Zimbabwe: Kidnap Drama for Buyanga's Child

27 March 2020

Daniel Nemukuyu Investigations and Special Reports Editor

BUSINESSMAN Mr Frank Buyanga's five-year-old child, who was at the centre of a recent landmark judgment on joint guardianship and custody, was yesterday kidnapped movie-style by two armed men driving an unregistered Ford Ranger at Waterfalls Shopping Centre in Harare.

The boy's grandmother, Mrs Judith Muteswa, was seriously injured while trying to protect the child.

Mr Buyanga and his ex-girlfriend, Chantelle Muteswa, are embroiled in a custody and guardianship wrangle which resulted in High Court judge Justice Happias Zhou issuing an order granting both parties equal parental powers.

Just before the landmark judgment was handed down, Mr Buyanga had cried foul accusing his girlfriend of kidnapping the boy at a police station.

This week, Mr Buyanga sued police Commissioner-General Godwin Matanga for failing to give him protection.

Chantelle left her mother with the child in her vehicle, while she went into a supermarket when the kidnappers swooped on the child.

Footage captured by a supermarket CCTV camera and circulated on social media shows the white Ford Ranger parking behind Chantelle's Honda Fit.

Two men who were brandishing firearms pounced on Chantelle's car and forcibly took away the boy, who was with her grandmother.

The men jumped into the white Ford Ranger.

Mrs Muteswa and Chantelle fought the men as they drove off, seriously injuring the latter.

In an interview, Chantelle's lawyer, Mr Munyaradzi Bwanya of Mutuso and Taruvinga Legal Practitioners, said a police report was formally made at Waterfalls Police Station under Record Received Book (RRB) number 4310164.

"A police report was made at Waterfalls Police Station and the case was immediately referred to Criminal Investigations Department (CID) Homicide considering that the offence involved firearms," he said.

"Mrs Muteswa, who was seriously injured, is now receiving medical attention at a local health institution."

Under common law, the father could be made to pay child maintenance, but the mother had sole parental powers.

With such exclusive powers, mothers could decide to exclude fathers from the lives of their children and single-handedly decide issues concerning the children's welfare.

The landmark judgment ended a long-drawn custody dispute pitting Mr Buyanga and his ex-girlfriend.

Justice Happias Zhou said the common law provision was discriminatory.

He ruled that both parents could lawfully enjoy joint guardianship and custody of the child and when they appear before the courts they should be considered equal parents.

In the case of a deadlock, either can approach the court for recourse.

Justice Zhou said the previous common law position was in breach of sections of the Constitution that granted equal treatment to all regardless of many listed factors including whether a person was born in or out of wedlock.

He said the common law position discriminated against both the child and the father.

Justice Zhou ordered both parties to ensure their child is interviewed by a Government social worker to establish the damage, if any, he could have suffered during litigation.

The social worker is expected to prepare and present a report with recommendations on how parties shall exercise their joint custodial right without disrupting the social life of the child within 30 days of the issuance of the order.

Both parties must equally share any costs associated with the social worker's services.

Mr Buyanga and Chantelle's dispute started in the Civil Court, but due to appeals and cross appeals, it spilled into the High Court.

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