Crime & Courts

ECD girl attack: Parents speak

ECD girl attack: Parents speak

She had just finished classes at school and was headed towards a neighbour’s homestead where she was expecting to meet her mother.

The little girl’s mother had told her to go the neighbour’s home where she was doing tobacco grading as piece work. They would meet there and head home together when the mother was done with her work.

The little girl walked down the dusty road of Hurumutumbu, some 40km from Mutoko Centre, and as a child she was naturally keen to meet her mother.

On arrival at her neighbour’s home, she was told her mother had not showed up for work and so she was now supposed to go home on her own. So off she set for home where she stays with her parents, siblings and grandmother.

Slowly, she walked, enjoying the warmth of the sun, without fear since she was in her home area whose terrain and people she knew so well.

She passed through the local shopping centre and she suspected nothing, as she walked home, slowly, playfully and with the anxiety to see her parents and her grandmother and maybe share with them a few things she had learnt on that particular day at school.

Yes, her mother, was patiently waiting for her four-year-old daughter to come back home and she expected to see her clothes dusty, her school bag probably with a missing pencil or book.

As she continued walking, a dark-complexioned-man, followed her, caught up with her and offered to carry the school bag for her.

Some villagers say the man was walking a leashed dog.

The girl, without suspecting anything, is said to have handed over the bag to the man, and they started walking towards the direction of her home.

Reports say when the man suggested they use another road which passes through the bushes, the girl objected but due to her fear of the dog, she reluctantly followed.

Little did she know that every step she was taking, was drawing her closer to a place where she would be sexually assaulted terribly and left for dead.

Today, the four-year-old child is battling for her life in a local hospital after spending the whole night alone in the cold after the brutal and shocking attack. Police reacted quickly and arrested two suspects.

National police spokesperson Assistant Commissioner Paul Nyathi said: “Police in Mutoko have arrested Pedo Samu (52) and Godfrey Gatsi (38) in connection with a case of kidnapping which occurred on June 22, 2023 at Hurumutumbu business centre in which an Early Childhood Development pupil was abducted on her way home from school.

“Pedo Samu allegedly confessed that he intended to kill the victim for ritual purposes after being promised US$1 500 by Godfrey Gatsi. Investigations by police established that the victim was sexually assaulted.”

The duo has since appeared in court and have been denied bail.

The Herald visited Hurumutumbu area, where villagers are still in shock at the kidnapping and attack.

As this reporter drove down the dusty road from Jena Business Centre, approaching Hurumutumbu area, he met schoolchildren walking in groups of up to 10.

One could easily see that fear was written on their faces, and the sight of a stranger would evoke uncomfortable memories.

One would expect the children to be cheerful and playful as they walk in groups going back home, but on this particular day, they were all tense and cautious.

The horrible experience of one of their own had left them in complete shock, to the extent that some are reportedly refusing to go to school, for they are now afraid of being kidnapped.

“Even us, the older ones are now afraid to walk alone even during the day. We never expected to see this kind of cruelty in our village. One is left to wonder what will become of our children, if we live with people without a heart among us,” the girl’s grandmother said.

After the child did not return home on the day of the attack, the family was alarmed and launched a search.

The next day they were informed by some women that the child had last been seen with Samu and more people corroborated this, saying they had seen the suspected assailant carrying a satchel and crossing a river into Manicaland.

Samu had been employed by the local village head as a cattle herder and had been on the job for only two months.

“So as the search continued, the village head’s son, who was part of the search team, took a motorbike and headed to the Manicaland side, where Samu was located walking alone and carrying the same school bag belonging to the girl,” said the grandmother.

“He was confronted confessed to kidnapping the little girl whom he had handed over to the businessman. Samu said the businessman Gatsi had instructed him to kill the girl, since he wanted her body parts for ritual purposes and had promised to give him US$1 500.”

The girl’s father was in Harare when the incident happened and endured emotional stress since he could not immediately travel back home.

“Samu revealed that when Gatsi instructed him to kill the child, he refused and told him to carry out the deed himself. When confronted by angry villagers, Gatsi denied ever meeting Samu but the villagers effected a citizen’s arrest and waited for police to arrive. The two were taken to Jani Police Station, about 15km from Hurumutumbu Business Centre,” said the grandmother.

Samu later volunteered to show the police where he had left the child and led us to a tobacco barn near the business centre. The child was found about 50 metres away from the barn, semi-conscious and with a shoelace around her neck.

“I want to thank those police officers wholeheartedly. They did not waste time or wait to take statements, but announced that they were now rushing to the clinic with the child,” said the grandmother.

From the clinic, the child was rushed to Mutoko hospital from where she was transferred to Harare.

“Now my daughter is still in hospital and she is not even able to talk or eat. I cannot imagine the pain she went through and endured,” she said. “Imagine she spent the whole night, alone, in a bush, in the cold with a shoelace around her neck. Her survival is the work of God, the Almighty.”

Sabhuku Marasha, who had employed the man, said she never expected him to behave in such a manner given the condition he was in when she gave him a job.

She said Pedo Samu told her that he had just been released from jail.

“I met him here in Hurumutumbu and he was looking for a job. I never suspected anything. He told me that he had just came from jail and had been released under the recent amnesty, after assaulting another man whom he had caught bedding his wife,” she said.

“Out of sympathy, I gave him a job. I even bought him new clothes so that he could be presentable. Little did I know that he had not reformed. I pray that the child gets healed soon.” – Herald Zimbabwe

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