By Brian Chitemba
Shocking details have emerged of how the former first family’s elite schools and orphanage nestled in a vast estate in Mazowe — 40km north of Harare — were rocked by an alleged child sexual abuse scandal that was kept under wraps.
Investigations revealed the shocking scandal at Grace Mugabe Orphanage and Amai Mugabe Junior and High schools after 10 children were allegedly caught up in the scandal from late 2018 to 2019.
The names (supplied) of the minors cannot be revealed to protect their identity.
The matter was reported to Grace Mugabe in 2019, but it was kept a closely guarded secret for fear of investigation by authorities.
The scandal erupted, according to high-level officials, after an Advanced Level student allegedly abused a minor at the orphanage in 2018.
At the time of the abuse, school pupils in the boarding school were using the same facilities as the 94 orphans adopted by the former first lady.
This then sparked a series of cases which came to the fore after four children sustained injuries related to the sexual abuse and were rushed to Concession Hospital.
Medical personnel at the hospital confirmed to the Zimbabwe Independent that such cases were handled at the institution.
Mashonaland Central provincial medical director Clemence Tshuma did not respond to questions by the time of going to print.
However, it is understood that Mugabe set up an investigating team led by the orphanage resident pastor Miriam Chigiga, Amai Grace Mugabe Foundation administrator Misheck Muchimwe and Amai Mugabe Junior School headmaster Stephen Zulu.
“What was heart-wrenching was that two of the abused boys are HIV positive, they were born with the condition. This is why it’s important that the matter should be brought to light to make sure it is dealt with thoroughly,” an official close to the matter said.
To cover up the scandal, the Amai Grace Mugabe Foundation, then made recommendations to Mugabe to employ a resident nurse named Susan Sunhwa, who would look into the health affairs of the children to plug any information leakages about the goings-on at the orphanage and schools.
Chigiga denied that there was once a sexual abuse scandal at the orphanage and school, saying she was nurturing the children in Christian values.
“These children have responsible caregivers who are widows and single mothers who always keep an eye on them. There is no way the children can be involved in such abuse cases because we teach them Godly ways. We don’t tolerate that; we are an openly Christian school,” Chigiga, a Zaoga ordained pastor, said.
Muchimwe chipped in: “Nothing of that sort ever happened at the schools.”
But sources insisted that the scandal unfolded.
“If they (school authorities) deny that there was such a case then we can surely produce the names of the children who were involved. Grace was informed about the issue; Bona Mugabe-Chikore is also aware of it. Evidence is available to that effect,” an impeccable source said.
Repeated efforts to get a comment from Grace Mugabe were futile.
Her daughter, who oversees family businesses, Mugabe-Chikore’s phone went unanswered several times.
The Independent has also established that Grace Mugabe is keeping children at the Mazowe orphanage far above the stipulated 70 granted by the Ministry of Labour and Social Welfare.
According to a Grace Mugabe Children’s Home certificate, registration number SW/10/111 signed by the then Labour and Social Welfare minister Paurina Mpariwa, the orphanage has a cap for 70 children taken from birth to 18 years.
The certificate was issued on February 3, 2012 under the Children’s Act (Chapter 5:06) for the establishment of a children’s home at Iron Mask Farm in Mazowe.
Mugabe, according to some of her employees, sources food like mealie-meal and meat from her farms to cater for the children.
“They don’t buy a lot of things. Most of the food comes from her farms. But the problem is that she violated the law by taking in more children than is allowed by the certificate she got from the Ministry of Labour and Social Welfare,” an official at the orphanage said.
Chigiga said the children were well taken care of and there were no issues of overcrowding.
During the Mugabe reign, teachers at the Amai Mugabe Junior and High Schools were mostly drawn from government and seconded to the private institution.
Government teachers from the high school resigned from government after Mugabe was removed from power in November 2017 and were absorbed as full-time private employees while those at the junior school remained in the civil service.
Half of the teachers at the junior school are still government employees.
The government employees also receive allowances from the private school.
Amai Mugabe schools are upmarket learning institutions which charge US$1 800 per term.
Primary and Secondary Education ministry spokesperson Taungana Ndoro said government workers could be seconded to private schools if private schools request for additional staff.
“There are government teachers in schools that are run by councils and churches; all these are private schools. Even in some trust schools there are teachers who are on government payroll,” Ndoro said. – The Zimbabwe Independent.