Little Botswana girl found in Umtali
The Herald, March 24 1979
A 16-YEAR-OLD Motswana girl missing for more than six months has been reunited with her parents here – after being discovered in Umtali, more than 1 000km away.
The incredible story of Botswana’s “little girl lost” – and how she was returned to her overjoyed parents with the help of the Rhodesian authorities – is a triumph for humanitarianism over the political tensions that bedevil relations between the two countries.
The girl, Lucky Mosarwa, disappeared in September last year after she said she was going to visit a relative.
Botswana police mounted a search for her but it was commonly believed the child had been the victim of a ritual murder. Her parents had almost given up on seeing her again.
Mysteriously, Lucky was discovered last month in Umtali, where she was placed in a children’s home.
The Rhodesia Welfare Department contacted the Botswana Government to tell it of the child’s plight.
A Gaborone social welfare worker travelled to Bulawayo to fetch the girl who was later reunited with her family.
Looking shocked, but none the worse for her escapade, little Lucky has not given any clue as to how she made her epic journey to Umtali – or why she went there.
A Herald reporter who contacted the Department of Social Welfare yesterday, writes that Lucky apparently lost her mother while travelling on a train to Gaborone in October. She stayed on the train until it reached Umtali.
Railway police noticed her wandering at the station and took her to welfare authorities. She spoke a foreign dialect, Tswana, which no one understood and they decided to send her to a children’s Institution in Bulawayo.
She was cared for there while plans were made to find her parents. The Department of Social Welfare reported the matter to the town clerk of Gaborone Town Council.
Botswana authorities traced the girl’s parents and sent a social welfare worker to fetch the girl in Bulawayo.
A spokesman for the Department of Social Welfare said the prompt reaction of the Botswana authorities was appreciated.
LESSONS FOR TODAY
The issue of missing persons is becoming a global problem, especially as it relates to small children. It is important to report a missing person within the stipulated time and to also provide as much detail about the person as possible to assist those charged with looking for them.
In Zimbabwe, over 974 people were reported missing during the first half of last year while a total of 1031 cases of missing persons were filed with the police during the same period of the previous year. Of the 1031 cases, 829 were closed upon location of the individuals.
When people encounter missing persons or people who seem lost, it is important to engage public officials such as the police who are better placed to assist. The Motswana girl was assisted and repatriated because public officials were involved.
Countries, especially those that share borders need to have healthy relations that allow for co-operation. In this instance, the girl was able to be assisted because officials from Zimbabwe managed to reach out to those in Botswana despite political tensions that existed between the two countries at that time.