Zimbabwe Senator Nyambuya: ‘Ritual murder instigators should face stiff sanctions’

Last week, Senator Mike Nyambuya spoke at the sad occasion of the burial of the two children, cousins Dilan and Melissa Benza (both seven years old), who were murdered for ritualistic purposes on April 13. Among the suspects arrested is Dilan’s maternal uncle.

Their fate cause much unrest in the country where emotions were already high after the ritual killing of a boy, Tapiwa Makore, seven years old, who was brutally murdered, also by his uncle, in September 2020. I reported extensively on his tragic death. Due to certain circumstances I haven’t yet reported on the ritual murder of the Benza cousins. Hopefully I will in the near future.

Senator Nyambuya’s remarks struck me, not only because of the contents of his message but also because his name reminded me of my very close friend Muchaneta Nyambuya. May his soul rest in peace. Muchaneta and I were colleagues at the University of Liberia where we were both teaching at the College of Business and Public Administration and we became close friends. In the late 1970s, a surge in ritualistic murders caused much upheaval in Liberia and I asked Muchaneta whether this phenomenon was unique for Liberia. Read here what he had to say to my question.

I have learned a lot after these years in Liberia. More than 40 years have passed since then. Mucha, as we affectionally called him, left for Zimbabwe on the eve of the official independence of his country. Following the Lancaster House Agreement, Zimbabwe became an independent republic in April 1980. The days of Ian Smith, who in 1965 had made history with his Unilateral Declaration of Independence, were definitely over. The new strongman was Robert Mugabe. Rhodesia became Zimbabwe. I will not dwell on his fate, Mucha’s. He died suddenly and unexpectedly, after what people call ‘a 24-hour treatment’ in the interrogation rooms of Zimbabwe’s secret police. But that’s another story.

Back to 2021 in Zimbabwe and the recent surge in ritual murders. 
(webmaster FVDK).

‘Ritual Murder Instigators Should Face Stiff Sanctions’

Published: May 1, 2021
By: Pindula, Zimbabwe

Senate deputy president Senator Mike Nyambuya has called for the enactment of legislation to punish people who incite others to perform ritual murders.

Nyambuya was speaking on Friday last week at the burial of the slain Benza cousins at the Benza homestead in Kanganya Village in Mutasa, Manicaland Province.

Dilan and Melissa Benza (both seven years old), who were cousins and pupils at St Robert’s Mbaza Primary School in Mutasa, were brutally murdered on their way home from school on 13 April.

The prime suspect is Solomon Manyama, Dilan’s maternal uncle, while Passmore Sambaza is another suspect.

They were both remanded in custody to 6 May when they appeared at Nyanga magistrate’s court last week on Tuesday facing murder charges.

The Benza family spokesperson, Johannes Benza, revealed that the two were not killed at the same spot as was initially thought.

Benza said Melissa was the first to be killed on the grass near the Blair toilet where their bodies were dumped, while Delane was slain in a maize field near the Sambaza homestead.

Speaking at the burial which was attended by over 500 people, Nyambuya said the two cousins’ deaths had touched the whole nation. He said:

It could have been one of your children or grandchildren dying in such a cruel manner. It could have been any one of us here being murdered in cold blood because these ritual killers know no age. We are still in shock.

Where have our norms and values gone to? We should respect the sanctity of human life. Laws should be enacted to punish the perpetrators and those who incite people to conduct ritual killings.

The nation is still mourning the death of Tapiwa Makore from Murehwa and now we are burying the two Benza children who were ruthlessly murdered.

We don’t know who will be the next victim. Communities should be on the lookout for ritual killers. All those convicted should face the full wrath of the law.

Tapiwa Makore was also 7-years-old when he was brutally murdered by his uncle Tapiwa Makore Sr and his herdsman Tafadzwa Shamba in September last year.

He was buried several months after his murder without his head and other body parts which were allegedly harvested for ritual purposes.

Source: ‘Ritual Murder Instigators Should Face Stiff Sanctions

Related:

Article with the same contents:
Enact Legislation To Punish Those Who Incite Others To Perform Ritual Murders
Publishedby : ZimEye / Manica Post – May 1, 2021

Zimbabwe: Police engage chiefs over ritual murders, other vices

An abundance of activities have been undertaken following the surge in ritualistic murders in Zimbabwe.

