THE mother of the nine-year-old pregnant Tsholotsho girl has broken her silence on the bizarre issue, saying that what pains her most was that her daughter was not aware that she is pregnant, but believes she is suffering from some stomach ailment.
In an exclusive interview with Sunday News in Bulawayo on Friday, the girl’s mother (26) who cannot be named for professional reasons, revealed that her daughter started her monthly menstrual cycle when she was just seven years-old in 2020. As the distraught mother opened up on the incident, it also emerged that the father of the child allegedly told her that “goblins will visit her at night and insert something on her private parts.”
The father (29) was arrested on 29 August 2022 when it was discovered that the minor was pregnant and is assisting police with investigations. The goblins that the father forewarned his daughter about, are alleged to have visited the nine-year-old only on nights that her mother was away from home and was left in the care of her father. So broken was the mother that she turned down an invitation to visit her daughter on Friday. She chose to walk away and sit on the foyer of the safe house than to go to the room where her daughter is being taken care of. She said she could not stand seeing her daughter in that state.
“She does not know what is wrong with her, that she is pregnant. The last time I saw her she asked me if I would take her home once she heals from her sickness, as that is what she knows. I started to see her menstruating in 2020 and she was seven-years-old then and I took her to the clinic to find out what the cause could have been. They told me that it was possible for her to menstruate early owing to the foods children eat nowadays. We returned home, then this year (August), I noticed that her stomach was swelling and took her to the hospital once more and there it was discovered that she was pregnant. I was not expecting that she could be pregnant because it is actually a shock and something foreign to us that a nine-year-old child can fall pregnant.”
Asked on whether she had been informed by her daughter of the sexual abuse she was going through, she said no.
“She never said anything, we tried to ask her about what happened to her but she wouldn’t talk, up to now. I am in pain because I do not know what happened to my daughter. My family is also distraught over the matter. I am just scared for her and what will happen since she is so young and pregnant. I never saw any behavioural changes in her such that I never picked up that she was probably being abused. She remained the same child until we discovered she was pregnant. She was also attending school from the beginning of this year but she had a tendency of not getting to school on some days and would return home and say she was chased away from school,” she said.
On some occasions she would get to school and hide behind the toilets and she would be seen at break time. She stopped lessons at the end of the second term when she was hiding from others occasionally and returning home. She did not return to school for the third term.
Upon the onset of menstruation, the family visited a prophet to get some assistance spiritually on what was causing the menstruation, as they were not satisfied with the hospital’s explanation. The mother said the prophet assisted them with prayers. The mother also said she does not have any suspects in mind that could have violated her child and was hoping that the perpetrator is brought to book. She also acknowledged the arrest of her 29-year-old husband who worked as a community builder but expressed shock at his arrest.
She said after the delivery of the baby she hopes that her daughter returns to school, although she wants her to be moved to a different school to prevent stigma and discrimination. Mr Brighton Ndebele, the probation officer in the Department of Social Development in Tsholotsho District, Matabeleland North province, who is handling the case, spoke to the Sunday News weighing on his discoveries.
“On 27 April 2021 the family visited the hospital in Tsholotsho after being referred by their local clinic to share their concerns on the menstruating minor and were told it was possible that she had early puberty. In February 2022, the menstruation stopped and they assumed the matter had been solved. Around June/July they discovered her stomach was swelling. On 29 August 2022 they presented again with the child and a bulging stomach which turned out to be a pregnancy. We immediately took the child to a place of safety under a trained foster parent. The 29-year-old father was also arrested on the same day,” he said.
The mother was also brought in for an interview with the police and social welfare officials. However, when the pregnancy was discovered, it was considered late and dangerous to the girl to perform an abortion.
“It was decided that the child was to remain in a place of safety with the hope that she would disclose who had violated her, and also that the father remains in Tsholotsho Prison until investigations are over and further tests are done on the baby. We also proceeded with the Victim Friendly Unit in the village for more investigations and we even reached the prophet who the family had consulted over the menstruating child. We went to the school for investigations,” he said.
When she gives birth, it was also agreed that she does not keep the baby with her but be allowed to recuperate and be shown the baby “at an appropriate time”.
“The reasons are she is a child that will be traumatized by child birth and allowing her to take up the role of a mother and miss school will traumatize her further and make her lose confidence in front of her peers that she is a mother at nine years. That may be a challenge to her so we are avoiding that. If we manage to maintain that position for a while, that she does not know that she had a baby, then we will then find a way to explain to her later. That is the position we took during our meeting but if other suggestions come up, we will adjust,” said Mr Ndebele.