Catholic officials decry resurgence of death penalty in southern Africa

The focus of today’s posting is not on ritualistic murders or comparable and related crimes, such as kidnapping, torture a.s.o. However, the topic is related: in more than one African country, the public and also the authorities want the introduction and the carrying out of the death penalty for convicted perpetrators of ritual killings both as a deterrent to prevent future crimes and as a justified revenge of the community for the senseless loss of life of one of its members.

It is a controversial topic, as will be clear from the article below. Whereas many African countries have abolished the capital punishment, there seems to be a resurgence of the death penalty in various parts of Africa, notably in southern Africa (Botswana, Malawi, South Africa, Zimbabwe), but also in West Africa (Nigeria e.g.). Recently, Catholic officials across the continent have rejected the increasing calls for the introduction of the death penalty, saying “The death sentence cannot be a solution, especially considering how poor our justice system still is across most of Africa.”

The latter argument makes sense. There are more reasons to defend the abolishment of the death penalty. However, supporters hold the opposite view for reasons cited above.

Whatever the position is, in favor of or against the death penalty, the article reproduced below shows one more time the ugly practice of ritualistic murders in Southern Africa.  

More on the killing of people with albinism in Malawi in a few days time (webmaster FVDK).

Catholic officials decry resurgence of death penalty in southern Africa

Boniface Chibwana, coordinator for the Catholic Commission for Justice and Peace of Malawi’s bishop’s conference (Provided photo)

Published: March 15, 2021
By: National Catholic Reporter – Tawande Karombo

HARARE, ZIMBABWE — Catholic officials and human rights campaigners across Africa are reiterating their opposition to capital punishment after Botswana carried out two executions for murder convictions in February.

Botswana, located north of South Africa, confirmed the executions of 33-year-old Wedu Mosalagae and 29-year-old Kutlo Setima on Feb. 8. Both had been found guilty in separate cases of killing a woman.

Oluwatosin Popoola, a legal advisor for Amnesty International on death penalty issues, told NCR that the organization is “very concerned” about the executions, especially as they are the fifth and sixth since President Mokgweetsi Masisi came into office in 2019.

This as “a high number for Botswana within a 16-month period and an indication that the country is not relenting in its adherence” to the use of the death penalty, said Popoola.

“The recent executions are regressive and they slow down Africa’s push against the death penalty,” said Popoola. “There is no unique imperative for any country to use the death penalty.”

Although many African nations have abolished use of the death penalty in the past decade — including Guinea, Benin, the Republic of the Congo and Madagascar — Botswana’s government claims it can be a good deterrent to prevent violent crimes.

In nearby Malawi, proponents say it prevents the murdering of people with albinism for ritual purposes. Amnesty international said earlier in February that more than 20 murders of people with albinism have been committed in Malawi since 2014.

In 2019, three Malawians were sentenced to death for the killing of a person with albinism. (See tomorrow’s posting – FVDK). But the country has not carried out any death sentence since 1994, joining other countries such as Zimbabwe that have been imposing death sentences but not carrying out executions.

Boniface Chibwana, coordinator for the Catholic Commission for Justice and Peace of Malawi’s bishop’s conference, told NCR he thinks African Catholic officials can be doing more to drum up support for the dropping of the death penalty across the continent.

“To deter crimes such as murder, the church needs to progressively and actively socialize the young using the human rights approach, so that many of its followers should grow in Christ while respecting the human rights culture to build societies where such rights as the protection of life are a norm,” he said.

In 2019, there was a 53% jump in death sentence convictions across sub-Saharan Africa compared to 212 convictions a year earlier. These death sentences resulted from murder convictions in Kenya, Malawi, Mauritania, Niger, Nigeria, Sierra Leone, Somalia, Sudan, Zambia and Zimbabwe.

Popoola said Chad, which borders Libya, Niger and Sudan, was the latest country in Africa to abolish the death penalty for all crimes.