Let’s hope that it’s not in vain (webmaster FVDK).  

Police engage chiefs over ritual murders, other vices

Mashonaland East province has an area of 32,230 km² and a population of approximately 1.35 million . Marondera is the capital of the province.
Picture shows one the attractions of Gosho Park, a conservation area of approximately 340 hectares of land on the Springvale Estate , situated in Mashonaland East.

Published: April 29, 2021
By: News Day, Zimbabwe – Jairos Saunyama    

Police in Mashonaland East province this week held a meeting with local traditional leaders as part of efforts to curb the rise in criminal activities, especially ritual murders.

Officer Commanding Mashonaland East police Commissioner Grace Ndou said there was need for law enforcement agents to work with the traditional leaders to combat crime and urged chiefs to warn their subjects against engaging in “weird” practices.

“Ritual murders are now making our society dangerous to live in. Our children are living in fear and parents are grappling with deep fear as well, fearing the worst each passing day. As a united community, we can work together to create an environment where our children can safely live,” Ndou said.

“As our chiefs, we believe in your counsel to dispel some beliefs in some of the people who believe in weird ritual acts that may be behind these ritual murders.”

Other crimes that have been prevalent in the province include domestic violence, stocktheft and murder.

Provincial chiefs’ council chairperson Chief Nechombo, who is also a senator, hailed the police for the engagement and emphasised that traditional leaders would play their part in combating crime.

The province has recorded several murder cases among them, the Tapiwa Makore ritual murder that occurred in Nyamutumbu area, Murewa, in September last year.

Source: Police engage chiefs over ritual murders, other vices

Legal expert, Zimbabwe: ‘Time to look beyond ritual murderers’

The following reflection is important. It shows that there are good-hearted and highly educated Zimbabweans who convincingly argue that the recent ritual murders necessitate an adjustment of the country’s laws. This reaction is partly motivated by the ritualistic killing of Tapiwa Makore (7) of Murehwa and the two Benza cousins Delan (7) and Melissa (7) of central Mutasa (see my previous postings).

The author of the article presented below also focuses on a person who is often behind these ritual killings: the songoma or faith healer. Too often, the songoma is left out of the investigations following the ritual murder and not implicated in the trial of the actual killer(s) whereas in fact the songoma can be considered an important driving force behind the heinous crime which is committed during the murderous traditional ritual.

Let’s monitor how swiftly Zimbabwe’s rulers including lawmakers and the judiciary act!
I will keep you informed (webmaster FVDK).

Time to look beyond ritual murderers

Published: April 30, 2021
By: Zimbabwe Independent –  Sharon Hofisi  

I ONCE represented people charged with murder in court. That was where I had my first real encounter with the subject of intentional or negligent killing. It was not a positive experience. Nevertheless, I got some acquittals. I remember the cases well. They took my inexperienced product of law school and taught me to understand the criminal laws and procedures of this country with deep preparation. So I took the cases on a pro deo basis. Put simply, this means acting for God. But with the increasing ritual killings, a lack of deliberate offences on ritual killings and honour crimes is a serious lacuna in our criminal justice system.

The purpose of criminal laws should mirror the nature of the society itself. Societies that are governed through laws are called to heal the divisions caused by violators of the law. When a society seems to be in danger of endless commissions of heinous crimes, focusing too much on investigation machinery and work and neglecting criminal law reform may pose further deep seated challenges. What often happens, however, is that even if the laws are reformed, we need to guard against reactionary responses to endemic problems. If the purpose of criminal law reform is to curb impunity in all forms of killings and deal decisively with utter disregard of the sanctity of human life, then a law can be a healthy first step in protecting the rights of vulnerable sections of society such as women, children, persons with albinism and other disabilities.

Even a criminal law reform committee will be horrified to learn that ritual motivators are not part of the suspects to be arrested. We are encouraged by the fact that our criminal laws allow for the arrest and prosecution of accomplices. But psyched people are usually afraid of the unknown. The psyched ritual killers strike fast, simultaneously attacking unsuspecting children or persons with disabilities.

The details that usually emerge after the gruesome killings are too numerous and disturbing. We definitely cannot bring our conscience to understand the difference between the actual killer and the one who motivates the killer to do so. The killer believes it is going to be an “all-for-purple-life” killing. Later, he is taught that the act was natural after all when he gets caught. It was his darkest ritual psyched moments that brought the longest, bloodiest, most heinous crimes to carry out. It costs innocent lives and no financial rewards as promised. And most families of the killers are left destitute. The breadwinner is locked up and the family is drawn into incessant wars of appeasing vengeful spirits as contemplated in our traditional faiths.

