By Harmony Agere
A relieved Ms Shani Charamanda — the mother of a month-old baby boy who was recently kidnapped at Montagu Shopping Centre in Harare before being rescued by police in Zvimba, Mashonaland West Province — says she thought her son had been killed for ritual purposes.
Her new-born baby, Tamiranashe, was allegedly kidnapped by fugitive Miriam Bwanali who masqueraded as a Good Samaritan on October 22. To her good fortune, baby Tamiranashe was rescued by police in Zvimba 12 days after the alleged kidnapping.
Bwanali managed to escape and is now a fugitive from justice as law enforcement agents are keen to interview her over the case and two other suspected child kidnappings. Bwanali’s husband, Gift Chemhuru, has since been arrested. However, Ms Charamanda says she is thankful her son was rescued alive and healthy.
Speaking to The Sunday Mail at her home in Dzivarasekwa (DZ) Extension last week, the relieved mother said she could neither eat nor leave her house for two weeks as she feared the worst.
“My world just stopped the moment I realised that my baby had been stolen.”
Ms Charamanda says if she did not know better, she would insist Bwanali used juju to pull off the daring criminal enterprise.
“I first met the lady at Parirenyatwa (Group of Hospitals) and she claimed to know me from somewhere. I responded that her face was familiar too. She claimed that she lived in DZ Extension and that she was a prophetess, and I believed her.”
The two then walked to Montagu for shopping.
“On the way, she (Bwanali) offered to carry the baby and initially I refused but she insisted that she meant no harm to the child since she was a prophetess. At the shopping centre I didn’t find the items that I wanted, but she took some diapers from the shelf and gave me a US$2 note to pay. She asked to go outside the shop to allow the baby to get some fresh air. I reluctantly agreed and for a while I kept her and the baby within eyeshot. But just after making payment, I noticed that she had disappeared.”
With the help of well-wishers, Ms Charamanda proceeded to Milton Park Police Station to report the case.
“We later came back with a police officer who reviewed security camera footage and that is when I saw how the woman escaped,” she said.
“I stood at the till for about 30 minutes, motionless and devastated. In hindsight, after seeing that footage I was certain that some black magic was used because for some moments I stood still, just at the same time that she vanished with the baby. The US$2 note that I accepted from the woman must have done something to me. We call it ‘chadzimira’ (blackout) in Shona.”
Pictures of the baby and CCTV footage from the incident were then widely circulated online.
As the hunt for the baby intensified, Ms Charamanda received three calls that turned out to be false leads. Lady Luck smiled on her, albeit at the fourth attempt, when an alert nurse who happens to be a family friend raised suspicion after attending to Bwanali and the baby at a hospital in Zvimba.
“So after the baby had spent one of the nights crying, the husband (Gift Chemhuru) went to seek help from the nurse. When the nurse suggested that the baby be breastfed Bwanali refused saying all her children are fed from the bottle.”
It was at this point that the nurse and other neighbours got suspicious and reported the matter to the police. Police records say when confronted by officers, Bwanali asked to get back into the house to collect a cloth to carry the baby. However, she never returned as she made good her escape. The Sunday Mail