Outspoken legislator Priscillah Misihairabwi-Mushonga dropped a bombshell in Parliament last week when she said 76 percent of the Members of Parliament were living with HIV/Aids and were taking ARVs.
She disclosed the figure during a motion on the abuse of children under the guise of selling sex when she said she was appalled that people were turning a blind eye on the plight of children aged eight to nine years who were being forced to have sex with 60 years.
“You know how selfish we are as a people, when HIV/AIDS started hitting on us, when people started dying, we immediately came up with an AIDS Fund so that we can go and buy drugs for ourselves because we want to live,” she said.
“Seventy-six percent of the people who are sitting in this House are living with HIV/AIDS and are taking ARVs but we are unable to….” She went on before being drowned by interjections, but she insisted her figure was true.
“You are unable to take out a little bit of money and put it aside so that it can be used to take care of these children, it is sad Mr. Speaker. It is sad, I am not saying it to other Members of Parliament only but I speak for myself too, because it is not right that I come and sit here and there is a child who is eight or nine years old and is being raped every day and abused.”
Misihairabwi-Mushonga said the men who were having sex with the “babies” were pedophiles who in other jurisdictions would be blacklisted.
“We need to just arrest 10 to 15 men and put them in jail for the rest of their lives for every man to know that you do not touch a baby,” she said.
“Mr. Speaker, if you go internationally, pedophilia is the most horrendous crime. If you are a pedophilia, you cannot exist in a society. In fact, if you are a pedophilia, you are sexually marked that you cannot get a job in any space where there are children, but we have pedophilias here.”
HON. MISIHAIRABWI-MUSHONGA: I move the motion standing in my name that this House:
ALARMED by the number of children who are reported to be abused under the “guise” of selling sex.
CONCERNED that Government’s response has been targeted at those that have exposed this evil practice.
NOW THEREFORE calls upon the Ministry of Public Service, Labour and Social Welfare to immediately give a Ministerial Statement on this matter.
AND FURTHER calls upon the Inter-Ministerial Task Force set by the Ministry of Public Service, Labour and Social Welfare to expeditiously investigate the matter and report be tabled in Parliament by the Ministry of Public Service, Labour and Social Welfare.
HON. NDUNA: I second.
HON. MISIHAIRABWI-MUSHONGA: Thank you very much Mr. Speaker Sir. As I move this motion, let me preface it by thanking first the Hon. Speaker for having prioritised this particular motion. Initially, he had suggested that this motion come in as an urgent motion and then proposed that it is put on the Order Paper and it is given priority. Secondly, let me then thank our Government Chief Whips for allowing me to have priority and to raise this motion.
I raise this motion with the heaviest of hearts. This motion speaks about children who are reported to being abused under the guise of selling sex. Before I get into the merit of this particular motion, let me just say I worry about how we as a nation prioritise certain things. I was at a police station this morning, my sister has been involved in an accident and as I sat in that police station, I heard how police were being deployed to go and organise the queues where people are waiting to get fuel. Immediately I said to myself, why is it that when there is something that affects us as adults, we are very quick to address it and yet when we hear something that is as horrendous as what we have been subjected to in the past two to four weeks, nothing has been done. We have not heard a Ministerial Statement that comes to this House and says we are shocked that this is happening in this particular country.
Let me explain what I am talking about. On the 14th August 2017, I was invited by a group called Katswe Sisterhood. They had invited me to come and hear the stories of children who were engaged in sex. When I went to this meeting myself and Hon Maridadi who is supposed to be seconder of this motion, I had assumed that perhaps I was going to see children who are about 17 or 16 years. I was shocked as I sat in that room. These were not children that were coming from one particular community, they were children coming from different parts of this country. I sat there and looked at babies. I looked at children who are 8 and 9 years describing what it is that it means to be in the streets as they get paid 25c mostly by men who are about 60 or 65 years. I sat in that room and for two hours, I did nothing but cry my eyes out because as you looked at these children, most of them had lost their mothers and fathers. It was clear that the majority of them were sick. So, as we were being told that this is a six year old or an eight year old child, they looked more like four or five year olds because of their stunted growth. We know that this is happening in our communities. There are men that are going and picking these children and most of them hardly have breasts.