The hideous scars born by the families of the victims will last a very long time. But these ritual killing motivators are cunning and they will continue to hoodwink many people into psyched killings. They may never get their comeuppance. Certainly the time has come to act decisively on criminal law reform on ritual murder and honour crimes in Zimbabwe. Legislation, the passing of Acts in Parliament, is the most important of Parliament’s many tasks. I believe many stakeholders can agree on the explanatory memorandum for a Ritual Murders and Honour Crimes Bill. The long title of that Bill can deal with issues relating to the ritual murders and honour crimes and other purposes connected with these issues. The enacting formula can be decided by the nature of offences being committed usually against vulnerable sections of societies such as children, elderly women, persons with disabilities and so forth.

Perhaps the major point to grasp about ritual killings is that a psychic person, or even a bogus part of a psychic person, promises someone a lavish lifestyle once a heinous crime is committed. It could be the killing of a sibling, distant relative or some stranger. Exactly what is meant by “ritual” is not necessarily obvious since the killing of the person is controlled by the killer who uses the elaborate descriptions from the psychic leader. A small change in the psychic instructions can make a huge difference – so we hear from failed ritual killing missions. Each small step is catalysed and crystallised by the need for hot porridge riches. Many of these random killings may do the killer no harm if he observes the instructions (muko). Sometimes the killer will destroy the fighting powers of the deceased through some further rituals, kutsipika ngozi. This means that in any event, the killer is fully aware that they intentionally committed murder.

Reading stories about gruesome murders of young children by people who were promised material or financial gains tests our resolve as a polity of relationships between crime and fighting crime. We are given a set of criminal instances and must choose another set of responses that is related in the same way.

Many reforms of criminal laws are possible. Reading the modus operandi of criminals test our ability to understand and interpret the criminal laws we can promulgate in response. This is probably the most important ability we need as a society at the moment.

In analysis of the killings of children in our media reportages, we are presented with situations detailing criminal events and then a result of something that is steered by someone who is believed to possess some supernatural or magical powers to make people rich, overnight.

Our task is to decide in the legal and non-legal fraternity whether certain statements or motivations to commit crimes provide adequate explanations of how we can curb violent crimes. Each new crime provides us with a new format for criminal law reform.

For Zimbabwe and the disturbing killings, it’s now much more than just a usual ritual murder, headlines and efficient state response. We need to move beyond crime scene visits and the arrest of suspects. Ritual murders are now shaping an entire generation of criminal inquiry. It’s now the time to transform the changing and disturbing criminal scenes of the last ten or so years into a clear and widely-reformed criminal justice system in Zimbabwe. The motivating variable in this urgent need for criminal justice reform is steeped in legal realism. Law may be stable, but it cannot stand still if I may employ Roscoe Pound’s philosophy.

Are these ritual crimes something reflective of honour crimes, where relatives and close acquaintances are the pawns in the much bigger chess game? Barely when the Makore killing had left our minds we hear of the gruesome murder of two children. Zimbabwe has witnessed the targeted ritual killings which encourage criminal responsibility to be broadened in scope. Each killing achieves a disturbing measure of brutality and mental intention to kill. The recurring pattern of failed rituals that are broken by arrest of the suspects and eventual incarceration of such suspects all have at most one thing in common: each killing in its own way forces the killer and the ritual motivator to forge an unholy alliance; share the same mental and actual intention to kill, only from the opposite perspective.

The actual killer is psyched to kill. The ritual motivator psyches the ultimate killer. Each fails to see that confronted with effective investigation machinery the prospective ritual will inevitably not succeed. Equally gruesomely, each fails to see that the criminal path between hatching a heinous act of killing and frenzied killing act is not only false but leads towards a catastrophic breakdown of the family fabric.

The falsity of the ritual shows that one or two or more or many suspects are arrested. The ritual motivator, the instigator of the death of the innocent young souls remains. He or she continues hoodwinking many people into killing many young children.

