The Sunday News
Robin Muchetu, Senior Reporter
WHAT was supposed to be a dream come true in search of greener pastures turned into a nightmare for hordes of young women from parts of Bulawayo and Matabeleland North provinces who were transported to South Africa by a cross-border transporter who allegedly kept them as sex slaves and also withheld their salaries.
The man ( real name withheld) allegedly trafficked more than 30 Zimbabwean women into the neighbouring country and went on to sexually abuse them. The man, popularly known as a malayitsha like others in the cross-border business, is allegedly on the run. While the exact number of his victims is yet to be established, about 30 women have shared their testimonies that date back to as far back as 2004, making the story one of the biggest cross-border rape cases ever, spanning about two decades. Could a serial rapist be on the loose? The tales from survivors sounds like a script from Crime Scene Investigation. They are horrific.
The man allegedly raped the women and girls upon arrival in South Africa. While some of the women and girls did get jobs, they were left nursing Sexually Transmitted Infections (STIs), physical wounds, while some were impregnated. The man was recently exposed on a Facebook page run by a Zimbabwean national Ms Nobuhle Virginia Atiji who lives in South Africa and is a human rights defender and philanthropist.
“There was a child who escaped from the hands of this man called Mike, he had taken her from rural Zimbabwe saying he was an agent who could source employment for her. He brought her to Makokoba in Bulawayo where she was living with ugogo osebenza lo Mike (granny who works with Mike). At that house were other girls who were coming from the rural areas too who were in transit to South Africa. They eventually jumped the border and were taken to his house in Soweto where they were told they were waiting for job placements,” said Ms Atiji.
The survivor allegedly said they were living in the Soweto house with about 15 other girls aged between 14 and 21.
“This room the girls lived in had a single bed where he would take turns to rape them every day. He did get them jobs especially in the Somali and Pakistan communities as domestic workers in different areas. This girl who managed to escape was taken to East London and when she left Zimbabwe she never mentioned that she was pregnant. So the employers later realised this and told Mike that he had sent in a pregnant girl who was struggling to work. She was not being paid directly but the money would be sent to Mike instead,” she said.
After failing to continue with work because of the pregnancy, she returned to Johannesburg and had no contacts with her family back in Zimbabwe. She only knew Mike who had brought her to South Africa, sources said.
“She was met by Mike at the bus station and he took her back to the house in Soweto where she initially arrived and found that he was still raping girls who he had come with from Zimbabwe. But she managed to escape and was assisted by a woman who located her family. This whole story then came to light after this girl started sharing her ordeal advising women and girls to avoid dealing with Mike,” said Ms Atiji.
Ms Atiji, who has a substantial following on social media posted the young woman’s ordeal which opened a can of worms and dozens more women opened up about their experiences with Mike, who had the same modus operandi.
“After I made this post, victims started calling in and asking to post anonymously about how he abused them and he started to rape the women as far back as 2004 when he was posing as a faith healer. Apparently he was chased away from different communities in rural areas for sexually abusing married women and girls. When they discovered his ways, they would chase him out of the villages, that is when he started trafficking them to South Africa as an employment agent,” she said.
She said some women have shared harrowing tales of how he infected them with diseases and how some even have children with him.
“Hi Sis Noe how are you, pleases hide my identity, there is a man who posted that he found his young sister, I know this guy called (name withheld). He came with me in 2016 on 2 January, now he is grown up as this happened some years ago. It scares me that this man is still alive. He left with me saying he was umalayitsha, we arrived in South Africa at 1am and he took me to a flat or it was a lodge I do not remember as it was at night. He said I must take a bath and I complied. While I was bathing he entered and said he wanted to bath and I went out naked. He then said I must come and sleep and I refused. I have a scar today on my forehead where he hit me with the butt of a gun. He said he was going to throw me out of the window, he then raped me and infected me with a disease in the process. He then pushed me to another guy saying I was available but that guy never did anything to me and helped me find my relatives. I managed to track my family. I told my brother but we did not know where to find Mike. So this girl who shared her testimony is not lying at all,” read a testimony on Facebook.
However, one of Mike’s alleged children came forward and told Ms Atiji that he was distancing himself from his shenanigans.
“He looked for me and told us that he was against what his father had been doing and that he had warned him of his evil doings. He said he remembers one time his father came home with a 16-year-old girl who he said the children must call mam’omncane (aunt) and they refused. He was living with the girl saying she was now their mother,” he added.
In one live video, the son to the alleged rapist is heard admitting that he assisted his father to drop off young girls who would have found jobs in different communities. He also said he was aware that his father would withhold two months’ salary from the women as payment for finding them employment.
“We were evicted from many homes because our father would bring in many different women and girls and the owners of the accommodation would complain as they had lost track of who lives in the accommodation. I then moved out. Again he would bring very young girls and sleep with them,” said the son.
A case was recently reported to the Zimbabwe Republic Police West Commonage Police Station in Bulawayo as a missing person’s report for the alleged rapist, and not a criminal case. The provincial police spokesperson, Inspector Abednico Ncube, however, said he was yet to receive a case of the alleged criminal activities of the suspect. Nonetheless, in South Africa, the accused person was reported to the police by some of the alleged victims. Many have been telling their stories on social media anonymously as they said they feared victimisation, stigma and discrimination. — @NyembeziMu