Zimbabwe Prosecutor-General Johannes Tomana has been caught in a child marriage storm over a statement he reportedly made, suggesting that children as young as 12-years-old could get married if they consented.
The disputed reports by the state controlled Herald and Chronicle newspapers, quoted Tomana saying courts should respect the rights of the young girls if they decide to get married and start a family.
But Tomana denied making such statements, saying they were inconsistent with constitution and the law that he has been entrusted to protect.
"I know and should know that the law says that they can't consent to sex," Tomana said.
Tomana, who called the reports “irresponsible,” said these reports were undermining the authority of the office of the prosecutor-general and portrayed him as a pervert and incompetent person.
The prosecutor-general said it was unfortunate that nobody cared to verify with him first “before issuing a serious statement to the citizens of this country.”
“If you go back to the record I never said that girls under the age of 12 should and, can have sex. I did not say that,” he said.
The reports have invited the ire of organisations that defend children’s rights, including the ROOTS Community Organisation led by Beatrice Savadye.
Savadye said until the same newspapers retracted the statement, they will go ahead with their planned demonstration against Tomana next Tuesday.
Savadye said they have issued a statement they also gave to the media and were taking it to Tomana’s office, as well as the ministries of Justice and Gender.
“We need some responses from these ministries as well as from Mr. Tomana’s office. In the statement, in fact we called for Mr. Tomana to just step down,” said Savadye.