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The “accused and cursed” – 7 disabilities in one family

By Derick Matsengarwodzi A faded blink – and a frail cry! A minute jerk of the head is all that denotes life in his body.  ...

By Derick Matsengarwodzi

A faded blink – and a frail cry! A minute jerk of the head is all that denotes life in his body. 

Furthermore, at seven, Bernard cannot sit. And he uses nappies, daily. House flies tour the room with infinite frequency sensing a ready feast.

This is home to 49-year-old Petronella Mutasa – a solitary room in the poverty-inflicted suburban area of Epworth within Harare. Revulsion is all what she knows. And she shares all what she has with her six daughters and nine grandchildren – a single, small randomly erected dwelling – a lonely confinement exuding with apparent despair. 

Confusion and unsolved recurrent disability births within the family are uniform. Out of 10 births in the family, seven of them are physically challenged. According to the grandmother, Bernard spends most of his time sleeping. She has traversed the country in search of eloping answers – as she poured her heart to a publication recently.

“Bernard is the worst affected of the seven disabled children, all belonging to the same sisters,” echoed a grandmother’s pain.   

Regrettably, only sons are disabled leading the community to speculate that the family is cursed beyond the blessing of a health, normal newborn. They concur that the folks are burdened with a dark spell. Spiritual leaders have weighed in with a suggestion that the scenario is a generation curse. Her children have become a rejection lot and are termed cursed among the community.

“It pains me so much that I actually have grandchildren but I cants task them to do anything for me. I am always helping their mothers to look after them.” The eldest is 11. He cannot do anything for himself. He requires total attention.        

However, the family has no bread winner – while all her daughters are single since prospective suitors abandoned the disabled children. Also, none of the daughters own any alternative properties of their own. None of the children attend special school or have anything to aid their demanding lives. 

Since most of the mothers are confined to nurse the disabled, a little if any is brought in for their every day sustenance. To seek possible remedy, the family has sought spiritual guidance from local traditional healers. Many have concluded and sealed their desperate fate, saying their case is eternal.

“African culture is sometimes not apologetic to such unfortunate occurrences. Usually, the blame is laid on the woman for inviting misfortune into the family – hence most of these women are not even married. Their chances of inviting a suitor remain slim to none at all. In other instances, fathers of the disabled children abandon them to start a new family, hoping to father ‘normal children’. Physically challenged people are sometimes confined into houses and have no access with the outside world,” noted one cultural icon questioned by Tinzwei.  

Albino offspring also endure a similar dilemma. Uganda in particular has chronicled heart-rending tales of children born with albinism for being targets of ritual murders that are believed to enhance riches.

Petronella’s only hope lies with well-wishers – and hope for ‘normal births’ in the family. Her last born is too scared to start her own family due to the scars she has seen on her sisters’ faces. For now, life proceeds in the slapdash town of Epworth – and for the family, everything is a daily struggle. – Tinzwei/Sunday Mail       

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