All in the name of enhancing business or getting filthy money! Here too, there is more criminality in the sangoma or faith healer than criminal intention in the actual killer. The sangoma or ritual motivator does not simply aim to alleviate poverty through the loss of innocent blood of a family member, gruesome murder, psyched actions, and so forth. Efforts to control and encourage killing, no matter how important or necessary, are only one aspect of “intentional killing”. The sanctity of human life, and human life itself, as we know from our Constitution and even various types of our faiths, depend on more than the alleviation of poverty and the satisfaction of material needs. The reason for which we were created is to enjoy life and the maker of it forever.

Hofisi is a transformative transitional justice practitioner, normative influencer and disruptive thinker.

Source: Time to look beyond ritual murderers

Cry from Zimbabwe: Let us stop child sacrifice

The following plea and and cry from Zimbabwe, following the ritual murder of Tapiwa Makore (7), and the two cousins Delan (7) and Melissa (7), is long overdue but 100% warranted. Child sacrifice and more general human sacrifice is not a rare phenomenon in Zimbabwe, neither is it in a number of other countries in Sub-Sahara Africa. The gruesome murders have recently led to a general campaign to stop child sacrifice, the 777 Campaign. It goes without saying that I join this initiative.

Warning: the following article contains graphic details of ritual killing of children (FVDK).

Let us stop child sacrifice

Published: April 27, 2021
By: Bulawayo 24, Heaven Munyuki   

The death of a child of any age is devastating. The pain and anguish can be compounded when the death comes at the hands of another human being. Parents and family members can face many complicated issues, even as they try to make sense of the incomprehensible – that someone knowingly, willingly or intentionally killed their child.

Children are gifts from God,  they are precious and bundles of joy. Birth of children represent generational continuity and procreation is devine as God commanded: Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it. Mwanachipo Africa Trust is a local NGO that works with people who are infertile and childless. As people who are infertile and childless, we are pained most when these gifts we are failing to get are hurt or ill treated and when they are murdered, our hearts are pierced. We are hurt most because, some of us have undergone unimaginable ordeals and forked huge sums of money in trying to bear children whilst heartless people and cowards, who prey on vulnerable children, are busy chopping off their heads and mutilating their bodies. To us, killing of children for whatever reason is termination of generational continuity and destruction of families instead of growing and expanding them.

The recent surge in ritual killings and murder cases  of children in Zimbabwe is not only worrisome but also inhumane and horrifying.The gruesome murder of Tapiwa Makore (7) of Murehwa who was buried without a head and the recent heinous killings of two Benza cousins Delan (7) and Melissa (7) of central Mutasa  by uncles should not go unchallenged. These brutal killings have prompted Mwanachipo to initiate the Stop Child Sacrifice:The 777 Campaign.

The 777 Campaign is in honour of the 3 slain innocent children (Tapiwa, Delan and Mellisa) who were all murdered aged 7 and the suspected ritual killers being uncles. Tapiwa was fed with food and later drugged with Kachasu( traditional illicit beer) before being brutally killed in a mountain. His torso was found the following morning being dragged by dogs and his head is nowhere to be found up to this day. Mellisa and Delan’s remains were found stashed in a toilet pit.

These gruesome murders are targeted mainly at children for ritual purposes. Vulnerable, innocent children are mutilated and murdered by ruthless and criminal people who want to increase their wealth, health, power or reputation – by all means. Like Tapiwa, Delan and Mellisa, a lot of children have fallen victim to murderers and ritual killers. Due to their vulnerability, they are easily abducted on their way to or from school or when conducting their daily home activities such as fetching water and collecting firewood. Children are the main victims because they are considered pure or unblemished ,easy to lure and their blood sacrifice is considered more powerful than that of adults as children represent new life, prosperity and growth to the one procuring the sacrifice. They are sacrificed by witch doctors to appease ‘the gods’ and bring a myriad of solutions which include wealth, good health and political power  among others.Adults drawn to the practice are tricked into believing that the purity of child makes the ritual more powerful.
Hearts, ears, livers and genitals are considered as key ingredients of the rituals.These body parts are said to be removed when children are still alive and they die as a result of bleeding or are killed by the murderers to conceal evidence.

The repeated occurrences of these ritual killings is a blatant violation of UN’s Universal Declaration of Human Rights of 1948 and Convention on
the Rights of the Child (CRC) of 1989. The CRC applies to
all children below the age of 18, and contains 54
articles covering almost all aspects of the life of a child.More so, this child sacrifice violates the African Charter on Human and People’s Rights. According to this charter, an individual is entitled to respect for his life and integrity of his person.