In South Africa, there have been calls for the restoration of the death penalty from some sections of society, especially as gender-based violence and killings of women increase. South Africa abolished capital punishment in 1995.

Fr. Dumisani Vilakati, director of the regional conference of Catholic bishops across southern Africa, told NCR that the church is often blamed for not being vocal enough against the death penalty. But he said the church “is part of the solution” for the promotion of the right to life, from conception to natural death.

“Here in Africa, we have to put the death penalty in the pro-life scheme that has been espoused by Pope Francis,” said Vilakati.

“We are a church that preaches conversion of human beings, and we believe that people can change for the better,” said the priest. “The death sentence cannot be a solution, especially considering how poor our justice system still is across most of Africa.”

Vilakati explained that there have been numerous wrongful convictions across the continent, and inmates are increasingly having to wait longer and longer for their trials to be conducted.

“What we need to do as a society is to educate people, and the church should play its role in espousing the sanctity of life [rather] than having society eliminating people through death penalty,” said Vilakati. “We should be pro-life and give people a second chance.”

Source: Catholic officials decry resurgence of death penalty in southern Africa

Map of Southern Africa

Zimbabwe: Bulawayo ritual murder – Dad opens up on ritual killer son

Sometimes a murder results in more than one victim…. 

I previously reported on this case in my June 17 posting, ‘Suspected ritual killers in first court appearance‘. Below some more information on this grisly ritual murder. Of course, I offer my condolences to the victim’s parents and other relatives. However, I also pity the murderer’s relatives, who will have to live with the crime committed by their relative, son, brother, cousin. The father of one of the suspected murderers speaks out in two articles which have been reproduced below (webmaster FVDK).

Dad opens up on ritual killer son

Tawana Ngwenya, suspected murderer (right) and his father Buzwani Ngwenya (left)

Published: June 13, 2020
By: Chronicle – Zimbabwe -Temba Dube, Deputy News Editor 

THE father of a 20-year-old man who allegedly killed a 25-year-old woman in Bulawayo, dismembered the body and put the remains in a drum filled with acid, yesterday opened up about the grisly ritual murder.

Tawana Ngwenya was arrested in Harare on Thursday as a suspect in the brutal killing of Ms Thabelo Mazolo.

Her body was cut in half and the lower part has not been located.

The breasts and palms had been sliced off.

The rest of the body was stashed in a drum in a toilet at a guest house where she worked and lived with Tawana and his father Mr Buzwani Ngwenya (60) who was the caretaker.

The community around Fortunes Gate in Matsheumhlophe where the murder occurred continues to express disbelief and horror at the callous killing.

Tawana allegedly acted on the instructions of a South Africa-based sangoma to kill Mazolo, so he could get rich.

Colleagues alleged they saw a message on his phone instructing him how to sell his soul for riches in a blood ritual that involved killing and mutilating Mazolo.

It is suspected Mazolo could have been killed between 29 May and 1 June when she went missing.

On 1 June Mr Ngwenya received a message from Mazolo’s phone informing him she would be away for a week.

Tawana fled to Harare on Tuesday when his father continued asking him about Mazolo’s whereabouts.

Mazolo’s uncle Mr Benny Moyo yesterday said she would be buried at her rural home in Zhombe tomorrow.

“The family will discuss the way forward in Zhombe,” said Mr Moyo.

Tawana is expected in the city today to assist police with investigations.

The elderly Mr Ngwenya yesterday said the day he heard his son could have committed the heinous act destroyed him.

“He was a quiet young man and seemed to be in good books with Thabelo. She would call him for assistance whenever she was in town on business. They appeared to get along very well. I’m crushed to learn he could have killed her in this beastly manner,” said Mr Ngwenya.

He said he has been seated at a shopping centre in the city the whole day as he could not process what his son had done.

“I am afraid to even approach Thabelo’s family but we obviously have to meet over this at some time. I need some respectable people to accompany me to talk to them. These people have been very good to us.

