By Rumbidzayi Zinyuke
Five-year-old cousins — Ozil and Tivakudzeishe Chipadza — were killed, while Dessy Chipadza, Isabel Muzombi and Listen Mufowo (seven) were seriously injured when a landmine exploded in Buhera last week.
Gogo Maria Rwavazhinji Mufowo says her granddaughter, Listen, is still traumatised.
“My granddaughter is still afraid that the thick black smoke will come back and swallow her up. She sometimes wakes up screaming in the middle of the night, afraid that the explosion is still happening. Even when I assure her that it is over, she still has vivid memories of the incident,” said Gogo Mufowo.
Listen is admitted at Victoria Chitepo Provincial Hospital after shrapnel from a landmine almost shattered her left knee.
She is waiting for doctors to assess the damage to her swollen knee and chart a way forward.
Although Listen survived the explosion, her little mind is in agony as she recollects the horrendous ordeal. Her grandmother is concerned about the psychological impact the incident has had on her.
“I was not around when the incident happened, but I came back as soon as I heard what had happened to the children at home. From what I was told, the children played with the object for some time before it exploded.
“Listen says she, Dessy and Isabel were a distance away from where the explosion happened, but they were affected by the blast. Listen says she heard a deafening sound, followed by a huge flame and thick black smoke rising and engulfing everything,” said Gogo Mufowo.
“She still talks about seeing pieces of the two boys’ flesh and how adults were scrapping some pieces of the flesh from the wall.
“This has left her afraid of everything. She is startled by any loud sound and I think when she closes her eyes to sleep, she sees the flames because she is constantly having nightmares.”
With the permission of her grandmother and hospital authorities, The Manica Post visited Listen on Monday and spoke to her about the incident.
Although she didn’t have many visible injuries except for her swollen knee, Listen was very articulate and narrated a horrific tale that no child her age should ever have to go through.
She recalls how she tried to run from the black smoke, but could not escape.
Listen saw adults crying as they came to terms with the reality of what had happened.
“We tried to run, but we were engulfed by thick black smoke. I closed my eyes, nose and mouth to try and block the smoke, but it choked me.
“Others screamed at me to run home, but I could not move as my leg had been injured. Other villagers then arrived and I could hear them crying and calling our names,” she said.
Listen says as she was being taken to hospital, she remembers seeing people frantically searching for the other kids’ missing body parts.
But despite the trauma, Listen is determined to recuperate and return to school.
She hopes to become a nurse one day and help save lives.
According to Gogo Mufowo, even grown-ups have very little knowledge on how to handle explosives.
“I doubt that even adults can identify these explosives if they come across them.
“I have heard that the children were looking for scrap metal to sell to teachers at their school and that is how they discovered the object.
“They thought it was heavy scrap metal that could be sold. They were oblivious to its dangers.
“Since human settlements are expanding, the explosives that were buried underground are now being exposed due to farming activities,” she said.
She called upon Government to carry out awareness campaigns on the dangers of handling unidentified objects.
Manicaland Provincial Development Coordinator, Mr Edgars Seenza, said the incident was unfortunate as it had claimed the lives of young children.
He said Government assisted with the burial of the two victims of the incident.
The Buhera explosion is not the first such incident in Manicaland.
The province suffered the brunt of the liberation struggle and several types of explosives are yet to be de-mined. The Manica Post