The Sunday Mail
When Noel Gutu (54) of Madhibhu Village under Chief Chiduku in Rusape first met Eneta Marumani (48) on a Beitbridge-Harare-bound bus, the two immediately hit it off and exchanged phone numbers.
Gutu’s first wife had passed away a couple of years back, and he wanted another woman to help care for his three children.
Following their encounter, the pair constantly spoke and their relationship blossomed into marriage in 2012.
They were “blessed” with their first baby in 2013 and the second in 2015.
For nine years, the family lived in relative peace and were the envy of the serene community until the life-changing events of June 13, 2022.
A confession made by Marumani shattered Madhibhu Village, confirming what Gutu and other villagers had long suspected.
Marumani was arrested after confessing to allegedly stealing two babies in Harare on two different occasions in 2013 and 2015.
In 2013, she met the child’s mother at Sally Mugabe Central Hospital (formerly Harare Central Hospital)’s main gate, offered to assist to carry her baby then disappeared.
The baby had turned three-months-old on June 16, 2013.
Then on June 2, 2015, she used the same method to steal another six- month old baby.
While at a bus stop in Waterfalls, Harare, she fortuitously met a woman who was selling brooms who pleaded with her to temporarily hold her baby while she packed her wares.
She, however, disappeared with the baby.
The Sunday Mail tracked Gutu, who recounted his experiences with Marumani.
He said there were alarm bells from the time the first baby was brought home, though he could not prove what he suspected.
Each time Marumani claimed to be pregnant, her stomach suspiciously didn’t show.
“She even craved for fruits like masau, among other things.
“I asked her why her tummy was flat and she said the baby was hiding behind her ribcage and this was normal for women of her stature,” he said.
Marumani, he recalled, was excited and also bought new clothes to prepare for the arrival of the baby she was “carrying”.
“When I met her, she was a cross-border trader and made good money. She even took care of me. I would have accepted her even if she told me she was barren.”
What puzzled Gutu is that when Marumani brought home the first baby, neither did she have a birth record nor breastfeed.
“She said the birth record was in Harare where she had given birth. I was not convinced but could not go to the police back then. What would I say to the police? Report that my wife had given birth to a light-skinned baby and I am dark? Say she is refusing to breastfeed?” he asked rhetorically.
Though increasingly suspicious, he wore a brave face.
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In the community, tongues were also wagging as suspicions grew that the baby was not theirs.
Sometime in 2014, Marumani told Gutu that she was pregnant with their second child.
One morning in June 2015, she left home saying she was going for routine prenatal care in Rusape.
“She called me that same afternoon saying she had given birth to a baby boy at Vengere Clinic and had been discharged. She said she pleaded with nurses so we don’t pay much for the hospital bed,” he further recalled.
Gutu went to pick up Marumani at an open space in Rusape, but what he saw left him baffled.
“The second baby was too small. He could fit in my hand. But, I was suspicious when she failed to provide a birth record again.”
According to Gutu, Marumani took good care of the babies and fed them milk formula she bought using her own money.
Despite showering her family with love, her husband kept on pestering her to produce the children’s birth records.
For two years (2013 to 2015), she did not budge.
In 2017, when there was a mobile birth registration exercise in the area, Gutu again asked for the birth records.
But, to Gutu’s surprise, Marumani claimed the records had vanished in Rusape.
“I asked her how birth records can just vanish in thin air. She went to Harare where she said they could have been transferred.”
For three days, Marumani claimed she was at Makombe Building sorting out the birth records.
Again, she returned home empty-handed.
“I was stressed and developed high blood pressure. I am not well.”
In their village, the best way to keep a secret is silence, yet it seems walls, too, have ears.
If anything, prying eyes always looked for juicy gossip to feed the rumour mill, and word about the kidnapped children continued to spread.
The news reached a childcare worker (CCW) from Mavhudzi Village, Nory Madzivadondo, who immediately visited Marumani on both occasions.
