Features

Elizabeth, where art thou?

ELIZABETH with her uncle, Grilayan. The picture was taken in October last year.

CHAMBO NG’UNI, Kabwe
IT WAS January 1, a new day in a new year, and like most families, the Simpembas were in a joyful mood.However, later in the day, their mood soured. In fact, their mood has been sour for four months now.
Morris Simpemba and Febby Bwalya were enjoying New Year’s day with some members of the extended family at their house in Makululu township, one of the many unplanned settlements in Kabwe.
Later, the couple ventured out and left their one-year-old daughter, Elizabeth Nampemba, their only child, in the care of some relatives.
Elizabeth was also playing with other children.
Then, around 15:00 hours, it was noticed that Elizabeth was missing.
“I was plaiting my hair and she [Elizabeth] was playing with other children around 15:00 hours,” Elizabeth’s cousin, Tiusha, 15, explains. “When I went to check where she was with the other children, I only saw the other two children but she was not there.”
It is now four months since little Elizabeth went missing. The search continues.
The search for Elizabeth started with Tiusha, who was immediately taken aback when she noticed that her little cousin was not with the other two children. Tiusha started the search in the house and then in the neighbourhood, but to no avail.
It was the start of a mystery.
When she could not find her, she informed other members of the family who were home. And before long, word had gone round Makululu township about the missing child. At the time the child went missing, both parents were not home and had to be phoned to inform them about the disappearance of Elizabeth.
The mysterious disappearance of Elizabeth was reported at Kasanda Police.
“We have not heard anything from the police since January. They also claim that no-one has come forward with information on the whereabouts of the missing child. We were confident that they were going to help us as we have been quietly waiting for answers,” Elizabeth’s grandmother, Gift Namonje, says.
“I am still crying over the disappearance of my granddaughter. I want to know what happened to her, I want to know where the child is.”
For the Simpembas, they have just put all their hope in God. They are praying for some divine intervention so that they could see their only child alive.
“The child disappeared in January and it’s now almost four months since the child went missing. No-one has bothered to call us or update us about the disappearance of my daughter,” Mr Simpemba laments.
When the family reported Elizabeth missing at Kasanda Police Station, they were confident that she would be found in no time. Four months, and possibly beyond, is not what they had bargained for.
The wait has been frustrating.
Perhaps understandably, the Simpembas think the inertia by police in finding Elizabeth has to do with their low social status.
They strongly believe that the police have not done enough in trying to find their dear Elizabeth.
“They [police] came here and told us to allow the police to do their investigations. But they have not told us anything afterwards,” Mr Simpemba says.
His older brother, Frederick, adds: “This situation is bad. We are still mourning and we are still looking for the child. We are wondering what the police are doing.”
With the chances of Elizabeth appearing looking remote everyday, all Elizabeth’s uncle can do is to appeal to anyone with information regarding Elizabeth to come forward.
Days after the disappearance of Elizabeth, the residents of Makululu township protested and almost lynched a 60-year-old man they suspected of being behind the whole saga.
The police had to intervene with teargas to disperse a crowd which was demanding that Elizabeth be brought back to her parents. As for the man they suspected, he was taken into custody at Kasanda Police Station for his own safety as it was evident the residents would not spare him.
Elizabeth’s family still think the man is key in locating the whereabouts of the child.
“He brought himself and confessed about the missing child and said he knew what to do for the child to be found,” Ms Namonje says.
But Central Province commissioner of police Joel Njase is calling for cool-headedness as they are still working on the case.
“Investigations are being done but what is important is to allow the police to investigate this case,” Mr Njase says. “It’s not true that we are not doing anything [just] because we’re quiet.”
The commissioner of police says a case remains under active investigations for the period of seven years and can only be closed in an event that there is presumption of death. He says the man the family claims has a clue was only taken into police custody for his own safety.
For the Simpembas, it is fingers crossed. But the agonising wait on the whereabouts of their child continues.

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