guest column:Sibusisiwe Marunda
I HAVE followed with keen interest reports about the murder of seven-year-old Tapiwa Makore allegedly by his father’s elder brother and his aide. As the details emerged and a very disturbing video of the alleged murder giving details of how he abducted and killed the child, I wondered what has become of our society.
What I found difficult to comprehend is the fact that Tapiwa was abducted by someone he knew very well as a member of his community, taken to a place that to all intents and purposes, was his second home, his uncle’s home and later taken to his place of death by someone who was being instructed by his uncle.
When we say uncle it places a non-existent distance between this child and his father’s brother. The English language does that to our African relationships. In Tapiwa junior’s language, the man who is alleged to have masterminded his murder is his babamukuru, which loosely means his senior father and to all intents and purposes his father! From here onwards, I shall refer to Tapiwa senior as the senior father to avoid confusion.
My husband and I insist that our children refer to his brothers as father and to my sisters as mom, there is no uncle or aunt. This is meant to remind our children that our siblings have the same authority over them as us. However, this authority comes with equally binding obligation to love and protect the way we would. Evidently, this last part of Tapiwa’s relationship with his senior father was non-existent. Unfortunately, little Tapiwa would not have known this.
As the alleged murderer narrated the story, there are two things that gave me goose bumps. The first one being the fact that as Tapiwa sat captive in his house, the senior father actually joined the search party, looked his brother in the eye and assured him his son was going to be found.
The second one is the fact that he allegedly held the torch while his worker severed off his son’s head. I tried and have not managed to understand how this kind of thing can happen between siblings. How a father can be this heartless. It’s not even poverty because his home looks quite well-built for a rural home. If it’s greed, how does it get to such magnitude? Ordinarily, when a father holds a torch, it is to provide light for his child’s little feet, not to enable a murderer to see properly as he hacks off his head. Clearly something is wrong with our society and our homes have become unfit for children.
We do have to face the fact that we hold some myths and beliefs that are harmful to our families and children. Clearly Tapiwa’s senior father must have completely believed that his son’s head can be used in a certain way that can make him rich. We can condemn him and call for a stiffer penalty, which we should, but we need to get to the root of what drives such beliefs. Unless we do, there is bound to be a repeat of such heinous acts.
While we were trying to reconcile ourselves to the fact that a father actually held a torch so his son could be killed, there were reports of a Zvimba father who killed his seven-year-old and seriously injured another for eating food from the neighbour’s house. Clearly, this child paid the price of being hungry with his life.
The connection between these two stories is not only just about children being killed by people they trust, albeit for different reasons, it is also about how in general we view children. These are just two reported cases which to me are an indication of the magnitude of violence against children in our homes. Homes are supposed to represent, love, safety, protection and acceptance for children, yet increasingly they are becoming death traps. We campaign so much against gender-based violence but appear to accept violence against children, yet the two are interconnected.
Where there is violence against children, there usually will be violence against women because violence follows the path of least resistance and therefore preys on the physically weak. Parents and caregivers seem to view children not as rights holders who should be treated with love and respect, but as possessions to be dealt with without humane consideration.
Most adults of my generation will remember the statement “ Ngiyakutshaya ngikubulale/ndokurova ndikakuuraya” from our parents.
Admittedly, this was a manner of speaking which was meant to instil discipline but unfortunately for some children that statement is actually a reality.
Despite evidence that violence does not result in sustainable discipline, most parents still believe in it and at times with tragic consequences. Our children seem to be at our mercy, absorbing our frustrations with the world and as in Tapiwa’s case being deprived of life in the mistaken belief that a dead child can breathe life into a business whose fortunes are waning.
A society’s soul
It is a sad reality that even those who are supposed to enforce child protection and decency for children at times do not play this role effectively. I was shocked to see the video where Tapiwa’s murderer was confessing to the murder and giving chilling details about the process.
I am not sure how the police allowed such a video to go viral. For me it borders on playing to the gallery at the affected family’s expense. Listening to Tafadzwa Shamba’s details how he killed Tapiwa by cutting off his head left me feeling psychologically unsettled and I wondered how it made his mother feel.
The circulation of the video was highly insensitive to Tapiwa’s right to dignity, to his family’s feelings, his classmates and teachers’ feelings.
The only purpose it served was to effect secondary trauma on those who knew and loved Tapiwa. I am not categorically certain of what is involved in police investigations. I know, however, they can do inspection in loco which is inspection on place. In my limited knowledge, I am convinced it’s not a requirement to have the inspection video recorded for purposes other than the investigation and shared with members of the public.
For me, this carelessness, while it is an indication of the general outrage that we all feel about this wanton child murder, compromises Tapiwa’s right to a dignified memory and points again to our society’s disregard of children’s right to dignity. Which brings me to the question that I want us to interrogate. Who are these people who live in our houses and are called children?
These are little trusting, defenceless human beings whom we bring into this world in the name of wanting to be parents. They look up to us to rear them, teach them how to go through the different stages of life and more importantly to protect them. All they want is a chance to grow up and reach their full potential.
Unfortunately, because we have over the years learnt selfishness and lost most of the natural empathy in us, we fail in the duty to protect. We forget that these human beings called children represent our continuity and that we don’t have a right to abuse, rape and kill them simply because we can.
We can advance in science, we can end Aids by 2030, and send a hundred men and women into space but until we learn to protect those who are weaker than us, those from whom we have little to gain but much to give, we will continue to fail the human race.
Nelson Mandela, the late African icon, put it aptly when he said “there can be no keener revelation of a society’s soul than the way it treats its children”.
What does Tapiwa Makore’s death reveal about our soul as the Zimbabwean society?