The Sunday News
Bruce Ndlovu, Sunday Life Reporter
EGHTER Khanye still does not have her son’s death certificate.
She claims she was told that since he was born in South Africa, where they lived with her husband from 1992, she could not take possession of the document that made official what she already knew in her heart: that her son is no more.
Soon after his father passed on, Arnold Khanye also breathed his last. The details surrounding his death make for sad reading. As her mother, who was still adjusting to living in her native country almost a decade-and-a-half after she left it, struggled to put food on the table, Arnold and her younger brother starved. With Arnold around, her movements were extremely restricted as she needed to take constant care of him.
As she watched her children, especially the one with special needs, struggle with empty bellies, Eghter knew that she had to do something. With the little money she had in her pocket, she decided to buy sausages that were on sale at a local retail outlet.
“I always cooked together with my boys and although, like their father, they didn’t like meat much, whenever I was frying it, they would just eat from the pan. That’s the same thing that happened when I cooked those sausages. After they ate them, Junior reacted as if he had a skin rash while Arnold didn’t show any signs. I took Junior and the sausages to the retail outlet I had bought them and when I got there, his condition was getting worse. A man who said he was the manager said there was a possibility that the sausages were left out of the fridge overnight by mistake,” she recounted to Sunday Life.
As she was juggled from office to office, another manager from the outlet had told her to get a letter to seek help from the doctor if they were going to assist her. As she was told this, the mother of two, who was still finding her footing in Zimbabwe, remembered she did not have enough money to her name to consult a doctor. In addition, she had other worries on her mind. Arnold, her autistic son, was still alone and hungry at home, with only the poisonous sausages seductively keeping him company. As she rushed home, her worst fears had already come true.
“When I got home, he had been vomiting. He had apparently eaten the rest of the sausages in the pan. I called the doctor that had seen Arnold before and he said, because of his health condition, it wasn’t easy to treat him as he needed to be given something to sleep first. I tried everything. I used African herbs that I had knowledge of on both of them and also got something that was recommended by the doctor at a pharmacy. But Arnold did not make it,” she said.
The death of her beloved son to what she believes were poisonous sausages, has been a scar that Khanye has chosen to ignore over the past two years. Towards the end of last year however, a letter sent to her from the Zimbabwe Revenue Authority (Zimra) brought fresh pain from the healing wound.
“According to my records, you imported a motor vehicle with the above details through Beitbridge Border Post and got the above assessment of ZWR (US$)6 002,74 being the amount payable,” read the letter from Thabisiwe Mapolisa, the customs authority’s Regional Manager. “Please note that the assessment is still outstanding and as a result, you are required to pay the outstanding amount of ZWR (US$)6 002,74. Please make arrangements to pay the outstanding amount by 16/10/2020 after which I will institute further action to recover the amount.”
While she missed the deadline, for that payment, Khanye later made it in February of this year. That was when she was slapped with additional charges for the storage of the car. It is this extra fee that has brought fresh anger and grief for Khanye, as she had long given up on the Mazda 2 that she tried to drive across the border back to her homeland when her husband passed away.
That car, whose duty cost three times its value according to her, demanded a lot of resources from a new single parent that was still waiting for her husband’s pension. When she finally crossed the border, she had seen her autistic son’s growing distress. The family of three had also lost all their passports.
“When I got to the border, I saw an officer who said he was the one who processed papers for returnees and he asked for copies of our documents including our three passports. I waited for that officer for hours and Arnold had started to be restless and I had to take him to his uncle before I went back to the border where I fell asleep on the bench until they called me and was told the assessment has been completed and I had failed the interview. I had been charged US$6 002. The officer I had seen was now nowhere to be seen.
“I went back to my car and I found it locked and clamped. The keys had apparently been taken by this officer.
Crying and confused, I took my handbag and some food for my child. I couldn’t find our passports so the manager accompanied me to the gate and told the police that our passports were mistakenly locked in their cupboards and he had no key. At that time, I didn’t have enough money to get to Bulawayo and so I asked family members again to help, they told me to ask any car to give me a lift and they would pay forward. I got a lift from someone who had just collected his own car and I told him what had happened. He told me to open a case at Central Police Station because he suspected that my car had been stolen,” she said.
As she left the border post, tears in her eyes and hurt in heart, Khanye decided to turn to law enforcement officers in the City of Kings. She would however, never see hers or the children’s passports again.
“I was called back after the police made enquiries and they gave me a receipt for that car and I was told that my passports have been misplaced and they hadn’t found them. I was told to write to a regional manager to appeal and use my disabled child so that I get the car. I did that, and took him to doctors in Bulawayo for interviews. I was then told that he didn’t qualify and couldn’t bring in the car through him, as autism wasn’t in the list of disabilities that qualify for rebate,” she said.
Until the letter last year, Khanye believed that the car was gone, just like the three passports before it.
“I have carefully considered the contents of your letter but wish to advise that you failed to prove statutory period of absence from Zimbabwe as required by section 105 of the Customs and Excise General (Regulations) SI 153 of 2001,” read a letter written to her on 28 August 2018 by late Zimra Commissioner Happias Kuzvinzwa. Kindly be advised that you should pay the duty due and storage by 30 September 2018 failing which the vehicle will be disposed of without further reference to you. I also wish to remind you that you exhausted Zimra appeal process and that you may, if you so wish, to take up the matter with a court of law.”
Khanye never took the matter to a court of law and now that the car is back in the picture and she is required to pay more money for it, it is now opening old wounds for her. The car brings back memories of her late son and her late husband, she says, people she loved and lost.
“I buried my son and never went back to his grave. I just decided to keep walking. Now the issue of the car has come back. I’m deeply hurt. I accepted that the car is gone, what I don’t understand is why are they opening old wounds and adding salt on them.”