HARARE – A teenage girl who threw her 2-year-old baby girl into a river and left her to drown, has received the shortest possible sentence under the law after a Masvingo court deemed her attendance at court was sufficient punishment for the offence.
The court considered the traumatic circumstances leading to the murder ruling that while every life is sacred, the accused was a tormented soul.
The court heard how the teenager had been raped by her 56-year-old uncle at the age of 14 causing her to drop out of school.
At every turn, she had been labelled a prostitute by her grandmother, Haruperi Mazhambe, and beaten for alleged promiscuity by her young brother, Desmond Mazhambe, leading her to attempt to commit suicide on April 1 2021.
On that fateful day, at age 16 and 11 months, the teenager attempted to rid herself of the “shame,” by drowning herself in Tugwi River at Nyevedzani Village in Masvingo.
She threw her baby first into the river and when it came to her turn she could not muster the courage to kill herself and she returned home, the court heard.
High Court judge justice Garainashe Mawadze found the teenage girl guilty of murder with actual intent but in sentencing was quick to say “this is a rather unusual case which obviously calls for also a rather unusual sentence.”
He ordered accused to remain in custody “until the rising of the court,” meaning she was free as soon Justice Mawadze rose from the bench and left the court.
Mawadze described the accused as “a tormented soul” adding “no useful purpose would be served by further punishing her or sending her to prison.”
“The victim in this matter is a two-year-old child. It matters not that the child was a product of incestuous rape. An innocent child died a painful death by being drowned in Tugwi River. The accused is the person who was expected to protect this child and not to harm the child,” Mawadze said.
“All things equal the accused’s blameworthiness would he high. This case calls for the highest degree of empathy and mercy. The accused is indeed a tormented soul. No useful purpose would be saved by further punishing her or sending her to prison.”
Earlier, a Psychometric Assessment Report conducted by Tichakunda Mbengo during trial had concluded that the accused suffered from post-traumatic stress disorder and clinical depression.
Mbengo said the accused exhibited episodes of amnesia and disassociation in relation to the ordeal that led to deceased’s death.
The accused constantly keeps thinking about the alleged rape and has a phobia of her abuser whom she cannot forgive and she is still bitter, reads the report.
The accused was also angry that she was improperly labelled a prostitute by her grandmother resulting in episodes of anger and outbursts. It also did not help that her mother, a housemaid, was nomadic and her father was absent, resulting the accused lacking social support structures.
Mbengo recommended that accused should undergo physiological counselling with periodic assessments and that even members of her family like the grandmother need to he counselled.
“It is clear that the accused surfers from moments of panic arising from the alleged rape especially when she experiences flashbacks,” he said.
“To her mind she cannot understand as to why her abuser is still a free person. This hurts her causing her to cry. She cannot find closure and is unable to forgive the alleged abuser. As a defence mechanism she resorts to amnesia as a way of trying to bury this rape incident.”
Meanwhile, the rape accused uncle, Luckford Nyevedzani, is out on bail.
His matter is pending before the Masvingo Regional Court.
In that matter, allegations are that the teenage girl was threatened with death if she divulged the rape.
Her mother discovered that her daughter was pregnant in December 2018 when the pregnancy was nine months on, leading to the arrest of Nyevedzani.