25th Jun 2017 10:43:42 PM

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Tapera Jani













After a long gap, we tried to send volunteer Rosie to visit Tapera (5) but his home was too hard to find without an escort familiar with that rural area of Zimbabwe. And communicating long distance works by email with some people and mobile phone with others, but generally it is either/or and ineffective for instant road direction-giving.

His original supporter Phee has kept tabs on Tapera since he returned to his relatives after a couple of years with Children of Fire in South Africa.

She said that they had to remove him from his mother's "care" and took him to his great-aunt Eneres, in the Communal Area on Easter Saturday 2011.

Phee was made aware that his mother Tabeth had allegedly been beating the baby (of 18 months) and Tapera's half-brother Gamu (but no report of her touching Tapera). She was selling the food which was delivered every month for the little boys, for her own gain. She had also allegedly been promiscuous. She already had three children by three different men. A meeting was called with all parties and the local Headman, in accordance with local traditional custom and law. This was the only option, in the absence of a functioning Social Welfare Department.

After long discussion with the mother, step-father, Tapera's real father, and Gamu's father, and village elders, the Headman decided she was unfit to raise Gamu and Tapera and ruled that she should give both boys (who have different fathers) into the care of the great-aunt, who is old-fashioned, and a good, kindly woman.

Tabeth's own mother died many years ago, otherwise by tribal custom, she would have taken the boys.

People present at the meeting said that Tabeth (Tapera's mother) showed no sign of remorse, shame or sorrow at this - in fact she seemed pleased to be relieved of the responsibility. Both boys later broke into big smiles at the news.

We no longer find it incredible that a mother is so uncaring about her own children as one in three of the children that the charity cares for, have been burned intentionally. Tabeth's current husband, a much older man, is going to keep a close eye on his baby, and if there are any further signs of abuse, he will take steps to remove her from Tabeth's care, too.

Tapera will now be brought up in a stable traditional community, and will still be living near enough for Phee to regularly see him and check on his progress. His new home is approximately the same distance away, as the farm which ChiFi volunteer Mitta visited with Sizwe.

The Headman, a highly respected elder, whom ChiFi volunteer Tristan met when he was there, will also submit regular reports to Phee on the boys' well-being.

Gamu and Tapera are very close buddies. The bed and mattress which they'd been given and all their possessions and toys were transported to their new home.

Food, vitamins and clothes will continue to be supplied.

Despite the setback, Tapera is a happy little boy and very well. His feet are looking good, and Phee bought him new shoes and socks a couple of weeks ago - he was so delighted he put them on and sprinted down the road, with a huge grin on his face!

There are several advantages of his new situation. In April 2011 a mob of about 30 Zanu PF youths turned up on the farm where Tapera was living, threatening to force the farmer off his land. The situation was controlled for the time being, but as the political climate continues to heat up again in Zimbabwe, this violence will increase.

Tapera's new home is close to the school which he will attend in due course. And there is a large community of children in the area. A clinic is just up the road. Tapera did not seem at all concerned at leaving his mother and she didn't shed a tear over it either! Great Aunt Eneres is a staunch Christian and seems very happy to be taking on responsibility for both boys.

In May 2011 Tapera moved into a new home. He and his brother Gamu look so much happier and already seem to have gained some weight. Aunt Eneres, who is caring for them, has a clean home, with a good vegetable garden, substantial maize crop, and plenty of fruit trees - plus a large avocado tree, heavy with big avos. Neighbouring children were playing with Tapera and Gamu when Phee and Emmanuel arrived to visit, so they made new friends quickly.

Eneres told Emmanuel that she only has to tell them she'll send them back to their mother, to have both boys instantly behaving as good as gold. In the group photograph under the avocado tree, Tapera is on the extreme left, with Gamu next to him.



Sizwe, Nelson and Tapera with Father Christmas 25 December 2009 in Slovo squatter camp.





Thapelo was burned by an exploding paraffin stove near Johannesburg.

Tapera walked into a cooking fire on the ground in Zimbabwe.

At Children of Fire they became friends.



Tapera Jani went to an East Rand squatter camp on 7th January 2010 to say goodbye to his friend Thapelo Phore.

Thapelo only returns to the charity in February 2010 for further assessment and, hopefully, axilla surgery.



Tapera, Thapelo building railway tracks; Londeka on chair. 7 Jan 2010

Tapera Jani will return to his family in deep rural Zimbabwe in January 2010, with suitcases of food and dietary supplements.

He is a healthy happy boy, fully recovered from the Kwashiorkor that brought him close to death in late 2008.

He can walk on his repaired feet. We would have preferred surgeons trying to preserve his toes more effectively, but there is a skills shortage among plastic surgeons in South Africa and most of the orthopaedic surgeons that we encounter, like to cut.

It is not an easy path to tread (no pun intended) between the plastic and orthopaedic options – not least because Tapera finally got surgery in Cape Town rather than Johannesburg and there was little direct communication between us and the surgeons who eventually did the work.

We are going to work on a hospital project that will, in the long term, allow for the best options for the children – rather than having to struggle between cities in search of willing help.

Tapera and turkey, December 2009







Tapera faces a lot of grafting still, but he's happy in Auckland Park





Tapera's truly laid back in the pool with volunteer Tristan







Tapera (in orange/brown striped jersey) has had surgery to one foot at Maitlands Orthopaedic Hospital in Cape Town. He is visited occasionally by Tracey Burns and fellow burns survivors Tavonga and Sunday. He is missing his Johannesburg home a lot. September 2009

Tapera Jani, aged 3 years 7 months, set off to the Red Cross Hospital in Cape Town on Tuesday 18th August 2009, where he hoped Prof Heinz Rode would improve both the appearance and the function of his feet.











The scars on his legs are donor sites (skin taken to cover his damaged feet).









Tapera aged 2 years 10 months is a survivor of Robert Mugabe’s genocide by starvation in Zimbabwe.

His “fortune” was to suffer from terribly badly burned feet and for well-wishers to seek help for him.

If his feet had not been burned, he would most-likely have died from kwashiorkor. Tapera weighed about 8.5 kg on arrival at Children of Fire. We would have expected him to weigh double that for his biological age.

His head appears narrow because of muscle wasting in the temples, due to starvation.

On Tuesday 18th November 2008 he had skin graft surgery to his feet.



Tapera aged 2 years 10 months is a survivor of Robert Mugabe’s genocide by starvation in Zimbabwe.



Tapera was nearly the youngest Children of Fire child in November 2008.






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