JACK ZIMBA, Lusaka
WHAT would you do if your husbandâ€™s girlfriend invaded your bedroom in the middle of the night and savagely attacked you while you slept? That is the situation one woman of Lusaka was faced with.
Now divorced for 10 years, Mutinta (not real name) talks about the pain of living in an abusive relationship.
A fading bite mark on her wrist is a sad reminder of her deeply troubled marriage. She has similar marks on both thighs, inflicted on her by her husbandâ€™s lover.
One night, when she couldnâ€™t take the abuse anymore, Mutinta became like a cornered animal and hit back, savagely beating her husband.
â€œHe wanted to hit me, and I was upset, I was shaking. I have never felt that angry before. I just reached for a helmet under the bed, closed my eyes and just started hammering,â€ she says.
â€œI used to ride a motorbike back then, and I would park the motorbike outside, but I kept the helmet under the bed.
â€œI think it was a combination of emotions â€“ I love this person, why doesnâ€™t he love me?â€
When Mutinta had stopped the attack and opened her eyes, her husband was kneeling on the floor injured.
â€œThere was blood everywhere. There was a lot of blood in the bedroom.
â€œI think what saved him that night was the fact that the only weapon I had was a helmet. If it was a knife or a gun, I can assure you he would have been dead, because I still canâ€™t remember what I was doing,â€ she says.
â€œI really meant to kill. I didnâ€™t want to have anything to do with him. I didnâ€™t know that I could get angry to that extent where I could become so violent.â€
While she regretted what she did that night, Mutinta says she felt â€œlighterâ€ afterwards.
â€œThe burden was lifted off me when I hit back at him. I felt like he didnâ€™t understand that I had feelings.â€
â€œThat day I felt like I was venting out. I really thought that I had released something and I felt at peace after that.
â€œI did not do what I did because I hated him. I did not. I loved that guy,â€ she says.
In the morning, Mutinta says she tied a mutton cloth to a broom to clean the ceiling, which was splattered with blood.
â€œI felt ashamed.â€
â€œI could have killed my husband,â€ she says.
Mutinta blames herself for having ignored some vital evidence pointing to her husbandâ€™s infidelity, including three used condoms she discovered in his jacket pocket one day when he came home from work.
During the four-day holiday in July 2005 â€“ just three months after they had been married in church – Mutinta went to visit her husband, who lived in Mumbwa then. Mutinta herself lived on the Copperbelt due to work.
â€œThis husband of mine comes home and Iâ€™m happy and I remove his jacket and take it to the bedroom, then I decide to remove what was in the pocket and I find used condoms. There were about three.â€
â€œI forgot about it completely. I loved him. I believed his story, but I really wondered how a junior would put used condoms in the bossâ€™s jacket.
â€œSometimes we see the signs, but we ignore them,â€ she says.
But Mutinta was also naÃ¯ve.
â€œI was very innocent, very naÃ¯ve. He was my very first boyfriend. I was a virgin.
â€œHe is the one who broke my virginity when I was 22, and I became pregnant with our first-born child.â€
â€œI kept on forgiving and forgiving, yet I kept seeing one or two things. But I kept thinking he is going to change.
Mutinta had dated her husband for seven years before they got married.
â€œI was married to a very good gentleman, very loving,â€ she says.
â€œI was not an angel, I also did a lot of wrong things in the marriage.â€
In April of 2005, a month after Mutinta married her husband, her friend who worked in the same office as her husband, alerted her about his flirtatious behaviour with his secretary.
But Mutinta brushed the story aside. In fact, each time she would call her husbandâ€™s office on the landline, she would talk to the secretary.
â€œI remember in 2005 we didnâ€™t have cellular phones in certain parts of the country. And I was in that part of the country where Zamtel had not yet reached. I remember I was using the land phone and each time I had to travel, I would call and would talk to the secretary. â€œHi how are you, could you please tell him that Iâ€™m coming.â€
â€œWhat used to happen apparently was whenever I leave, she used to stay in my house. When I call to say Iâ€™m coming to visit, that is when she would move out. I would actually alert her to move out,â€ she says.
On October 4, 2005, Mutinta managed to get a transfer to stay with him in Mumbwa, but her transfer displeased her husband.
â€œI remember he came around 01:00 hours and the first thing he asked me was: â€˜What are you doing here?â€™â€
â€œHe was mad, and I was shocked.â€
â€œHe was like â€˜I have peace when you are not here.â€™â€
Her husband then became absent from home.
â€œHe would come at 05:00 hours, bath, have breakfast and leave.â€
â€œThere was no intimacy. I remember going for nine months without anything. I would sleep on the bed and he would sleep on the floor.â€
When the abuse got worse, â€œhe would call me a ghost. He would call me a dirty woman. He would call me a woman who was not taught.â€
â€œOne time he beat me so hard I started hallucinating. When I went to the hospital, the people thought I had been in a road accident. I had many blood clots and swellings.
Then her husbandâ€™s lover, the secretary, started calling her.
â€œShe called me and insulted me. I was upset,â€ she says.
â€œIn May 2006, he came home with the girlfriend, around 02:00 hours.
â€œI just heard a bang, and I felt pain on my wrist. It was a bite from his girlfriend â€“ in my sleep, in my house. It was like a dream. She bit my thighs and I screamed. I have two bite marks between my legs, on my thighs,â€ she says.
Startled, Mutinta reacted by hitting her assailant with an umbrella, and running out to call her neighbour for help.
â€œWe locked her up in my bedroom and I reported her to the police,â€ she says.
The woman was later arrested for assault.
â€œThe case went to court, and I won the case.â€
She was imprisoned for six months, but only served four.
But that only made her husband even angrier with her. â€œDuring the court case and before she was sentenced, my husband was an animal.â€
Her husband blamed her for his girlfriendâ€™s imprisonment and loss of employment.
â€œHe told me that I should support the woman since she had lost her job and that when she came out she would come and live with us,â€ she says.
By the time his girlfriend came out of prison, Mutinta had divorced her husband and moved to Isoka in Muchinga Province.
About three weeks after the divorce, on November 30, his girlfriend was released from prison and she joined Mutintaâ€™s ex-husband.
â€œAfter I left, the anger started building up again, especially when I was told that when his girlfriend was released on November 30, my ex-husband went to prison with a bunch of roses.â€
â€œI developed a headache for six months. I would stand in the rain. I was bitter with him and the girl. When I looked at the children, I hated them because each time they smiled they looked like him.â€
One of Mutintaâ€™s biggest regrets is that â€œwhen I got married I thought â€˜this is the ultimate, Iâ€™m going to live in a happy marriageâ€™, and when things were not happening accordingly, I was really affected.â€
â€œIt feels nice to be called â€˜Mrs Somebodyâ€™, you feel respected, you feel responsible. And this is something I lost.â€
â€œMy children are there for me, but there is still this void, especially when you attend functions, or when it is Valentineâ€™s Day.â€
Mutinta, who is now 40, has never married again after her divorce, and she now devotes her time trying to help other women and children in abusive relationships as well as raising her two children.
About three years after they divorced, her husband wrote her a four-page letter, apologising for his action.
JACK ZIMBA, Lusaka