SHE was wearing a blood stained top and had been hurriedly removed from her home after allegedly being physically and sexually abused by a family member.
The minor who cannot be named for ethical reasons is 11 years old and lives in Mtshina village in Tsholotsho, a member of the San community.
Her abuse has been brought to fore following the visit to Mtshina Primary School by area Senator Cde Alice Dube, who had visited the village to hand over sewing machines donated by First Lady Auxilia Mnangagwa recently.
Scores of community members, mainly women are observed quizzing her on what happened.
The distraught minor is forced to recount her abuse experience to the community leaders.
At the same school, her peers are in a jovial mood as they are within a safe environment where they can also dream.
Despite the presence of most of the community members, the minor leans against a tree visibly out of place in her home background.
Community leaders argue that child abuse cases are too common in the community and most of the incidents go unreported and as a result, perpetrators continue tormenting their victims.
Cde Dube expressed worry to the Chronicle that after the girl child is subjected to abuse, families protect the perpetrators.
“What I’ve seen is that abuse of the girl child is widespread among the San community. I had just come here to hand over a gift coming from the First Lady, we discovered that there is a minor, 11 years of age that has been abused. Her clothes are blood stained, she was beat up and it seems she was sexually abused as well.
When we inquired about her case, we learnt that this is not the first time for her to be abused. It seems this has been ongoing but no action is being taken. We are told that after a similar incident happened, her relatives covered up the case,” said Cde Dube.
She said there is a need for awareness programmes to be held in the San community targeting minor children.
Cde Dube said even the community leaders need to be educated about child abuse so that they protect the minors.
The Senator said plans had been initiated to take the minor to a safe house in Tsholotsho as it was clear that at home her security was not guaranteed.
Mrs Siyelusweyinkosi Mpofu, who runs a local non-governmental organisation, said child abuse cases have been normalised among the San community.
She said even the way in which community members were quizzing the abused minor showed lack of understanding in dealing with victims.
“When we arrived here, I found the community members already surrounding the minor asking her to narrate what happened to her. Unbeknown to them, this could trigger mental breakdown on the minor.
In this community, we have a lot of women and child abuse cases. There are also high cases of unintended pregnancies among the minors,” she said.
Mrs Mpofu said the abuse cases continue unabated mainly because there is no police station close by.
It was reported that the nearest police station is 35km from Mtshina village.
Area councillor Cde Mexen Ndlovu said another problem is that cellphone network reach is problematic in the area.
“She was abused by someone whom she lives with. I also didn’t know of the case as they do not live closer to my home.
It’s just today that we are learning that the minor was being raped as well. The family has been hiding this abuse case. This is a crime and also concealing abuse cases is another crime. While we don’t hear much about it, yes the concealing of crimes by family members is there in the community that is why we have recorded this incident,” said Cde Ndlovu.
He said while there is a child protection committee within the community, most of the time cases go unreported.
“We have poor network reception, even the lockdown which had seen intercity travel being banned resulted in transport challenges. But since the lockdown has been relaxed, the transport situation has also improved but we generally have communication challenges which affect reportage of crime cases,” he said.
A Zimbabwe Vulnerability Assessment Committee (ZimVAC) recently revealed that rural communities struggle to get emergency services as police stations and clinics are distant from their villages.
The long distances travelled to nearest emergency services is said to contribute to some victims not reporting cases against perpetrators.
This also exposes victims to sexually transmitted diseases and unwanted pregnancies as it is normally expected that a raped victim should get medical treatment within 72 hours of being abused to counter any possible infections and pregnancy.
Area village head Mr Madlala Maphosa said the incident was recorded just a few days after another girl was abused in the community.
“We recently apprehended another villager for abusing women. We managed to hand him over to the police and just a few days we learnt of this again. It worries us as a community. We are told that he beat her up over isitshwala but how do you beat a girl like that,” said Mr Maphosa.–@nqotshili