Police on Thursday said they had busted a “sod0my and se_xual abuse” syndicate after a Harare schoolboy reported missing in June was found at a house in Bulawayo.
A 48-year-old man, Emmanuel Chatikobo, appeared in court on Thursday accused of Nyasha Jayaguru’s kidnapping.
Police said a second suspect, Richard Padzarondora, 44, “passed on recently whilst police were conducting investigations.”
Young boys are being groomed on Facebook and WhatsApp leading to “se_xual activities that are conducted at certain lodges and houses,” national police spokesman Assistant Commissioner Paul Nyathi said.
Nyasha, a Form 4 pupil at Mbare High School, disappeared without trace on June 29 on his way from school as his desperate parents pleaded for his safe return.
Nyathi said detectives found the 16-year-old at a house in Bulawayo on Wednesday “after he was made to hide by members of a social media group.”
“He has since been reunited with his parents Farayi Jayaguru and Hamunyari Shumba in Harare while awaiting a full medical examination and counselling,” Nyathi said in a statement.
Before Nyasha was found, his mother told the ZBC: “I have sleepless nights wondering whether my son is alive or not. I had so much to look forward to because he is the first born, but they dealt me a huge blow. Will I ever see my son?”
Nyathi said the investigation into Nyasha’s disappearance “revealed that there is a social media group of syndicate which is targeting school boys for sod0my and se_xual abuse.”
“The group comprises both the young and old who communicate mostly through Facebook and WhatsApp. The communication is discreet and leads to dating where se_xual activities are conducted at certain lodges and houses,” Nyathi said.
He identified Padzarondora as one of the kingpins of the “syndicate”. Police did not say how he died, but a ZBC report on Wednesday said he “died in remand prison” following his arrest on July 3.
Nyasha’s father said before Padzarondora died, “he admitted” to taking the boy “and apologised.”
“He actually said he felt sorry for him and dropped him off after picking him up at NSSA,” Farayi Jayaguru said.
Chatikobo, who also uses the name Lemmy Gwaku, was a member of the syndicate, police said.
According to senior Jayaguru, a call log history on Padzarondora’s phone showed “intense communication” with Chatikobo during the time the boy disappeared, and there was evidence that Chatikobo had paid some money into Padzarondora’s bank account.
“The Zimbabwe Republic Police is now conducting comprehensive investigations in order to establish the extent of this threat of se_xual perverts to school children especially considering the fact that some lessons are now being conducted through social media platforms,” Nyathi said.
“Parents and guardians are urged to be acquainted with individuals and groups who befriend their children on social media platforms during the course of educational and social interaction.”
Police said they were also engaging the ministry of primary and secondary education to raise awareness of the risk posed by the syndicates to children.
“The police is ready to work together with all relevant stakeholders to unearth and account for the suspects who are involved in this criminal enterprise,” Nyathi added.