By Mthulisi Mathuthu
SW Radio Africa
26 June 2014
There was a very lukewarm response from the relevant organisations and state departments this week as the three Chimanimani girls spent a full month still missing.
The three cousins disappeared on May 25th and SW Radio Africa has been reporting on the issue for the past two week, with little interest from child care organizations. Observers have questioned why there has been such a poor response to the matter when there was widespread reaction to the news of the abduction of Nigerian girls by Islamist group Boko Haram.
A week before the Chimanimani girls disappeared about 100 Zimbabwean women gathered at the Nigerian Embassy in Harare in solidarity with the Nigerian girls who were abducted by the terrorist group.
But there was no such action on the ground this week with organizations that work in the human rights area saying they were not aware of the matter of the Chimanimani girls, while those that knew of it shared very little information.
An official at a faith-based organization said the girls are ‘not missing per se but it’s a complicated and long story.’ An official from the department of child welfare and probation services confirmed the story but refused to comment further saying ‘as a ministry we don’t just speak to the press like that.’ The Zimbabwe Human Rights Commission said it was investigating the matter.
Nyaradzo Mashayamombe, who was part of the solidarity march last month, said: ‘It is not every case that needs us to go and demonstrate; we also have other ways of responding.’ Mashayamombe said her organization Tag a Life International Trust was in touch with the department of social welfare on the issue and they hope to get more updates in due course.
She said: ‘Unfortunately there has been an outcry with people comparing the response that the civil society gave to Boko Haram with the day to day situation in Zimbabwe. I think those two are kind of different. The whole world responded to Boko Haram but it doesn’t mean the whole world went to Nigeria to demonstrate; it was just showing solidarity; so I think we need to differentiate cases.’
Mashayamombe added: ‘I think also one has to understand that the environment we operate in is restrictive. For instance if I was to seek permission to march in a case where certain state departments are implicated I don’t think that march will be authorized.’
The three girls, Hazel and Tatenda Marirwana and Tilda Mutisi, were initially abducted by Amon Jirisera from the Machongwe Business Center where he runs a tuck-shop. A search party traced the girls to Jirisera’s house the following day, where it was alleged that one of the girls had been sexually abused.
The parents reported the case and left the girls in police custody and made a request for a medical exam at Mutambara Hospital. But the police phoned on the following day to say they had released the girls because they could not feed them. When they did not reach home the police refused to investigate the disappearance, threatening to arrest the parents themselves.
It remains astonishing that the perpetrators name and address is known, there are three girl children missing and possibly severely abused, and yet no one seems capable, or interested, in doing anything.