Zimbabwean girls have become notorious for going out with married men. Although adultery is illegal, the statistics of court cases brought by aggrieved housewives do not represent the wave of illicit affairs recorded in the community.
The married men also go out of their way to hide the affairs, meaning that they largely remain under the radar.
Take the case of Clive Masanga*, a successful medical doctor who is going out with Cassandra, an unemployed O’Level dropout who came to him as a patient, and whose relatives are also his clients. Two weeks ago, Masanga took Cassandra and her mother to South Africa for shopping. He bought presents for most members of the young woman’s family, including a touch-screen television for her father, who has endorsed the illicit affair.
Masanga’s wife, who works with her husband at a local hospital as a nurse, is furious over the developments. She has previously left him over the adultery scandals and only returned to him after he bought her a car as compensation, the sources said. Now, the wife says, she will not only divorce the doctor, but also sue Cassandra for adultery, although her chances of getting any substantial compensation are slim.
Social workers dismissed claims of unemployment and desperation by the errant women.
“Many of the girls going out with married men are employed,” said sociologist Emilia Hadebe. “Actually, the girls are usually co-workers with their lovers to make it easier for them to go out together and to communicate without raising suspicion.”
Pastor John Rocque, who has counselled many couples affected by the problem said it had little to do with the economic circumstances of the women.
“This trend where young girls are not ashamed to have affairs with married men marks a breakdown in social morals,” said Rocque. “The girls’ relatives usually encourage the affairs for the financial benefits while society turns a blind eye on the evil practice. To make matters worse, the courts are not willing to uphold the law, which is clearly against this adultery.”
Rocque blamed what he termed the ‘get-rich-quick’ mentality which has gripped the youth.
“Many Zimbabweans no longer believe in hard work generally. Our politicians have given us a very poor example by just grabbing things and stealing. That mentality has permeated to the youth, who no longer believe in working for themselves. As a result, a very large number of women and girls have turned to prostitution. Dating married men is just glorified prostitution,” Rocque said.
A police counsellor said most marital disputes reported at her station were triggered by extra-marital affairs.
“We get couples fighting over money and other issues, but the root cause of most disputes in marriages is adultery,” the cop said. “When a married man starts going out with a girl, he will look down upon his wife and even despise her. He starts spending money with his girlfriend and has little left for his wife and family. Generally the man will spend less time at home and that means less love, attention and sex for the wife. In a few cases, we have seen women going out with other men looking for sex and sustenance.”
The counsellor said the girls were after money but did not consider the dangers.
“There are so many cases that have been reported where girls have been attacked by wives or relatives of their lovers,” said the policewoman.
Gender activist Kate Nhema of the Women’s Circle said adultery affairs had a negative effect on the struggle for women’s emancipation.
“What sisters are doing to each other is wrong,” Nhema said. “When you take a sister’s husband, you are seriously undermining the life of another woman. Why can’t you these girls find their own men? The world is full of unmarried men!”
Nhema acknowledges that there are financial and material benefits that go with dating married men but says these do not beat the negatives.
“There are so many dangers associated with being a ‘small house’, including violence from the man’s spouse and sexually transmitted infections because you cannot control what he does with his wife, or other girlfriends. Many of the girls are psychological wrecks at the end of these affairs, which usually end in disaster, and they cannot get married properly,” said Nhema
However, some of the girls involved in the illegal affairs say they are in it for money and it is ‘good while it lasts’.
Robina claims to have started going out with her lover before discovering that he was married. After realising he had a wife and confronting him about it, he told her that he was going to divorce his wife and marry her. Robina is now frustrated. She lives with the man in the United Kingdom and they now have a child but he has refused to formally divorce his wife, who is in Zimbabwe.
“This is wrong,” Nhema said. “Going for a married man in the hope that he would leave his wife and marry you is shameful. Many girls only realise when they grow old without being married that they wasted time with another woman’s man.”
*Some names have been changed to protect the innocent.
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