Eighty percent of men who suspect their partners cheated on them are having their suspicions confirmed by DNA (Deoxyribonucleic acid) tests.
Information gathered from leading DNA laboratories in the country by The Sunday Mail Society shows a massive surge in demand for voluntary paternity tests by both married and single men in the last two years.
Previously, it was mostly the courts that drove couples to undertake tests as a way to settle maintenance or inheritance disputes.
But, with recent court statistics proving that over 70 percent of women who claim maintenance from alleged fathers were paternity cheats, men have naturally become sceptical.
One laboratory is currently handling not less than 60 cases per month.
“We have decentralised our DNA testing centres around the country due to increased demand for the service in the past year or so. We used to have fewer clients, at times none, per day, but we now average between three and five clients coming for DNA tests each working day.
“Harare, Masvingo, Bulawayo and Mutare account for a huge chunk of the clients in that order. Some are referred to us by courts but the majority are voluntarily approaching us for answers,” revealed Global DNA Diagnostic Centre principal consultant Tinashe Mugabe.
“We have more of negative than positive results, meaning most of the supposed fathers are excluded as such. At least 80 percent of the man that suspect their partners to be cheating are being proven right.
“The issue to do with DNA is not an individual decision, but the whole family with aunts and mothers being on the forefront and prepared to meet the costs.”
He said incest, phone messages, maintenance, questionable behaviour on social media and promiscuity are other major reasons driving paternity test requests.
An official from another DNA testing company, Expedite DNA Zimbabwe, confirmed the shocking trend.
“Generally, the number of fathers raising children who are not theirs has been rising. In 2019, our statistics projected the figure to be around 60 percent. However, with more clients coming in for one reason or another, current data is showing that over 75 percent of alleged fathers are excluded after tests,” said the official.
Most men who are opting for paternity tests are getting the shock of their lives.
Recently, a 60-year-old Harare man (name withheld) got an unpleasant surprise after discovering that two of the four children he was looking after in the last two decades were actually not his.
The man reportedly became suspicious after stumbling on communication between his wife and a man in the Diaspora.
This prompted him to secretly seek answers through DNA tests.
In another incident, 35-year-old Shephard (full name withheld) from Chisipite was forced to undertake tests after he discovered that her 24-year-old wife was in the habit of sending pictures of their child to a “male friend”.
“I had every reason to suspect something was wrong. My wife rarely sends pictures of our child to any of my family members. Surprisingly, she frequently sends her supposed male friend some…paternity tests confirmed my fears. The child is not mine,” he said.There is also a case of a lady who sought answers from DNA tests after she fell pregnant having slept with three men on separate occasions.
There are many other similar cases happening around the country.
However, demand for prenatal DNA tests, also known as non-invasive prenatal screening, is also on the rise.
The process at times involves taking a blood sample from the alleged father and the mother to conduct a fetal cell analysis.
“Prenatal DNA testing is also popular these days as most people no longer want to meet the costs of a pregnancy that is not theirs and some feel it is much wiser and easy to deal with the paternity issue before a child is born. But, the pregnancy has to be two or more months older for the test to be conducted,” explained Mugabe.
DNA testing is generally expensive and not easily accessible to many, though some labs offer flexible payment plans.
For instance, a general paternity test costs between US$120 and US$220.
In some cases, the figures can go to as high as US$500.
Results are often obtained after a week.
There are also cases of families that task reputable laboratories for DNA profiling and banking for future reference, which costs at least US$250.
Government also conducts DNA tests but under strict conditions.
“Government only does paternity tests for legal cases. It should be a request from the court and only National Blood Services Zimbabwe is authorised to collect samples on behalf of the State.
“Initially, they did the tests alone but later partnered with a lab in South Africa. In a month they would get about 10 samples but the whole process is not profitable, even for the private sector,” said Dr Raiva Simbi, the director of laboratory services at the Ministry of Health and Child Care.
“We also have the African Institute of Biomedical Science and Technology with its labs here, it is a genomic laboratory, so they do a lot of genomic, paternity and DNA tests.”
Many private companies, he added, are now claiming that they do tests yet they are only collection centres.
“They send the samples to South Africa and this explains why the service is so expensive…in terms of numbers, there has been a significant increase in demand for DNA tests in recent times and I believe that it is due to the coming in of technology.”
Renowned social commentator Dr Rebecca Chisamba warns that there is need for caution.
“Maintenance and dishonesty among couples has triggered an increase in demand for DNA tests. We used to look at physical features like ears or eyes to confirm paternity but that is no longer the case due to the advent of technology. However, we must be careful. The issue of testing and exposing people as cheats can create serious problems for the nation in the future,” explained Mai Chisamba.
“It terribly affects children and bonding among them. I am not saying people should not be exposed for cheating, but I am just calling for us to use decent channels in dealing with the matter. Remember, gomba harina mwana. Besides, we don’t get married to have kids, but we marry for love. Children are a gift from God. Families are putting unnecessary pressure on couples and they end up going out of their way to have kids out of wedlock, which is now creating the crisis we have.”
Chief Makoni – born Donald Kamba – believes the quest for families to establish the paternity of children is not a new thing.
“Traditionally, we have always had ways to ascertain paternity that include the use of herbs and totems during rituals. However, there are instances whereby a wife, working with other family members, would get pregnant by another man, especially a brother, and the issue would be concealed. But this was done using proper channels.
In some cases, a wife abandoned by her husband would fall pregnant out of wedlock and the issue would be exposed during family rituals,” he said.
But for Zimbabwe National Elders Forum chair Bishop Felix Mukonowengwe, rising demand for DNA tests is one of the many adverse effects of the Covid-19 pandemic.
“An idle mind is the devil’s workshop! Due to the lockdown, a lot of people have had to spend more time with their families. Sadly, it is during this time of bonding that some fathers start observing certain traits or physical features among their children that they cannot relate to and this automatically triggers a sense of paternity doubt.
“Also, the issue of teen pregnancies is not helping matters. Young girls with multiple sex partners often try to find an easy target to blame but the truth has a way of coming out along the way. Parents are also to blame for choosing for their kids. She will continue dating her first love and probably fall pregnant outside marriage, which will later on create problems,” opines Bishop Mukonowengwe. Sunday Mail