A Zimbabwean father has been convicted of circumcising his two sons with a pair of nail clippers last November.

Peter Nyashega, believed to be 29 years old, from Tegwe village in eastern Zimbabwe, admitted to the court that he had circumcised the children, aged five and two years old respectively.

Nyashega's brother, Patrick Nyashega, believed to be 38 years old, testified that said he had been keeping a close eye on his brother because he suspected that he was in the habit of abusing his children.

"Your Worship, when I could not see his eldest child for four days, I then told my sister who lives in Hauna and she came with the police to search for him," he said. "When the police came they found him locked in the kitchen with scars all over his body and he told the police that his father had used a nail-cutter to circumcise him and his younger brother."

Repeated abuser

Nyashega junior said he cut off his children's foreskins with the nail clippers because in his culture it was expected that male children should be circumcised by their parents at an early age.

He told the court that as a child he had been circumcised in the same way by his father. He also confessed to further physical abuse.

"I acted as per our culture Your Worship, though I erred in using a nail-cutter. I also admit that I erred when I beat up my children, but they had lost the only money we had in the house which was meant to buy maize-meal," Nyashega testified.

Plea for light sentence

Nyashega pleaded with the courts for a light sentence, saying that the two boys were in his custody. He was sentenced to six months in prison, with the sentence suspended on condition that he performs 210 hours of community service at the local Hauna District Hospital.

In sentencing him, Poterai Gwezhira said Nyashega had acted illegally and primitively, especially taking into consideration that provincial hospitals in Zimbabwe were offering free circumcision services.

Male circumcision is not widespread in Zimbabwe.

A voluntary government-run programme aimed at adults in order to prevent the spread of HIV has so far had a limited response.

The World Health Organization is promoting male circumcision in adults, as research has shown it reduces the chance of being infected by HIV through heterosexual sex by up to 60%.