephew plays around (almost always harmlessly) with his uncles and his uncles' wives traditionally but jokingly referred to as "husband" by his uncles' wives.

It would appear this young man went a bit further than just mere role-playing. Why this should have led to the cruel act of burying a baby alive remains a mystery and it is also not reported whether the husband knew about his wife's pregnancy or not.

The potential baby-killing mother pleaded with Chief Negomo not to hand her matter over to the police, saying she will take good care of the child.

I am not sure whether the Chief believed this. Why should the woman be trusted after having done such a deplorable thing, something that is unthinkable in Zimbabwean society and is normally the preserve of immature young girls who fall pregnant at very young ages and prefer to dump their babies instead of looking after them.

Considering that the practice appears to be widespread in his domain, the Chief should really hand the matter over to the police and allow the law to take its course.

The Chiefs in Zimbabwe, although they have the power to try criminals under traditional law, have no power to put anyone in prison and can only pass sentences of fines, mostly cows, goats, chickens and sheep.

Chief Negomo obviously needs to send a message that the life of a human being, even a new-born one, is worth much more than a cow and a goat.

Even he, Chief Negomo, admits that this was a special case:
“This case is one of the most extraordinary cases I have handled. It was cruel for the mother to attempt to kill an innocent soul in such a manner. It’s quite disturbing that she had the nerve to go to the cemetery at night and dig a pit,” he told reporters.

What, one is compelled to ask, has come over Zimbabweans?



  1. Wow. I'm speechless. Definitely deserves more punishment than that, don't you think? A few years in jail, at least!


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