“I do not know what evil spirit possessed him to do this,” said Mr Ngwenya.

“Imagine we were looking for her and he was assisting us yet he could have known she was already dead. I feel like I’m losing my mind.”

He said his son had few friends and he could not imagine which one of them had initiated him into satanic rituals to kill people.

Neighbours said Tawana was soft spoken, polite and always smartly dressed.

They said there was nothing in his behaviour that showed he was capable of hurting another person.

“He was a smart formal dresser. He never wore casual stuff like jeans. He worked at a company that sells chemicals and was known for selling detergents in the area. He looked like a focused young man. I cannot believe he committed this cold-blooded killing. I guess the quiet ones always shock us,” said a neighbour on condition of anonymity.

Bulawayo police spokesperson Inspector Abednico Ncube yesterday said investigations were still in progress.

“The suspect will be here tomorrow to assist with further investigations,” he said.

Tawana did his O-levels at Allan Wilson High School in Harare.

He was said to be an average student who stayed out of trouble. 

Source: Dad opens up on ritual killer son

Related article: 

He Was A Quiet Young Man – Father Of The 20 Year Old Bulawayo Ritual Murderer Opens Up

Published: June 13, 2020
By: Pindula News

Mr Buzwani Ngwenya the father of 20-year-old Tawana Ngwenya who is alleged to have brutally murdered Thabelo Mazolo, and mutilated her body and cutting off palms and breast before stuffing her body into a drum of acid under the instruction of a South African based traditional healer in a get rich quick ritual has opened up about the shocking gruesome murder committed by his young son, The Chronicle reports.

Speaking to the publication, Ngwenya said:

He was a quiet young man and seemed to be in good books with Thabelo. She would call him for assistance whenever she was in town on business. They appeared to get along very well. I’m crushed to learn he could have killed her in this beastly manner.

I am afraid to even approach Thabelo’s family but we obviously have to meet over this at some time. I need some respectable people to accompany me to talk to them. These people have been very good to us. I do not know what evil spirit possessed him to do this.

Imagine we were looking for her and he was assisting us yet he could have known she was already dead. I feel like I’m losing my mind.

Neighbours who also spoke to the publication about Tawana also said he was polite, respectfully and a soft-spoken young man who was always formally dressed:

He was a smart formal dresser. He never wore casual stuff like jeans. He worked at a company that sells chemicals and was known for selling detergents in the area. He looked like a focused young man. I cannot believe he committed this cold-blooded killing. I guess the quiet ones always shock us.

The Allan Wilson schooled Tawana will be transferred to Bulawayo where he will assist the police with investigations, while his unfortunate victim Thabelo Mazolo will be buried in Zhombe tomorrow.

Source: He Was A Quiet Young Man – Father Of The 20 Year Old Bulawayo Ritual Murderer Opens Up

Another related article:

Grisly ritual murder in affluent suburb

Murder victim Thabelo Mazolo

Published: June 12, 2020
By: Chronicle – Zimbabwe -Temba Dube, Deputy News Editor 

IN a bizarre suspected ritual killing, a 25-year-old woman was sawn in half and part of her body was mutilated and stashed into a drum filled with acid in Bulawayo.

Part of the body, from the waist going down, is still missing while breasts and palms appeared to have been sliced off.

Police yesterday arrested a suspect, Tawana Ngwenya (20), the son of a caretaker where the woman lived. He was arrested in Harare where he had allegedly fled.

Tawana allegedly had a message from a sangoma based in South Africa which instructed him on how to kill Ms Thabelo Mazolo so he could get rich.

Mazolo’s sister secured employment for Ngwenya at a company in Bulawayo and he was staying in Matsheumhlophe suburb at a guest house where Mazolo worked, with his father Mr Buzwani Ngwenya (60) who was the caretaker.

