By Sifiso Mpofu
DISAPPEARED without a trace at the age of five! This is not an investigative discovery episode but might all the same pass for one.
Two decades later, the family reunion is testimony of the unbreakable shackles of the family bond.
The world is full of stories, some sweet and some bitter. Some tragical and others hilarious but Humbelani Prince Ndlovu’s story appears to have been crafted by the gods with a Hollywood movie in mind.
Born in Beitbridge 24 years ago, in 2001, Humbelani Prince Ndlovu moved from Chapfuche with his brothers to Kwekwe where their father was working. The boys had just lost their mother.
They say lightning does not strike twice, well maybe for others, but for the Ndlovu family, it actually struck not twice but thrice. Humbelani then aged five mysteriously disappeared after leaving home one morning to go to a crèche.
The search for the boy began but hours turned into days, months and years until the search party grew weary. It became the proverbial winter of despair for the family.
“Relatives traveled from Beitbridge to Kwekwe to search for my brother’s son. This situation stressed my late brother so much that it eventually led to his passing on,” said his uncle Mishack Tshigogololo.
Meanwhile, Humbelani whose mother tongue was Venda was picked by members of the public at Gundavaroyi Service Centre in Gokwe on the 7th of March in 2001 and handed over to the police.
He was to later spend most of his life at St Agnes Children’s Home in Gokwe where he was renamed Tapiwa Mbereni Dube. Mbereni was assumed to be his name as those who took him to custody were not familiar with the Venda language.
After leaving the foster home at age 18, he remained a tormented soul. Equipped with sketchy information about his background, he embarked on a journey to find his true identity. Several times he hit a brick wall but giving up was not part of his vocabulary.
It was in Gwanda where he met Mr Michael Ncube a fellow congregant at the ZCC Church and the meeting was the trigger that changed his whole life.
Having developed a relationship with the young man, Mr Ncube then accidentally shared Humbelani’s life story with a relative of Humbelani while visiting his rural home in Beitbridge recently, leading to the miraculous reunion with his family members on the 31st of December.
“When I went to Lutumba this December I told a fellow congregate about Humbelani’s situation. Shockingly, the lady was related to Humbelani, so she asked if I could bring him to Beitbridge. I did that and the family broke down when they saw him. They had finally found their long lost son,” Ncube said.
In an emotional interview with the ZBC News, Humbelani and his brothers broke down when they spoke of the reunion while their uncle Vhufhulwani Ndlovu said he had no doubt in his mind that Humbelani was indeed his long lost nephew.
“I feel happy but sad at the same time. The time we should have spent together has been lost, he can no longer speak Venda. That really breaks my heart. Anyone who wishes to do DNA test can do so but this is my brother’s son,” said Ndlovu.
“I am so happy that I have found my family, I am looking forward to joining them later in South Africa,” Humbelani expressed his joy.
While those with a less fighting spirit would have given up or never attempted to embark on this challenging journey, Humbelani‘s story is testimony that the age of miracles is far from over.
What really happened to Humbelani on that fateful day in 2001 still remains a mystery, but the family hopes to find the missing details to conclude this beautiful family reunion that capped a memorable way to start the year 2020!
By Sifiso Mpofu