HomeOpinion & AnalysisColumnistsNo person should disappear without trace

No person should disappear without trace

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Zimbabweans learnt with a deep sense of shock and horror about the discovery of remains suspected to be those of Given Matapure, a toddler who went missing in August this year at the Harare Exhibition Park.

It has been a torturous three months for the mother and father of this child, who have since identified the clothes found at the scene, as those of their missing son.

The circumstances that led to his disappearance are not clear, but earlier Press reports indicated that he had been left in the care of a domestic helper who had taken him to an amusement park.

The domestic helper had probably walked off to the show stands when the child was disembarked from the merry-go-rounds at the park. The person who supervised these children is also squarely to blame because he assumed the child had been taken by its guardian.

When the domestic helper returned from wherever she had gone, the child was allegedly nowhere to be seen.

People dealing with children should be made aware of the dangers of leaving these vulnerable people unattended as they may stray off and either get killed or hit by cars.

We should develop a culture of child protection because the amusement park makes so much money from these children and they are also mandated to ensure safety of children by handing them over to their rightful guardian.

There is also need to interrogate the owner of the amusement park. This was irresponsibility and carelessness of the highest degree. Human life is sacrosanct and sacred and hence no person should create a situation that may result in death or harm of a vulnerable person.

The role of the police cannot be overlooked. Why do police insist that they can only start investigating such matters only after 24 hours? That child could have been found within hours of disappearance had there been a quick response from law enforcement agents.

When a report of a missing child is raised, they have to spring into action. But the police are perhaps so handicapped in terms of availability of tools of their trade and that has seriously hampered their operations.

A missing child overseas draws crowds of people that scour and comb bushes and plains as soon as alarm is raised.

Police dogs are also engaged to try and sniff the path the child would have taken. But this incident has clearly demonstrated that stray children are not safe on our streets anymore.

The police have said that there are so many children that have gone missing in Zimbabwe over the past few years.

Just look around you as you walk or drive along our suburban roads and see the number of unaccompanied children walking up and down the streets.

Recently a nine-year-old from Tynwald North was snatched at the railroad junction along Kirkman Road near Sanganayi Inn. He was bundled in a car boot and driven to some spot in Dzivarasekwa.

The boy, however, managed to escape from the wooden cabin he had been locked in through some broken wood planks that were no longer secure. He ran for dear life and today he is back at his parents’ as the case proceeds in court.

The three abductors allegedly grabbed him in broad daylight as he was returning home from school. The abductors were seen looking for the boy the following day around his home.

The boy’s mother quickly identified one of the men and raised alarm. One of the men, who sported locks on his head, was apprehended while the other men jumped the wall and fled into a nearby farm.

This man has since appeared in court and trial is yet to start. So clever was the young boy that he managed to set himself free when the alleged abductors had left for a late night musical show at a shopping centre in Dzivarasekwa. A well-wisher who saw him running in the middle of the night gave him bus fare and he got home safely.

But how often do we come across stray children and what role do we play to ensure that children are safe?

Are we not in loco parentis to all children that we come into contact with? I am sure someone somewhere knows something about the circumstances that led to the disappearance and probably death of this three-year-old.

I have heard many people say that they are sceptical about making police reports because of the harsh interrogation that they undergo with law enforcement agents.

Some of these allegations may sound fictitious or frivolous, but there is need to seriously interrogate such matters because no person should disappear without trace. Someone knows what happened to the Matapure toddler.

Children are the most vulnerable people in our societies and the first instinct from adults should be to protect them.

Unfortunately we see stranded children every day on the roads after losing bus fare and walking long distances and this exposes them to criminals who may sexually abuse them or kill them for ritual purposes.

It is imperative for parents and guardians to teach children life skills so they do not land in the hands of ritual killers and rapists.

A woman saved her four-year- old child recently when she told her that a male neighbour has touched her private parts and that she told the man to stop immediately.

The man was called and sincerely apologised. It turned out later two teenage girls who are his sister’s children had experienced sexual abuse at his home. He fled to the UK.

One woman says she regrets having ignored one child along some street in the CBD who was later hit by a car and died instantly.

The child had asked for assistance to get to a bus terminus to Kuwadzana after his dad had failed to pick him up from school.

She ignored her. It turned out that this child was actually related to this woman when she attended the funeral and burial of this young person. Adults have the responsibility to look out for such children because a quick decision may just save them from some disastrous penalty.

Philip Bhowasi from the Council for Social Workers recently sent a statement expressing their concern about the missing toddler.

“Everyone has a role in keeping children safe and the media is playing a great role in highlighting the concerns of children.

“This requires a culture of vigilance across all sectors of our society. The Council of Social Workers is, therefore, calling for a united front to stem child abductions and cruelty in general and create a protection web and safety net for children,” Bhowasi said.

Bhowasi urged agencies involved in the protection and welfare of children to seriously review their procedures and come up with strategies to effectively discharge their mandate and ensure that the children do not disappear just like that.

Do you know of any missing people in your neighbourhood? Please contact me on this address:

rmapimhidze@newsday.co.zw

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