“You must cut yourself and spill your blood onto a mirror. Gaze into the mirror and say out loud that you are selling your soul for riches. After that you must open the door for my boys to go out,” read part of the message that allegedly had additional instructions on rites that Ngwenya was supposed to perform on the body.

Sources who told the Chronicle about the message said they freaked out and have not been able to eat or sleep, since the body was discovered on Wednesday morning.

Mr Ngwenya said Mazolo moved to Bulawayo from Harare just before the national Covid-19 induced lockdown.

He last saw Mazolo alive on May 29 when she said she was visiting someone in Sizinda suburb.

On June 1, he received a message from Mazolo’s phone informing him she would be away for about a week.

Tawana told him she could have visited friends after he discovered she had not been home since May 29.

He said Tawana disappeared from home on Tuesday when he asked him if he knew Mazolo’s whereabouts and he switched off his phone. “Thabelo’s phone had stopped ringing. On Wednesday there was a strong smell of something rotting from the main house. I called the police. We opened the door with a spare key and found the body in a blue drum in the toilet. It had been cut up and some of Thabelo’s clothes appeared to have been used to wipe up plenty of blood,” said Mr Ngwenya.

He said Tawana was the last of three children who was always quiet and had never shown homicidal tendencies.

Mr Benny Moyo, Mazolo’s uncle, said the family had tried to locate her when she suddenly became unreachable on her phone.

“I went to her workplace and each time I would be told she is busy or had just left. We are devastated to learn she has been killed. We hear the suspect was arrested in Harare today. We may have more information when the police complete investigations,” said Mr Moyo.

Miss Nomathemba Ndaba, Mr Ngwenya’s employer, choked on her words in an interview.

“At least Tawana who is suspected to have done this horrible thing has been arrested,” she said. “We are very sorry for Thabelo’s family but we want to warn young people against partaking in rituals. He may die in jail after this. Young people must be careful who they play with.”

Chronicle went on the ground yesterday and unearthed grisly details of what could have happened.

Tawana who did his O-Levels at Allan Wilson High School in Harare was said to be a loner. He allegedly borrowed a hacksaw from a neighbour on May 25 saying he wanted to prune some trees and cut a drum.

It is suspected the hacksaw was used to cut up the body.

Neighbours said around that time, he said he was looking for sulphuric acid.

He allegedly made inquiries at a company along Khami Road but was told it was out of stock.

Tawana’s colleagues said he seemed spooked and was reluctant to have them spend time at his home with him.

“He was acting weird. It was as if he expected someone to suddenly appear behind him and harm him. He was furtive and withdrew further into himself. When he left, he said he was going to Mutare. We heard a relative had seen him in Kadoma. We are all shocked that he killed someone,” said a friend who declined to be named.

There were heart-tugging moments when some neighbours burst into tears as they talked about Thabelo.

“We had known her for a short time but she was nice to all of us,” said a woman who asked not to be named.

“Tawana was slim and looked frail. If he did it, he could not have done it alone because Thabelo was significantly bigger than him. I doubt he could have lifted the body and put it into the acid drum by himself,” said the neighbour.

Bulawayo police spokesperson Inspector Abednico Ncube said police were investigating the killing.

“The informant last saw the deceased on 29 May 2020 at around 11AM when she was going to town. On 1 June 2020 the now deceased sent a message to the informant advising him that she was going out of town and will be back on Sunday 7 June 2020,” said Inspector Ncube.

He said when Mr Ngwenya called the police, they found Thabelo’s body inside a blue 200 litre drum in the bathroom in a decomposed state.

The body was conveyed to the United Bulawayo Hospitals (UBH) for post mortem.

Source: Grisly ritual murder in affluent suburb

Related article:

ZRP Arrests A Man In Harare Suspected Of Killing A Woman For Ritual Purposes In Bulawayo’s Matsheumhlophe Suburb

Published: June 12, 2020
By: Pindula News – Zimbabwe

ZRP this week arrested a man in Harare who is suspected of killing a 25-year-old woman whose body was found sawn in half and part of her body mutilated and some body parts like breasts and palms missing and stashed into a drum filled with acid in the affluent Matsheumhlophe suburb in Bulawayo, The Chronicle reports.

