HomeLocal NewsHarrowing tale of toddler ‘coup plotter’

Harrowing tale of toddler ‘coup plotter’


A five-year-old boy, Nigel Mutemagawo, is still haunted by the dark memories of the three months he spent in jail in 2008.

He was part of a group of activists accused of recruiting people for banditry and insurgency training for the purposes of overthrowing the government.

Nigel was abducted during a pre-dawn raid at his parents’ home in Kuwadzana Township in Banket and was kept in captivity for 76 days, together with his parents, Collen Mutemagawo and Violet Mupfuranhehwe.

His mother is the MDC-T Women’s Assembly district chairperson for Banket while his father is the party’s former Zvimba South youth chairperson.

In 2009, he was awarded the Democracy and Governance Award by human rights advocacy group Crisis in Zimbabwe Coalition at a colourful ceremony in Harare.

The event was meant to award people who have contributed to the fight for democracy in Zimbabwe.

At first glance, Nigel is just an innocent-looking ordinary boy, but his mother says this is deceptive.

“When he plays with other young boys he’s so rough,” she says. “It takes time for people to understand him. All this is because of what he went through.”

Once, a relative who did not understand what the boy is going through threatened him after he became insolent and he went to hide in a drainage bridge near their home, where he was later found.

“After that he said if anybody bothered him anymore he would look for another place to hide so that he would not be found,” says the tough-talking Mupfuranhehwe.

Nigel is now regarded as the youngest ever political detainee in Zimbabwe’s history.
After the experience, he is now stalked by fear and struggles to relate with his age mates, says his mother.

“If other children at crèche sing, he gets afraid. He doesn’t speak or even participate at crèche.”

The young boy refuses to sleep at crèche with the others in the afternoons. His mother says when the teacher asks them to sleep he does not understand why he is being asked to do so.

When his parents were arrested together with other activists, he watched them being forced to lie on the ground.

When he was still in ECD (at Mumvuri Project Day Care), Nigel refused to keep attending school as his teacher had a striking resemblance to one of the operatives that tortured his parents while they were in custody.

“When he came back home from school he said his teacher was the one who poured water on me while we were in custody,” said the mother.

Soon after their return from prison, Nigel is said to have struggled through the nights.

If he hears people singing outside, fear grips him as the sound echoes what happened the day their house was destroyed by over 200 suspected Zanu PF activists who came singing on June 24 2008, the day President Robert Mugabe addressed a rally in the farming town.

When they were taken by security agents on October 28, they were blindfolded. Mupfuranhewe says they only knew the identities of their colleagues who had also been arrested as Nigel would call out their names at intervals. They were in custody until December 22.

When they were later taken to Mabelreign Police Station just before their release, Mupfuranhewe says the police pulled her ears as they tried to force a confession out of her.

“They told me that everyone else, including my husband, had admitted to the charges so I must also do the same if I wanted to be released,” she recalled.

Nigel’s father says they do not have money to take him to specialists so that he can be attended to and they fear that the psychological trauma will affect his future if not addressed early. He says he feels let down by his MDC-T party.

He was only assisted by his employer to reconstruct his house after it had been destroyed at the height of political disturbances in 2008.

“I didn’t want to put too much pressure (on the party) because things were difficult at the time,” he said.

“(Elias) Mudzuri (the then organising secretary) came to look at the house and said within two weeks they would have it rebuilt. My hope is that (now the organising secretary Nelson) Chamisa will remember us,” he said.

It is hoped that the young boy’s silent cry for “exorcism” will be heeded.

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