I looked at these kids and I said to myself, if a man comes in and says I want to sleep with this person, what are you sleeping with because there is nothing in there that says this is a woman. What was more hurtful is when they described to you how they would get to that point to which they got abused. Most of them were children that were coming from rural communities. They would be invited and somebody would say now that you are an orphan, come and work in my house as a house maid.
So, she walks into this home and the first person who abuses her is the man of that house. She is found being abused by the man of that house and the woman of that house kicks her out and says wakatobhadharwa because you have been sleeping with my husband. She ends up being in the street. Many of us have been driving in these roads. I want you to look at every young girl who comes by your window and says amai ndokumbirawo ten cents. That is the same child who goes out in the night and is being paid 25 cents by some man who is driving a Mercedes Benz coming from somewhere.
It is not as if we do not know Mr. Speaker. The police in this country know what is happening to these kids every other day. We know the places in which this is happening. When you go to Mabvuku/Tafara for example, those places where there are beer halls, they have now got into a point where they ask these kids to go with contracts to their parents so that the parents can sign and say you as the owner of this particular beer hall can allow this girl to strip dancing. Men from our homesteads go to these places to watch these babies dance and when they are done, they pick these kids and go and sleep with them.
I am not talking just about those that are in my opinion born HIV positive. I am talking about those that have been lucky enough to not be born HIV positive, but who are subjected to every other day to these sexual activities. I am not talking about just sex, I am talking about these kids describing the most horrendous kinds of sex that they are subjected to these men. We sat in there and there were Ministry of Health officials. They were saying to them, what can we do? Can there be condoms that can be offered? This child says, how do I even begin to negotiate for condoms with this kind of a man. He will say he wants to have oral sex, anal and penetrative sex with me.
So, when men sit down in this very sickening thing, they go and find these places to which they can deal with pedophilias. It is not difficult to deal with this particular issue. We just can take a few policemen and I personally today can walk with you and say, let us go in that particular street in Epworth, Mabvuku/Tafara and Gwanda and you will find these people and we will arrest them. We need to just arrest 10 to 15 men and put them in jail for the rest of their lives for every man to know that you do not touch a baby.
Mr. Speaker, if you go internationally, pedophilia is the most horrendous crime. If you are a pedophilia, you cannot exist in a society. In fact, if you are a pedophilia, you are sexually marked that you cannot get a job in any space where there are children, but we have pedophilias here. The reason why I am upset about this particular motion is that KATSWE brings this out. What happened to KATSWE? Firstly, Social Welfare swoops on KATSWE not to ask them where these children are and where this is happening. They swoop to KATSWE to say, why are you bringing out things like this. Immediately they are picked up and they are arrested for publishing falsehood.
So, when I heard that they had been arrested, I was rushing to the police station because I wanted to say, please come and arrest me because I am one of those that have been speaking about these children. I know that I am covered by immunity but trust me, even as I go outside there, I am going to be speaking about this. I also want the same police that picked KATSWE to come and pick some of us because it is ridiculous for a nation to want to run around people who are telling you about a crime than to deal with criminals. As we speak right now, KATSWE has become the criminals. KATSWE has now been banned doing work in those communities.
If I had done this motion last week, I had spoken to the Speaker and I had said I was going to bring these kids, not to put them in the Gallery but to put them in a particular room so that every other Member of Parliament who is sitting in this House would go and look at those children. I wanted one of them to come out and say it is okay for us to be sitting in this room while that is happening to the babies that are going out there. I am disappointed that the Minister of Social Welfare is not here because she is a woman and I wanted to look at her in the face and say to her, did you really think that the most important thing to do when you saw these babies that I saw and bowed my eyes out, that the most important thing was to go and pick up KATSWE?