The suspected murderer, 20-year-old Tawana Ngwenya, the son of the caretaker where the woman lived, was arrested in Harare where he is suspected to have fled to after committing the heinous crime.

Tawana reportedly had instructions of how he should kill the deceased Ms Thabelo Mazolo to get rich. Part of the instruction seen by the publication reads:

You must cut yourself and spill your blood onto a mirror. Gaze into the mirror and say out loud that you are selling your soul for riches. After that you must open the door for my boys to go out.

Tawana was staying at the guest house where Mazolo worked after Mazolo’s sister secured employment for him at a Bulawayo company.

Tawana’s father who is a caretaker at the guest house said he last saw Mazolo alive on 29 May:

Tawana disappeared from home on Tuesday when he asked him if he knew Mazolo’s whereabouts and he switched off his phone. Thabelo’s phone had stopped ringing. On Wednesday there was a strong smell of something rotting from the main house. I called the police. We opened the door with a spare key and found the body in a blue drum in the toilet. It had been cut up and some of Thabelo’s clothes appeared to have been used to wipe up plenty of blood.

Source: ZRP Arrests A Man In Harare Suspected Of Killing A Woman For Ritual Purposes In Bulawayo’s Matsheumhlophe Suburb

Zimbabwe: suspected ritual killers in first court appearance

The following case resembles more an ‘ordinary’, cruel, gruesome murder and not a ritual murder in the sense which motivated the creation of this site. However, certainly this murder also contains elements of superstition and the motive to increase one’s wealth through ‘muti’. For this reason, it has been decided to include it here. Judge for yourself whether this choice was warranted.
Warning: the following story contains graphic details.
(webmaster FVDK).

Suspected ritual killers in first court appearance

The two suspects

Published: June 16, 2020
By: ZW NEWS

Two suspected ritual killers who grisly hacksawed their victim in two halves, before buying a drum and hydrochloric acid used to dispose of the victim’s body for purposes of getting rich, on Monday appeared in court for the first time facing murder charges.

The suspects, Tawana Ngwenya (20) and his teenage accomplice who cannot be named for ethical reasons, are accused of being responsible for the murder of a 25-year-old woman, Thabelo Mazolo.

The victim, the late Thabelo Mazolo

Bulawayo magistrate Shepherd Mnjanja remanded Ngwenya in custody to June 26 while the teenager was remanded in the custody of his uncle who stays with him.

The accused teenager was also told to report at Nkulumane Police Station once a week.

It is alleged that on the fateful day, Ngwenya and Mazolo were watching a movie when the former thrice struck the later with an iron bar in the head. And, realising that Mazolo had not died, Ngwenya reportedly slit her throat with a knife.

In a bid to conceal the gruesome crime he had committed, Ngwenya whose father is a caretaker at Fortunes Gate Village where Mazolo also lived, roped in a 17-year-old boy who provided him with a hacksaw used to cut the victim into parts.

Part of the deceased’s body, from the waist going down, is still missing while breasts and palms appeared to have been sliced off.

Prosecuting, Mr Terrence Chakabuda said on June 10 at about 7am, the deceased’s body was found inside a 200-litre drum of acid and it was in an advanced state of decomposition.

Missing from the decomposing body were the right breast, right arm and the lower torso.

“When police attended the scene, they observed that there was a grey bag which had blood stained clothes,” said Mr Chakabuda.

The prosecutor also told the court that investigations showed that Ngwenya, who used to stay with the deceased had disappeared soon after Mazolo was reported missing.

“Information was gathered that Ngwenya had gone to Harare where his mother stays. Police detectives in Bulawayo contacted their counterparts in Harare leading to Ngwenya’s arrest on June 11,” he said.

