MASVINGO — Hundreds of placard-waving residents yesterday took to the streets in protest over the surging cases of ritual child murder in the country’s oldest town.
The demonstrators called on the community and police to end the practice, that has seen scores of children go missing and sometimes discovered with mutilated bodies.
The belief in Masvingo is the body parts were being sold in South Africa.
The residents marched around Mucheke high-density suburb, the flashpoint of the incidents, calling for urgent police intervention and encouraging parents to protect their children.
The police have called for a multi-sectoral approach, urging the local community to assist them with leads in their investigations.
One of the organisers of the parade, Vincent Muzenda, said the protest march was a response to the rising number of missing children that are sometimes reportedly found dead after several days of frantic searches.
“We were sending the message not only to Masvingo residents, but the country at large about the need for child protection measures. The demonstrations are not only a reminder to the authorities, but also serve as a warning to unsuspecting parents who may be victims the next day,” said Muzenda.
He said the march had been triggered by a recent case where a 19-month-old baby from the suburb who went missing on Christmas Day was found dead near the family home a few days later.
“The disturbing trend is still ongoing, given the recent case, and we saw it fit to raise awareness,” Muzenda said.
The 19-month-old baby girl, Nokuthula Rwaibva, was found dead a few metres from the family house.
Masvingo provincial police spokesperson Inspector Tinaye Matake confirmed the incident, saying investigations were underway.The baby’s grandmother, Molyn Maziva, said she suspected the baby’s body had been immersed in hot cooking oil or boiling water as most of her skin had peeled off.
She said the toddler was abducted while playing outside as her mother, Abigail Bheka, was asleep.
Some passers-by confirmed spotting a man bundling a baby with the clothes that Nokuthula was wearing on the day in question.
In another incident in November last year, a nine-year-old deaf and dumb boy, Isheanopa Gumbo, was abducted in the town and went missing for about a week before his corpse was found floating in Mucheke River along the Beitbridge Highway.
In yet another gruesome murder, a 26-year-old man, Lloyd Chigandiwa of Rujeko high-density suburb, was found dead in October with his lips, ears and nose missing.
And a few months before, a couple from Mucheke high-density suburb was arrested after they allegedly gave away their seven-year-old son to suspected ritual killers.
The couple, Mercy Tapera (26) and her husband Barnabas Bera (age not given), have been brought before the courts after their son was allegedly abducted from school and later died under mysterious circumstances. Judgment is yet to be delivered.