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Mystery over child-snatching ex-jailbirds

Couple served time in Botswana…. Acquaintances suspect trafficking

By Veronica Gwaze

What exactly was Miriam Bwanali’s intentions with baby Tamiranashe whom she kidnapped last month at Montagu shops in the Avenues area of Harare?

Gift Chemhuru and police detectives
Gift Chemhuru and police detectives

Is Bwanali involved in child trafficking, ritual killings or she is simply a psycho in need of help?

Or she desperately wants a child of her own?

These and other baffling questions remain unanswered.

Baby Tamiranashe, born to Shani Charamanda (30), was snatched from her mother on October 22, three weeks after her birth.

She was then found two weeks later in Motsi Village under Chief Chirau in Murombedzi, Mashonaland West Province, following a tip-off.

This was after a public notice was made by the parents and the police.

However, Bwanali managed to escape before a police raid and is now believed to have skipped the border into South Africa.

Her husband and alleged accomplice, Gift Chemhuru, was arrested.

He was found in possession of pairs of camouflage, two machetes and an empty gun pouch.

He has since appeared in court on kidnapping charges. Zimbabwe Republic Police (ZRP) spokesperson Assistant Commissioner Paul Nyathi confirmed that the prime suspect is still at large.

A web of deceit

The Sunday Mail Society sought to unpack the mystery by visiting Motsi Village, Zvimba.

Most villagers in the area said Bwanali (56) and Chemhuru (40) were an odd and enigmatic couple who were always fighting.

“They used to engage in violent fights and one day during a feud, the husband shouted, ‘ndosaka wakambosungwa wauraya mwana’ (that is why you were once arrested for murdering a child). From that day, I knew Bwanali was bad news and became suspicious of her,” revealed Samuel Kadingo, Chemhuru’s grandfather.

The couple had been staying together for the past six years.

It is believed that they hit it off when they met in prison in Botswana.

Upon release, they temporarily moved to Norton.

They later relocated to Chief Chirau’s Village where they had now settled for about three years.

Initially, the couple used to stay with two children — a girl they claimed to be their first born child and a boy who was said to be Bwanali’s grandson.

Both were aged four.

However, a few months later, the alleged grandson disappeared.

Bwanali claimed to have sent him to his mother in South Africa.

Immediately after, the 56-year-old announced that she was pregnant with her second child.

“We never suspected anything with regards to the fake pregnancy, hence no one cared to confirm whether or not she was indeed pregnant. However, most people wondered why she always covered her body from the chest level with a cloth (zambia),” said 109-year-old Sekuru Kadingo.

Also, villagers were puzzled why she avoided local clinics for prenatal care.

Around 2018, she subsequently “gave birth” to her second child — a baby boy — in Chinhoyi.

“She never wanted to make use of local clinics for her maternity issues, except for other ailments even if we tried to convince her to do so. Instead, she would get furious if you suggested that,” adds Sekuru Kadingo.

It got even more puzzling.

When Bwanali returned from Chinhoyi, she relied on supplementary milk since she could not produce breast milk.

Naturally, everyone was worried.

“I had a nasty encounter with Bwanali upon her return with a new baby, after I tried to help with traditional medicines for her to produce milk. Now, it is all adding up. The child and others before were not hers,” Chemhuru’s grandmother, Yoana Bhewu, said.

She now had two kids.

“Earlier this year, she came to me saying her aunt in Chinhoyi requested to have some time with the children. I gave her the permission.

“After nearly three months, I enquired on when the children would be returning, but she failed to give me convincing responses. It is only now that we have discovered that she had taken the kids to one of my daughters in Mutoko.

“I do not know why this was made a secret. But, I am now forced to believe that my child is involved in selling children. Even the supposed grandson that was sent to South Africa, I believe he was sold,” declared Sekuru Kadingo.

Growing suspicions

Around May this year, after taking the toddlers to Mutoko, Bwanali once again claimed to be pregnant with her third child.

She followed the usual routine.

This was her second pregnancy in less than two years in Zvimba.

Last month, she left home for a private surgery in Belvedere, Harare, to “give birth”.

This is the period Bwanali stole baby Tamiranashe from her mother at Montagu shops after she befriended her at Parirenyatwa Group of Hospitals.

Charamanda had taken her baby for a routine check-up.

Three days later, Bwanali surfaced in Zvimba with a baby whom she again fed with supplementary milk.

No one dared to confront or congratulate her as she had a reputation for violence.

Ordinarily, a baby can be strapped on the back after their navel, on which the umbilical cord would be attached at birth, would have healed. This usually takes place between five to seven days after childbirth.

“Just after three days, the baby looked like she was already weeks old and instantly I felt something was not right,” Chemhuru’s aunt, Patience Gombe, said.

“The following day

I saw her strapping the baby on her back; she had also washed the baby’s nappies and draped them on the fence, which is a taboo culturally.”

Gombe alerted her husband, Peter Gombe, who is Chemhuru’s uncle and former police officer, of her suspicions.

“We had a brief discussion with my wife . . . as she suspected that something was definitely wrong,” he said.

“Surprisingly, the following day I saw a message on social media of a missing baby with a picture of the culprit and from the image we could tell it was her.”