“In 2013, I advised her to breastfeed the child, but she was not lactating.
“I also asked her for the baby card and advised her to bring him for weighing but she only came once,” said Madzivadondo.
The care worker subsequently alerted police at Matsika Base.
“The police wanted proof that the baby had been stolen.
“The baby, who was alleged to be two-days-old, seemed to have developed too fast for his age. He was already alert of his surroundings and giggling,” she added.
Determined to find the truth, she went to the Department of Social Welfare in Rusape.
“They said they only take children who would have been dumped. They also wanted proof that the baby had indeed been kidnapped. I did not take the case any further,” she added.
In June 2015, the village was again brought to a standstill.
Marumani had returned with another baby she claimed was hers, yet the pregnancy was also invisible, at least to those who watched her closely and were building a case against her.
“She said the baby was only three-days-old. However, looking at him showed he was older and already aware of moving objects.
“I held him and noticed he had hiccups. I asked Marumani to breastfeed him,” she said.
What Marumani did next left Madzivadondo puzzled.
“She took some water and made the baby drink.
“This was supposedly her second child and I reminded her that a baby under six months should not be given water or food.”
But she claimed she could not breastfeed the baby as she was not lactating.
“I told her to squeeze her breasts. Nothing came out. I pleaded with her to tell the truth.”
Early this year, Madzivadondo and Gutu had a lengthy discussion which led them to a nurse, Sister Shamu, at Matsika Clinic.
“We planned on how we could bring her to the clinic and then police without her suspecting anything,” she said.
On the day of the confession and arrest, Gutu told Marumani they had been summoned to the clinic for a medical check-up, and also for their first Covid-19 jab.
She finally told police and Sister Shamu that she wanted to confess to the kidnappings.
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Godfrey Gutu, who was present as acting village head and Noel’s brother, also witnessed the confession.
He, however, said their family had developed a strong bond with the kidnapped children.
“They are such adorable kids. One was now in Grade Four and the other in Grade One. I recall their favourite songs. The older one loved the song ‘shinga muroora wakauya wega kuzogara pano.’ Even if he comes back, I will sing that song for him and he will smile,” he said.
The younger boy, he said, is intelligent.
The family, which is nostalgic about their experiences with the boys, are still trying to come to terms with what happened.
“After Marumani’s confession, police asked us to bring the children so they go to the Department of Social Welfare. The boys always asked where Marumani was as they missed her.
“The two boys are fond of being policeman so we told them they were going to be trained and would no longer stay with us,” he said.
In Harare, Marumani came face-to-face with biological mothers of the babies she kidnapped.
“We watched in awe when she even pointed that ‘this one is the biological mother of the baby she stole in 2013 and the other was that of the one she stole in 2015’.
“The boys are currently under the care of the Department of Social Welfare awaiting DNA tests results,” he added.
The community in Madhibhu Village is now split on what to make of Marumani.
Gutu’s youngest daughter, Melody (17), said her stepmother was a good woman who loved and treated her and the two boys well.
“It is sad that she kidnapped the two boys and now appears like a bad person.”
She said she missed the two boys, with whom she now shared a strong bond.
Neighbour, Idah Marengereke Ngorima, said Marumani was a good person, a great neighbour and wonderful mother to the kidnapped kids and her stepkids.
“The two boys were always dressed immaculately in their school uniforms and well fed. She took good care of them.”
Being unable to have kids herself, Ngorima said Marumani was supposed to tell her husband about her infertility.
“In our area, no one laughs at people because of primary or secondary infertility. I am barren but have been with my husband since we married years back, his love has not changed.
“We are embarrassed. She has tainted our village. If God did not give you children, just accept that he has other plans for you.”
As the community in Madhibhu Village picks up the pieces after the recent bizarre incident, they still variously see Marumani as a woman of both honour and dishonour, who was pushed to commit a heinous crime by her desire to bear children for Gutu.