THE case of a seven-year-old Murewa boy allegedly murdered at the behest of his uncle has horrified the nation.
The young boy was reportedly waylaid in a garden by a gang before being taken to a nearby mountain where he was cold-heartedly beheaded for suspected ritual purposes.
What has irked many Zimbabweans is that the boy’s uncle, a brother to his father, participated in searching for the boy when he went missing yet he was allegedly the author of the fate that befell the child.
The heart-wrenching case is one of many where children are betrayed, violated and abused by people they trust.
A Hatcliffe man recently blamed evil spirits for ‘causing’ him to rape his 12-year-old daughter. The man got an effective 13 years in jail for the offence.
In another incident, a Harare man was arrested for allegedly inviting his nine-year-old daughter to his bedroom where he forced her to touch his manhood.
He also allegedly asked her to remove her undergarments. Enraged by the bizarre request, the minor reportedly fled and sought refuge at a neighbour’s place.
According to the United Nations Children’s Fund (Unicef), children across the world are increasingly experiencing abuse at the hands of the people they trust.
“Children worldwide suffer insidious forms of violence, exploitation and abuse. Violence against children knows no boundaries.
“It happens in every country, and in the places children should be most protected — their homes, schools and online.
It can be physical, emotional or sexual. And in most cases, children experience violence at the hands of the people they trust,” said Unicef in a recent report.
Apart from close relatives, children are also falling prey to maids and other day care providers.
Last week, there was a sad story of a 20-year-old woman who was hauled before the courts, facing allegations of forcing a four-year-old boy into having sex with her on several occasions.
In yet another sad case, a neighbour, who had been asked to take care of an infant by its mother while she was at work, allegedly breastfed the child, exposing him to HIV transmission.
In another incident in June this year, a 19-year-old maid was arrested on allegations of sexually assaulting her employer’s eight-year-old daughter on five occasions.
She was charged with aggravated indecent assault, accused of exploiting the absence of adults at the house and forcing her fingers into the minor’s rear.
Also in June, another maid reportedly vanished with her employer’s daughter after stealing various wares before dumping the child in Mbare.
Child rights organisations have called for the stepping up of the protection of children from various vices using existing legal instruments.
Petronella Nyamapfeni, a lawyer with Justice For Children Trust, told the Daily News on Sunday that there is no excuse for not upholding the rights of children which are guaranteed in the Constitution.
She said when a child is violated, he or she should be taken to a safety shelter, but unfortunately that is not the case at the moment due to the absence of these critical facilities.
“Section 81 of the Constitution guarantees the rights of a child. Where the family has failed, the State should take over. The Constitution also makes it clear that the courts are the upper guardian of children.
“When a child is violated by maids, relatives or parents, they need to be taken to protective shelters, but it is unfortunate that they remain at home because there are no such shelters,” Nyamapfeni said.
Church leader Miracle Paul told the Daily News on Sunday that parents should not use busy schedules to justify reneging on parental responsibilities,
“People must always have time with their children. A lot happens during their absence due to work commitments.
“These days people prioritise work and money ahead of their children. That is why child abuse has become rampant,” Paul said.
“Due to pressures of work and life, some parents have limited time with their children and as a result they take time to realise and note the abuse of their children.”
He said parents were hiring childminders while they go to work to supplement incomes.
“With the way things are in the country, income from both the mother and the father can go a long way to improve the livelihood of a family.
“However, some of the people they are hiring to look after their children in their absence are turning out to be wolves, preying on innocent souls,” Paul said.
As Zimbabwe tries to come to grips with the horrific murder of the seven-year-old Murewa boy, President Emmerson Mnangagwa has vowed to end violence against children.
“I am disturbed by the loss of young children as a result of heinous and evil actions for rituals and witchcraft purposes. These cold-hearted acts of murder have no place in our country.
“The stakeholders in our criminal justice system must speedily and strongly deal with perpetrators so that this evil trend is expunged from our society,” said the president during a virtual Junior Cabinet meeting at State House last week.