Blessing & Tsitsi, Zimbabwe

Romeo and Juliette under the Zimbabwean sun: how young love turned into a criminal procedure

“Blessing (17 years) declared his love to Tsitsi (13 years) one afternoon in the hills of Odzi. Tsitsi was walking on her way home after fetching water. Siblings of Tsitsi narrate how she and Blessing had been in love for a long time.”

Tebruary 2015, Odzi/Mutare, Zimbabwe
The romance of Blessing and Tsitsi, set under the sun of a village in Manicaland, Zimbabwe, reads like an African fairy tale. It by no means is, however. The above are excerpts from the criminal file in which Blessing is the accused.
A couple of nights after declaring his love, Blessing went over to Tsitsi’s family while the parents were not there. Sister Tanya had seen Blessing entering the house but had not said anything. Another sister indicates she woke up hearing strange noises made by Blessing and Tsitsi. She put on the torch and saw Blessing, who then ran away. Little brother Brian, of five years old, had also seen Blessing. The next day he told their father that he had seen Blessing on top of Tsitsi. He added that Tsitsi and Blessing had been in love for a long time and had been visiting more often.
The father asked Tsitsi, who initially denied. Tsitsi’s father went to the village head and Blessing and his father were called in to solve the matter traditionally. Tsitsi’s father asked for 150 USD as compensation and assurance that Blessing would marry his daughter in two years time. Blessing’s family could not afford that amount of money and paid an ox and four bags of fertilizer. Matter resolved, it seemed.
The father had kept the ox and fertilizer to himself however, to the anger of Tsitsi’s mother, his first wife. He now had a second wife as well and the first wife was divorcing from him. Tsitsi’s mother got in touch with an NGO assisting girls and women who experience (sexual) abuse. They referred them to the police. It was in November that Blessing was arrested on allegations of rape and a criminal procedure was started. Blessing admits they had had intercourse, but on a consensual basis as they were in love. He was shocked by his arrest, he says. Tsitsi had even opened the door for him. After having reported the case to the police, she continued to come Blessings house, asking for him. Due to the ongoing criminal procedure and on the advice of his older brothers, Blessing did no longer come out to meet her.
“It it is his first time offending and it was mostly due to his youthfulness. It is however an offence to have sexual intercourse with a minor”, the magistrate decides. “The sentence will therefore be suspended for three years.” The exact sentence would have to be determined if he commits a crime of the same nature again. We move outside. “Stay away from young girls”, Christine Sungayi, Blessing’s pro bono-lawyer from the Legal Resources Foundation, warns him. “Yes”, he says. I wonder whether he will wait that long for his Tsitsi – and she for him.