Sometimes the truth is stranger than fiction. Theresa Takafuma narrates a heart-rending tale of abandoned children.
I first met Charles and Talib on one of my visits to this place down in Chief Makore area, in Gutu. As someone who loves adventure, walking in the bush to connect with nature is something I do not miss whenever I visit that place.
On that particular visit, I decided to climb the hill near home (It required a lot of courage), pretending to be the daredevil everyone at home thought I was. Making my way towards the highest spot on the hill, I heard voices and my first reaction was fear.
Strangers in the bush
As I drew closer, the voices became clearer and I could tell they were children’ voices. Through the tree leaves I saw a clearing and some smoke and started walking towards it as I assumed that they were honey-mongers; I could probably talk them into sharing some with me.
When I got to the clearing, my hair gave a standing ovation to my fear, which was slowly giving my legs a warning to flee — I had heard voices but there was no sign of a person on the open space, save for the smell of fire which engulfed the place.
Suddenly a small stone hit my foot, which sent me into panic mode—this was either an attack by a ghost or a sick prank by….who then?
I turned to flee and that is when I came face to face with two frail looking boys who were holding stones, ready to attack the intruder in what I was to find out was their home.
The older child looked no more than seven, whilst the smaller boy looked a little above five, but one thing which was very distinct about them was their tattered clothing and shabbiness.
They looked like they last washed two or three years back. I noticed a wound on the younger child’s head. After what seemed like eternity, I summoned the courage to talk to them. I managed to convince them that I was no enemy by taking out my phone, pretending to take pictures.
They gradually got interested in the ‘photo shoot’ as they later dropped the stones and started grinning for the pictures.
Fast forward an hour later, we were now seated on the boulders in the hill with my newly acquired ‘friends’ whose names I learned were Charles and Talib. I asked them about where their home was and what grades they were in.
The back story
As our conversation progressed, Talib told me that he got his wound from a burn he suffered during a fight with his cousin when they were still staying at Mbuya Mai Sarah’s place.
I asked where the Mbuya Mai Sarah was, and that is when the narration that broke my heart began—these two boys lived in this hill, all by themselves, taking (stealing) food from either Mbuya Mai Sarah or Mbuya Chipara’s kitchen or garden whenever they were not home.
At first I thought they were just fooling around, but when they showed me what they called home: a heap of old cloth and shreds of blankets, metal mugs being used as pots, a plastic plate, unripe guavas and green mealies made their kitchen. I was broken to pieces.
Where are the parents?
Charles, who was the older one and obviously more outspoken told me their father had died whilst working on a farm somewhere and their mother had remarried and was staying in another village with her husband and their three siblings.
He told me they were left at Mbuya Chipara (who I later found out was their paternal grandmother)’s home but had to run away to Mbuya Mai Sarah (maternal grandmother)’s place after their grandfather had stopped them from going to school to help the builders of their blair toilet by carrying stones.
They could not stay long at Mai Sarah’s place as they were accused of stealing corn bread (chimodho), and were chased back to their father’s home, which was not an option since they had ran away and they opted for the hills.
I could tell from my dialogue with Charles that he was a very bright kid, the way he expressed himself and all. I got so emotional but one thing I could not do in these circumstances was shed tears.
Helping hand rejected
Just when I mentioned that they could follow me home and I could give them some food, they started being hostile; I had suddenly become their enemy.
I tried all the tricks in my bag to make them follow me home as I knew my family would not have a problem with it but it was all in vain. I told them I was going to give them sweets and all but they could not buy any of that. They took to their heels downhill and I just stood there, clueless.
As I made my way down the hill after a while, all I was thinking was how to find them. There was no one around to ask and all seemed lost, except my broken heart.
To be continued
Be sure to read part two of Theresa’s story.
Theresa Takafuma is based in Masvingo.She is a trained journalist and a creative writer.