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SOS for little Vincent

VINCENT holding a Teddy Bear he has named after his dead sister, Charity. PICTURE: JACK ZIMBA.

JACK ZIMBA, Lusaka
ON THE night of September 2, a little boy called Vincent was crossing Kafue Road with his mother, who was carrying a baby on her back when, in a flash, screeching of tyres and a bang, his life was changed forever.
The family was hit by a speeding vehicle on the freeway.
Vincent’s mother and his younger sister called Charity died on the spot, but the 4-year-old boy survived the impact.
The driver of the speeding vehicle did not stop to check on the victims, and the only witnesses to the fatal incident were a man and woman travelling in a vehicle a few metres behind.
In a statement, police timed the accident at 20:39 hours, and named the victims as Albina Mulenga, 35, and her four-month-old baby who died instantly, while Vincent was rushed to the University Teaching Hospital (UTH) unconscious.
The little boy had suffered a broken leg and minor bruises on his face.
That night, police had deposited three bodies in the morgue at UTH, including that of an unidentified man.
This led staff at the hospital to think the male body was Albina’s husband.
But police say there was already a body of a man, another accident victim picked elsewhere, in the back of the pick-up when they arrived at the scene to pick up the bodies of Albina and her baby.
Days after the accident, the hit-and-run driver reported himself to the police and was charged.
He is Francis Nkhuwa, a 50-year-old government employee who was driving a Toyota Ipsum registration number ALF 5514 the night of the hit-and-run.
He now faces two counts of causing death by dangerous driving, failing to report an accident, and failing to render assistance to the injured.
He is expected to appear in court soon.
But the case has now become a puzzle for both UTH staff and the police.
Since the incident happened, little Vincent has been lying in hospital alone as no-one has come to claim a missing child, mother or baby.
Apart from the white-robed nurses who attend to him and give him special attention, the only other companion for Vincent is a fluffy Teddy bear.
He has named the bear Charity, after his dead little sister, and sometimes he talks to the Teddy as though it were really his baby sister.
When I ready my camera to take a picture of Vincent, he clutches the Teddy bear close to his chest, calling it by name.
But the scene of a boy holding a bear named after his dead sister is heart-rending for the nurse taking care of him, she scurries away to the bathroom, covering her teary eyes with her hand.
There is a certain deep sense of sympathy, and perhaps empathy, too, for little Vincent from the nurses in the ward.
And despite his predicament, Vincent is usually bright-eyed and chatty, except when he is in pain.
And sometimes he cries for his mother, unaware of the fate she suffered that night.
But he, too, is now a piece of the jigsaw puzzle that the nurses and police are trying to piece together.
A lot of questions surround the boy lying in the hospital ward, and his dead mother and sister still lying in the hospital mortuary.
Where were the woman and her children coming from, and where were they going? Where are the relatives or even neighbours?
Inside the woman’s handbag, police had found her mobile phone, which was damaged by the impact, as well as an under-five clinic card for baby Charity, a national identity card belonging to a young woman called Macliven Chitalo.
The under-five clinic card showed that Albina lived in Makeni Kankole.
Also found in the bag was Albina’s electronic anti-retroviral card.
When the card was run through a computer at UTH, it generated more information about the woman, including the phone number for her husband named Robam Mwansa.
But the number is no longer in use.
And when the nurses tried to call the numbers on the dead woman’s phone, they drew a blank. They could not get through to the numbers, while some people called denied knowing Albina.
Only one contact in her phone yielded a response.
The number belonged to a woman – a social worker – working as a counsellor for a local clinic where Albina used to access her anti-retroviral drugs.
The two met early this year and became acquainted, and would usually talk about many things.
The counsellor describes a cheery light-complexioned woman.
“She looked decent,” she says.
The counsellor believes Albina had had a broken marriage and was living alone with her children and probably another relative.
She also suspects Albina had recently relocated to Lusaka from another town and worked as a maid for an Asian family in Kamwala or Madras.
Following the accident, the counsellor took things personal and embarked on her own search for the little boy’s relatives around the Ngwenya dam.
She had on her phone Vincent’s picture, which she showed to anyone she found near the dam.
But her search never yielded any results.
Vincent mentions two places in his conversations – Ngwenya dam in Misisi township and a school called Legacy Academy.
This made hospital staff suspect the little boy attended the academy, but when contacted, the school authorities said they did not have any boy by that name in their database.
If no relatives come forth to claim him, he will be placed in an orphanage.
After hitting a dead end on phone leads, police spokesperson Esther Katongo says police are now waiting for the child to get better so he can help in tracing his home or relatives.
Tomorrow, little Vincent’s mother and younger sister will be buried at the Old Leopards Hill cemetery.
The hospital has arranged burial for Albina and baby Charity at the Old Leopards Hill cemetery.
A priest will conduct the burial rites overseen by a few hospital staff.


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