The Sunday Mail
WHAT was supposed to be a quiet and relaxing day out fishing along Runde River turned into a real-life nightmare for Maurina Msisinyana (31) sometime last year.
For years, she had admired women from her village in Chipinda, Chiredzi South, who had mastered the art of fishing in the mighty Runde river, which meanders along the borders of their village.
On April 8, 2020, she took along her three sons Silent, Paradise and Gideon then aged 11, seven, two respectively and her sister-in-law, Beauty Ingwani, to trawl for relish along the river. Being a novice, Beauty was to be her tutor on that fateful day; a Wednesday that was to forever change her life.
To sidestep any distractions while she went about her fishing, she had placed two-year-old Gideon and his seven-year-old brother Paradise under an umbrella along the shores of the river. Maurina, Beauty, and Silent, the eldest son, then went about trawling for a catch.
Little did they know a killer reptile was lurking in the waters, waiting to pounce on the weakest among them.
After hours of toiling, with no luck, the trio called it quits. As they were packing up, a large crocodile pounced and whisked Gideon from the shore and swiftly sled back into the river.
The crocodile had also seized the umbrella. “I was a few meters behind Beauty, when I heard her screaming that Gideon had been taken,” Maurina recalled.
“I ran towards her and my other sons.”
They then noticed the umbrella slowly disappearing into the water. Immediately, I jumped into the water, grabbed the umbrella, which was stopping the crocodile from locking its jaws. That is when I saw Gideon’s little body inside the crocodile’s mouth.
“I realised that if I pulled my baby out, his head would be split into two.”
She quickly armed herself with a stick, that she used to poke the predator and pounded it with her bare fists.
The crocodile relented and released Gideon.
At that moment the predator flew back into the water, causing a huge splash that drenched Maurina’s face, apparently with the intention of distracting her. The predator had found a new victim. The crocodile then latched on to Maurina’s hands and tried to drag her into the water. She refused to yield and fought back.
On realising that it was fighting a losing battle, the predator disappeared into the water.
While she was in that state of shock, she immediately realised that Gideon was still missing. She frantically dived into the water where she found Gideon’s seemingly lifeless body lying prostrate on the riverbed.
“I carried him back to the shore,” she continued. He was unconscious and fellow villagers had begun gathering.
“He had a very weak pulse.
“People who were around helped me to find transport to the nearest clinic.” Gideon had sustained a deep cut on his left eye and nose.
In recognition of this heroic act, last month, President Mnangagwa awarded Maurina the Silver Cross of Zimbabwe National Heroic Award during the Heroes’ Day celebrations.
This was for her selfless bravery through wrestling a deadly predator to save her child from the jaws of certain death.
She was recognised among other luminaries that include Nehanda Nyakasikana, Queen Lozikeyi Dlolo, Sekuru Kaguvi and Josiah Tongogara among other heroes who received national honours. Maurina, however, remains grounded and believes that any other mother would have done the same for their child. “What I did can be done by any parent and is being done every day,” she said.
“You will always have the strength to fight for what you love.
“Parents wrestle predators of various forms and shapes every day.”
She added: “When I was told about the medal, I was surprised but grateful all the same.
“Winning against such predators is the best form of a medal anyone can ever have.”
Now aged three, Gideon has scars- a permanent reminder of his mother’s love.
“When I was contacted by the authorities, I was in South Africa where my husband works so I could not come in person,” she added.
“But my parents stood in for me.I am extremely thankful for the recognition by President Mnangagwa.”
Incidents of human-wildlife conflict are on the increase, especially in settlements that share borders with game reserves.
At least 250 people were killed by wild animals in the last five years.