Witchcraft claims derail search for missing 2 year old
WHEN Ms Glenda Sibelu left her two-year-old daughter at home to fetch water from a nearby river, she had no idea it would be the beginning of a heart-wrenching search for the toddler who has been missing for a fortnight.
Little Princess Sibonginkosi Ncube, who celebrated her second birthday in October, was last seen in the early morning on
Monday, November 20, 2023 in the company of her nine-year brother.
The family lives in Seafield Estate Village 1, in Ward 12, Tsholotsho South constituency. Ms Sibelu instructed the brother to take his sister to their grandmother’s homestead, which is about 300 metres away.
An hour later upon her return home, Ms Sibelu discovered the two had not set foot at their grandmother’s homestead and she started frantically searching for them.
It was only the beginning of a harrowing ordeal that shocked the whole community to its core. A search party consisting Sibelu and her immediate neighbours promptly got to work, scouring the area for any trace of the kids.
The first 48 hours when children go missing are very crucial as their chances of survival begin to drop drastically. To compound the dire situation facing the missing children, the nine-year-old brother suffers from Downs Syndrome.
The initial search team consisting Ms Sibelu and five women scoured the immediate area surrounding her home a few hours after the kids went missing, as they hoped that the children were playing somewhere nearby.
The search was in vain and, as the clock continued ticking and darkness covered the village, Ms Sibelu began to dread the thought of her children spending the night hungry, scared, confused, and the cold in the open.
“I didn’t sleep the first night my children disappeared, how could I, knowing that they were somewhere out there and couldn’t come home? Witness, the older brother suffers from Downs Syndrome and I was scared that maybe he got confused and started wandering around and got lost in the bush,” she said.
“He usually carries his sister on his back to go to their grandmother and on the morning that they got lost I had told him to take Princess to Gogo’s place as I was going to fetch water,” said Ms Sibelu.
Twenty-four hours later, the kids were still missing and as word spread that two minors couldn’t be accounted for, more villagers started joining the search party.
They widened the search area looking for little Princess and Witness and on the second day, a dazed and confused boy was found wandering in the forest, about six kilometres from home.
“He was so far away from the village and I still wonder how he found himself so far away from home and when they asked him where his sister was, he said she was sleeping under a tree.
“I had a bit of hope that since Witness was found alive, Princess would also be found alive in the vicinity of the area her brother was found. He kept on saying that he left her sleeping under a tree but had no idea which tree since the area is in the middle of a forest,” said an emotional Ms Sibelu.
Rain pounded the area a day after the boy was found alive threatening the search for the missing little Princess but villagers persisted.
One of the girl’s shoes was found about a kilometre from where her brother was found, giving hope that the search party was on the right track.
A distraught Gogo Regina Mlotshwa, the missing girl’s grandmother, said she thought the little girl was lost somewhere in the middle of nowhere.
“It’s not the first time that a child disappeared in the area, a young boy of about 12 years old disappeared in 2021 and his bones were found in the bush last year. And when I think of that incident, my heart sinks. I pray that my granddaughter is found alive,” said Gogo Mlotshwa.
The search party, however, stopped looking for the missing toddler last week after disagreements between villagers and the family emerged. Gogo Mlotshwa says some of the villagers accused her of witchcraft.
“Some of the villagers started saying I should stop wasting their time and tell them where my grandchild is because I killed her and stashed her body in a refrigerator. I was so hurt for being labelled a witch so I asked them to stop,” she said.
“My family is going through a very difficult time and I felt it wasn’t fair that some villagers were pointing fingers at me for being responsible for the disappearance of my granddaughter,” said Gogo Mlotshwa.
Zanu-PF Politburo member Cde Alice Dube implored the villagers to remain united in their quest to find the missing little girl.
“Now more than ever, you (villagers) must be united and work together to find little Princess. You did everything you could in the first six days and if that momentum had continued, who knows maybe today we could be talking a different story and Princess would be home with her family.
“The local leadership of village head (Edward Dube) should rally the villagers to continue with the search,” Cde Dube.
Mr Dube said he will speak to his fellow villagers to rise above their differences and resume the search.
“A little girl is missing and for us to concentrate on accusations and counter-accusations is just wrong. Cde Dube, I promise you that I will hold a meeting with the villagers and ask them to start the search again,” said the village head.