The world was never the same for Sibusisiwe Chirenje when she saw the video of her daughter being mercilessly flogged by four bullies. The two-and-a-half minute video, though short, crumbled her world into pieces.
The mother-of-five wept uncontrollably, and she couldn’t imagine the pain her 14-year-old daughter must have endured from the thrashing at the hands of four bullies, who were all schoolboys from Mathula Secondary School in Tsholotsho.
In this digital age, every public action can be recorded with a touch of a button by anyone who owns a smartphone. Chirenje had seen her fair share of videos circulating on social media, some hilarious and meant to entertain, while others were too horrifying in nature to watch. But, she never imagined that one day, her daughter would be watched by thousands of viewers on social media being senselessly beaten by boys old enough to be her older siblings.
Anger, sadness, disgust, and fear — all rolled into one burning emotion — engulfed the 37-year-old woman as she tried to wrap her head around the situation.
“I cried for hours. The pain I felt from watching my daughter being beaten for no reason by a group of older boys was just too much for me to bear. So, I made the difficult decision to send the video to a relative and delete it from my phone,” she said.
Chirenje couldn’t keep such a traumatic video on her mobile phone; it was too much for her to comprehend.
She wondered how four boys could come to a decision to beat up a younger girl with sticks that were not even fit to whip a donkey with? What had she done to deserve such an attack?
In the video that shocked a nation, a group of Mathula Secondary School students were walking home when one older boy confronted a young girl and started whipping her with a stick without explanation. Two other boys, also holding sticks, joined in beating up the hapless girl as she cried out for help, but that assistance never came.
The victim can be seen running in the direction of another older boy, whom she appears to think might rescue her, but instead, the bully joins in, lashing her with a stick. Other learners laughed without a care at the pain the victim was going through while the unsettling footage was captured on camera.
Contrary to what many viewers believe is a relatively new video exposing deep-rooted bullying in rural Tsholotsho, the incident is, in fact, four months old but was recently posted on social media.
The victim is now in Form Two at Mathula Secondary School.
“My daughter was beaten by those boys in late November last year, and I only knew about the incident two weeks ago after it started circulating on WhatsApp. When I asked her why she kept quiet all this time, she said she was scared the boys would beat her up again if she reported the incident at school or at home.”
According to Chirenje, her daughter’s friend and classmate wrote a love letter expressing interest in one of the boys but signed the letter using her child’s name. When the boy, under the impression that her daughter had written the love letter, asked to walk her home, she refused, which upset the older learner. The rejection didn’t go down well with the older boy, who then ganged up with other boys to beat up her child.
“I can only conclude that the rejection didn’t go down well with the older boy who then ganged up with other boys to beat up my child. All I want is justice for my child, she doesn’t deserve to be beaten like that and intimidated by other students in such a horrible way,” said Chirenje.
The arrest of the boys by the police was after the victim’s father, who works in South Africa, pursued the issue, seeking justice for his daughter. He had been tipped off by one of the learners at the school that a video of his daughter being beaten by older boys was circulating amongst the students.
The infuriated father — California Vundla — did his own investigations and unearthed the disturbing video.
It’s not clear who posted the video on social media despite its existence for four months. The perpetrators briefly appeared in court on Wednesday morning, the same day that a Saturday Chronicle news crew was in Tsholotsho, at Dogwe Village investigating the incident, and were released into the custody of their parents.
The victim’s grandmother Lavi Vundla said the family is seeking justice for the teenage girl, even if the beating took place four months ago.
“Whenever my daughter-in-law talks about the video, she still cries up to this day.
“No parent deserves to see their child beaten like that. We are leaving everything in the hands of the courts but we certainly want justice for our child,” said Gogo Vundla.
The four boys are known to the victim’s family.
“They are local boys whose parents are our neighbours and friends. I’m still shocked what pushed those boys to do something like that. It’s our duty to teach boys and young men that gender-based violence is not okay,” said Siphosenkosi Ndlovu, an elderly villager who briefly talked to the Saturday Chronicle at the local shops close to the victim’s homestead.
Mathula Secondary School headmaster Tylod Nkomo was said to be out of office attending school business at the Tsholotsho Centre. His cellphone was unreachable.
South Africa-based Zimbabwean psychologist Dr Thelma Masuku-Jones says cases of young men who beat up girls are usually signs of absentee fathers in the family.
“Boys that grow up in families with absent fathers are more likely to engage in violent behaviour against their romantic partners or future wives, they are more likely to end up in poverty or drop out of school, become addicted to drugs, have a child out of wedlock, or end up in prison.
“Migration of fathers for opportunities outside the country for prolonged periods of time leaving children in the care of their mothers or extended family members also leads to behavioural changes in teenage boys,” says Dr Masuku-Jones.
The psychologist opines that on average children whose father is actively involved tend to have fewer problems with school achievement, behaviour and social interaction than children whose father is not actively involved in their lives.- state media