By Elizabeth Sitotombe

‘WHAT happens in the dark shows results in the day,’ so goes the saying.

Imagine waking up as Gora after many years of identifying as Mhofu. 

The trauma, the feeling of betrayal and distrust is unmatched.

Zimbabwe has had an opportunity to be part of the global society that has resorted to DNA testing so as to address paternity issues. 

For some, it has been worth it while for others, it has brought tears. 

It has also unearthed a reality that many have been unwilling to confront – infidelity in marriages and relationships. 

Marriages and families are built on honesty and trust, but DNA testing is proving these two currencies do not trade in a lot of homes today.

Since time immemorial, family names have been used as the unique marker or identifier for each family, ethnic group or tribe. 

In Shona, like most African societies, totems serve as an identity marker. 

But in some cases you would often see instances were family features that are common among family members could also be used as an identity marker, for example,  complexion, type of hair and even colour of the eyes.

This, of course, was before the advent of technology. Today, identity has been made simple by use of DNA testing. 

This is an advanced technological innovation that picks unique identity markers in a person, usually to compare with a potential parent or to match with evidence at a crime scene. 

DNA testing has made it easy to identify accident victims, make arrests in crimes but, more importantly, to prove paternity.

However, issues to do with paternity have been a sore topic and contested territory. 

We have had cases of people who refuse paternity of children they claim are not theirs, while some resort to DNA testing to get closure and have access to children and relatives they never had a chance of meeting for one reason or another.

Today, the world over, disputed parenting or paternity finds recourse in technology. 

DNA testing is where the ‘alleged’ father is tested vis-a-vis the child in question. 

In a lot of incidences, results bring either shock or joy. Shock in cases where the purported father may end up not being the father, joy in the cases where an eager potential father gets to prove he is the rightful parent of the child.

In Zimbabwe, DNA paternity testing has been received with mixed emotions. 

As much as testing has helped resolve disputed paternity issues, a section of the community feels it is not right, with some saying: ‘Gomba harina mwana (A byfriend cannot lay claim to a married woman’s child).’ 

It appears those who are against DNA paternity testing  have not quite thought of the implications of ‘false identity’.

In this instance, false identity is reference to a scenario where a child is raised in a family that is not culturally or customarily his or hers.

As referenced above, totems play a role in identification. Beyond simple DNA testing, there is the spiritual aspect where one has to be in sync with his/her ancestors in-order to access their blessings or their protection.

Given a situation where a supposed Shumba totem child is brought up as a Samaita totem child in African culture is considered to be living in the wilderness.

The child cannot claim the Samaita blessings because he/she is not one of them; at the same time he/she cannot claim Shumba blessings because he/she is said to be in the wilderness. 

There is, of course, a lot of debate around this notion, especially for those who do not believe in African Traditional Religion.

Recently, it seems the tables have turned against women as some of them have been exposed as having children that do not belong to families they are married into after going the DNA testing route.

Although notable, the venture has not been without criticism. 

Some sections of society have criticised the modus operandi of some practitioners in carrying out the tests. 

One notable case is Tinashe Mugabe of DNA Global, who runs a television show called The Closure DNA Show. 

In his show, participants agree to testing and having their results publicised. 

However, some sections of the community feel it is wrong to do so as such issues should be private. 

But then, it should also be noted that these participants give consent and are not forced into doing the tests or publicising them.

Reality television shows require that information be availed as is. 

Under different circumstances, a private test does not require one to make results public.

Someone will ask: Is DNA testing good? 

For the most part, DNA testing has brought closure to a lot of families and people. 

Some children were lost at birth and have managed to be re-united with their families while others were abandoned at birth and have managed to track down their families. Crimes have been solved because of DNA testing, hence pundits contend it is a good thing.

DNA testing is simply redefining society, exposing the rot in some marriages, while helping the affected to get closure.

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