Ngwenya has since confessed to killing Mazolo.

Further investigations by the police also led to the discovery of two cellphones, a belt, three handbags, a purse, one pair of canvas shoes, five jackets, two jerseys, one sweater, one bra and a t-shirt all belonging to the deceased.

Her body was taken to the United Bulawayo Hospitals (UBH) where post mortem results showed that the had succumbed to brain damage, resulting from depressed skull fracture and assault.

Upon being interrogated by detectives from Bulawayo CID homicide on June 12, Ngwenya then implicated his teenage accomplice who was also arrested over the weekend.

He reportedly claimed that the 17-year-old co-accused assisted him to buy the drum and 25 kilogrammes of hydrochloric acid used to dispose of the victim’s body.

“The second accused (teenager) also participated in putting the deceased’s body in the drum and provided a hacksaw, which was used to cut off the top part of the drum.

He however, could not account for the missing body parts, which he said were dissolved in the acid,” the court heard.

After Ngwenya was taken to the scene for indications, a silver iron rod, which he allegedly used to strike Mazolo on the head three times before slitting her throat, was also recovered.

Ngwenya admits that he, indeed killed Mazolo.

“After striking her, I dragged her off the couch and when I realised that she was not dead, I went to the cottage and took a knife and finished her off by cutting her throat,” stated Ngwenya in a warned and cautioned statement.

Ngwenya also revealed that, after committing the cold-blooded murder, he wrapped the deceased’s head using a plastic bin bag to avoid blood stains on the carpet while dragging the body.

He said he left the body in the toilet before he stole US$400 from her handbag.

The money was used the following morning by Ngwenya and his accomplice to buy the acid and the drum in town.

While admitting that he assisted in looking for the hydrochloric acid and drum, the teenager denied in participating in Mazolo’s murder in a warned and cautioned statement.

The 17-year-old however admitted to providing the hacksaw and lifting the horror drum used in disposing part of the victim’s body.

Source: Suspected ritual killers in first court appearance

Zimbabwe: surge in ritual murder cases worries police

Last year was busy for the Zimbabwe Republic Police as several murder cases were recorded despite efforts by the police to curb such cases through campaigns to respect the sanctity of human life.

Most of the murder cases were a result of intoxication, altercations or misunderstandings, family and domestic disputes, among others. The ZRP also recorded an increase in ritual murders and victims who were robbed and killed by armed robbers. (Italics added by the webmaster FVDK).

(….) 

Recently, a Harare man was allegedly caught with a human head in the car he was driving after a high-speed chase. (Italics added by the webmaster FVDK).

Emmanuel Matsika (27) who has since appeared in court charged with murder, was driving a suspected stolen vehicle. Police had earlier recovered a headless body in a disused toilet in Harare’s light industrial area.

Matsika, who is homeless and lives at a dumpsite near the University of Zimbabwe, appeared before Harare magistrate Mr Elisha Singano who denied him bail and remanded the matter to January 7.

Allegations are that Matsika hatched a plan to kill the now deceased David Arendi.

He allegedly went to a disused toilet at the corner of Lytton and Paisley roads in Workington, Harare, on December 21 and confronted Arendi, killed and cut off his head using a knife.

He then allegedly took Arendi’s head and left his body at the scene. Matsika was later arrested after a high-speed chase and police recovered two blood-stained knives and the head in the car he was driving.

Matsika allegedly indicated to the police how he murdered Arendi at the crime scene.

Prosecutor Mr Shepherd Makonde applied for Matsika to be treated as a psychiatric patient, but the magistrate, Mr Singano dismissed the application saying Matsika was in his right senses and fully understood and appreciated the allegations against him.

Matsika is yet to disclose why he allegedly killed Arendi.

(….)

Source: Surge in murder cases worries police 

Related news:
Man found with human head confesses in court to clear his conscience
Published: December 26, 2018
By: Agunbiade Sanya