For Zimbabwean father, 86 is not enough
October 16, 1999
From Reporter Bob Coen
MAKONDE, Zimbabwe (CNN) -- Like other households in this small African village, members of the Sibindi family arise early each morning so everyone can make it to school on time.
In fact, very early. They have 36 children who need to be washed, dressed and sent on their way -- in the first wave. The others are allowed to sleep awhile longer.
The children -- all 86 of them -- are the offspring of holy man Elliot Sibindi and his 11 wives.
"I follow the instructions of my ancestral spirits, and because of that they take care of all of us," said Sibindi, who also boasts supernatural healing powers.
Nepesu, his first and oldest wife, said that all of Sibindi's partners are happy with the unusual arrangement. Wife number seven echoed those sentiments.
Although polygamy has been accepted for centuries in Africa, many in Zimbabwe feel the practice is in direct conflict with the modern-day values now practiced in much of the country.
"Such traditional values, particularly where a man has 11 wives, have no place in the world today," said Doreen Mukwena, a women's rights activist.
She protested with dozens of others when a front-page newspaper story depicted Sibindi as "Super Dad."
With the large family gathered for a ceremony in honor of their ancestors, the wives and children seemed immune to such criticism.
"We're all happy like this; no one forced us to come here," said Juliet Sibindi.
With five of his wives currently pregnant, Elliot Sibindi has no plans of letting up.
"I will not be taking more wives, but I'll definitely continue to have more children," he said. "Some of my wives are young, and I am alive and strong."
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