Gombe alerted the police, but Bwanali escaped minutes before the police arrived.

“We could tell that something was not right. Sometimes the baby would cry uncontrollably but we remained mum,” added Gogo Bhewu.

“When I visited them during the time they stayed in Norton, I was surprised – the two children were not allowed to go and play outside. If they attempted to do so, it was big trouble for them.

“The trend continued when they came to the village. The children were not allowed to play with other minors and did not go to school also,” she said.

Sekuru Kadingo weighs in: “ I tried and failed on several occasions to visit Bwanali’s family so that we formalise their union with my grandson. She was not interested at all.”

Councillor Samuel Magaya has been swarmed with reports of misdemeanours by the couple in the village.

They are allegations that they used to steal other people’s property, including livestock.

“The two were just bad news in the village. I have received various complaints against the couple from the villagers. I am in the process of finding solutions to have them evicted,” said Cllr Magaya.

The couple had no steady source of income but lived a lavish lifestyle.

“Their shopping patterns always left us wondering. We are not even sure where they got the money. They attempted to run a bottle store for some months but it was not doing that well,” he said.

“The wife used to brag around the village claiming that she had wealthy relatives, although none visited them.”

A relative, who preferred to be identified as Booster, grew up with Bwanali in Kenzamba, Chinhoyi.

He said her biological parents are late but her siblings and extended family still live in the area.

Booster described Bwanali as a violent and callous individual since childhood.

“She dropped out of secondary school and vanished without a trace until we met again in Murombedzi in 2018. We went to primary and part of secondary school together in Chinhoyi. She loved fighting.

“…later I heard that she had a baby – the firstborn who is in South Africa – and now I am being told it was her grandson. I do not know what to believe anymore,” he said.

Chemhuru grew up under the care of his grandparents and his father is unknown. He attended Shambavarungu Primary School before moving to Harare to stay with his aunt.

Growing up, Chemhuru was believed to be troublesome.

He reportedly disappeared after dropping out of secondary school.

For years, he never communicated and his family thought he was dead until his unexpected return with Bwanali in tow some three years back.

Chemhuru’s grandfather believes his grandson is being tormented by his past.

“I believe my grandson is a spiritually tormented man, especially because he does not know his father and the mere fact that he did not attend his mother’s funeral. The surname he uses is not even his, it is my son-in-law’s . . . he simply helped him.

I saw her strapping the baby on her back; she had washed the baby’s nappies and draped them on the fence, which is a taboo culturally.”

Gombe alerted her husband, Peter Gombe, who is Chemhuru’s uncle and former police officer, of her suspicions.

“We had a brief discussion with my wife . . . as she suspected that something was definitely wrong,” he said.

“Surprisingly, the following day I saw a message on social media of a missing baby with a picture of the culprit and from the image we could tell it was her.”

Gombe alerted the police, but Bwanali escaped minutes before the police arrived.

“We could tell that something was not right. Sometimes the baby would cry uncontrollably but we remained mum,” added Gogo Bhewu.

“When I visited them during the time they stayed in Norton, I was surprised — the two children were not allowed to go and play outside. If they attempted to do so, it was big trouble for them.

“The trend continued when they came to the village. The children were not allowed to play with other minors and did not go to school,” she said.

Sekuru Kadingo weighs in: “ I tried and failed on several occasions to visit Bwanali’s family so that we formalise their union with my grandson. She was not interested at all.”

Councillor Samuel Magaya has been swarmed with reports of misdemeanours by the couple in the village. They are allegations that they used to steal other people’s property, including livestock.

“The two were just bad news in the village. I have received various complaints against the couple from the villagers. I am in the process of finding solutions to have them evicted,” said Cllr Magaya.

The couple had no steady source of income but lived a lavish lifestyle.

“Their shopping patterns always left us wondering. We are not even sure where they got the money. They attempted to run a bottle store for some months but it was not doing that well,” he said.

“The wife used to brag around the village claiming that she had wealthy relatives, although none visited them.”

A relative, who preferred to be identified as Booster, grew up with Bwanali in Kenzamba, Chinhoyi. He said her biological parents are late but her siblings and extended family still live in the area.

Booster described Bwanali as a violent and callous individual since childhood.

“She dropped out of secondary school and vanished without a trace until we met again in Murombedzi in 2018. We went to primary and part of secondary school together in Chinhoyi. She loved fighting.

“ . . . later I heard that she had a baby — the firstborn who is in South Africa — and now I am being told it was her grandson. I do not know what to believe anymore,” he said.

Chemhuru grew up under the care of his grandparents and his father is unknown. He attended Shambavarungu Primary School before moving to Harare to stay with his aunt.

Growing up, Chemhuru was believed to be troublesome. He reportedly disappeared after dropping out of secondary school. For years, he never communicated and his family thought he was dead until his unexpected return with Bwanali in tow some three years back.

Chemhuru’s grandfather believes his grandson is being tormented by his past.

“I believe my grandson is a spiritually tormented man, especially because he does not know his father and the mere fact that he did not attend his mother’s funeral. The surname he uses is not even his, it is my son-in-law’s . . . he simply helped him. The Sunday Mail

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