I now understand that they went particularly to Epworth and they picked close to about 45 kids and put them in a safe house. The point is, no one thought it was important to come to this House and explain. I have picked up 45 kids and what does this mean? What about the other 100 children that are out there that we now know are being abused? What we have done by banning and arresting KATSWE, we have driven these young babies under the table. When I said to them, I want you to come and meet Members of Parliament, they said tinotya, tinozosungwa instead of them saying I want to see Members of Parliament because they will be able to help me and find me space to go and stay.
Mr. Speaker, this Constitution speaks to the issues around children’s rights and it calls upon us and gives access to have a responsibility to protect these children. Each one of us who are sitting either has a child or you have a grandchild. If I say to you, this nine year or seven year old child baby that you love to bits and pieces has a man who is dragging them under a tree and forcing them to have sex and pay them 25 cents, would you still go, sleep and go to bed?
So, the question that I am asking to Members of Parliament who are still in this House, is that as we debate this motion, which is why a lot of people came to me and said let us not move it today and I said I cannot take another two weeks of sleeping after what I saw. It is very clear what we need to do. We need to make a decision in this House that says police needs to go to those places where we know children are being abused. The first thing is to arrest the criminals and secondly, to take those children and put them in places of safety, but we need a long term solution to this process. We cannot have a social welfare system that knows we have orphans that are coming from HIV/AIDS that have absolutely no plan about how we deal with those children.
In other areas, we would be having a Call Centre where anyone who knows that there is an orphan can come in and phone and say there is a problem here, but we should be having a system in which these kids can be reintegrated into families because one thing that is good about our African process is that you never get a child that does not have a village and family. The reason why most of these families are unable to look after these children is that sometimes they are so poor that it makes it difficult for them to come and take those children. So, you tell me that in a country like ours, where we have these types of cars that we are driving, we are unable to make a decision to put aside a certain amount of money that will take care of the children in this particular country?
You know how selfish we are as a people, when HIV/AIDS started hitting on us, when people started dying, we immediately came up with an AIDS Fund so that we can go and buy drugs for ourselves because we want to live. Seventy-six percent of the people who are sitting in this House are living with HIV/AIDS and are taking ARVs but we are unable to – [AN HON. MEMBER: Inaudible interjection.] – yes, very true. You are unable to take out a little bit of money and put it aside so that it can be used to take care of these children, it is sad Mr. Speaker. It is sad, I am not saying it to other Members of Parliament only but I speak for myself too, because it is not right that I come and sit here and there is a child who is eight or nine years old and is being raped every day and abused.
You know what? What is sad is that, as I sat in that room with Hon. Maridadi, when he asked each one of them why they were doing it, they said, ‘I have a little sister of mine who is two or three years and we live in a shack. If I do not go and get the 25 cents, and put it together so that I can buy bread tomorrow, she may actually die of hunger.’ We as a people think it is alright that we can spend money travelling and doing the things that we are doing, yet we cannot afford to put aside a little bit money so that these children can be looked after.
In conclusion Mr. Speaker, mine is very simple. As I said, we make a decision because we can do that as Parliament; that we instruct the police to go to those places instead of instructing the police to go and sort out the queues of fuels and a problem that we have created for ourselves. Let us send the police to go and pick these kids who need help, not tomorrow but tonight.
Secondly Mr. Speaker, the Minister needs to come here, she needs to come and give us a Ministerial Statement and explain to us. After she heard about the things that were happening, what have they done around the reports of Katswe. Thirdly, we need to deal with and stop the abuse that is going on around Katswe Sisterhood.
In July, Members of Parliament were taken by Katswe to Hopley House. They went and saw those nine-year olds. I will not forgive the group of people who went to that place because if you have gone there and seen what I saw, the first thing you would have done was to come to this House and say something needed to stop. However, we did not do that, we need to deal with it, and we need to address that issue and Katswe need to be allowed to do the work that they are doing. It is shameful that today Katswe holds letter from provincial administrators, I do not know from what legal perspective, but provincial administrators in this particular country who have said Katswe cannot operate. What is their crime? They exposed children who are being abused. It is shameful and sad that we as a nation, a Government and a people are allowing that to happen. I thank you Mr. Speaker Sir.