Biblically, God sanctified life.This  means that human life is sacred ( made in the very image of the Creator himself according to Genesis 1:26-27), holy and precious. The sanctity of life is inherent as man cannot create life. Therefore, man has no authority to destroy life including the life of children. God chooses when life begins and ends and murder in all its forms is forbidden. It is the only way for humankind to exist.

Through the Stop Child Sacrifice: 777 Campaign , Mwanachipo Africa Trust is mobilising resources to be used to prevent  sacrifice of children.
 Our children are not safe until every child is safe.
Let us join hands to end child sacrifice. Everyone is duty bound to protect every child.Be part of the change which starts with all of us.Together we can make Zimbabwe a safer country for our children.

Pasi nekuchekeresa vana!
Stop child sacrifice!
Yekelani ukunikela ngabantwana libabulala!
#ChildrenAreNotSafeUntilEveryChildIsSafe

(Other organisations and individuals who wish to join us in this campaign can contact us on +263718745374 mwanachipoafricatrust@gmail.com)

Source: Let us stop child sacrifice


Zimbabwe – Editorial comment: combined effort needed to thwart ritual murders

A recent surge in ritual murders of children has shocked Zimbabwe. Within a short period, three children were murdered for ritualistic purposes: Tapiwa Makore (7) of Murehwa and the two Benza cousins Delan (7) and Melissa (7) of central Mutasa. I have extensively covered the murder of Tapiwa. The following days I will provide more details about the murder of Delan and Melissa.

The child sacrifices have led to many reactions. One of these comments follows here. It contains a plea for tougher measures for the culprits, even the capital punishment. There is much to say about (and against) the death penalty but let us know focus here on the editorial comments. 
To be cont’d.
(webmaster FVDK)

EDITORIAL COMMENT : Combined effort needed to thwart ritual murders

Published: April 27, 2021
By: The Herald, Zimbabwe

The murder of three children for what appears to be ritual purposes in just seven months is a worrying dark cloud over Zimbabwe and requires action at both community level and among a number of sections of society.

These are not the first such killings, perhaps just the best publicised for some time since the victims were all seven-years-old and the police moved swiftly and effectively to track down the suspects, with other family members among those arrested and remanded.

There is a superstitious belief among a minority that killing a child or another young person in a particular way, which can be equated to torture before the murder, and then processing certain body parts in a set-down manner will create, increase and maintain wealth.

This is nonsense, and with the competent homicide investigations now in progress it must be becoming obvious that initiating such a killing is totally unlikely to bring anything, but a very long jail sentence for the killers.

Although the death penalty is still on the books for aggravated murder by an adult man, and aggravating circumstances do not come more aggravating than pre-meditated murder of a child for financial gain, the fact remains that Zimbabwe does not implement death penalties any more, and instead life imprisonment is substituted.

There are already many positive developments that can help to end this practice of ritual killings. It is now clear that communities are willing to take action, rather than quiver in fear and keep quiet. 

People are not afraid to stand up and be counted and are willing to pass on whatever information they have to the police. 

In fact one of the major problems now in such investigations is that some are passing on confusing fifth-hand hearsay, which still needs to be properly investigated, rather than hard fact of what they saw. But homicide detectives are trained to separate the chaff from the hard fact, and better that too many try and help than too few.

A second problem is more serious, and has already been mentioned by legislators, including recently Senator Michael Nyambuwa who visited the Mutasa families. 

We need investigations to be pursued to bring the person who gave the ritual advice and who might well have promised to process any body parts.

Even if they did not initiate the killings, and accept some sort of lie when organs are presented, they are still involved in a murder and can be tried as an accomplice. 

N’angas still have a lot of respect and are feared by some, so it can be difficult to get a name, let alone evidence. 

Obviously the actual killers believe in the powers of the n’anga they are using; even in the days when the killers were hanged they refused to give the name and walked silently to the gallows.

Here communities need to encourage people to come forward. There will be a lot of vague and wrong information, but police can then run down the leads. The point is that a person ready to apply their traditional learning to criminal purposes cannot be totally unknown in an area.

The Zimbabwe National Traditional Healers Association can also become more involved, first by teaching very clearly that such killings do not create wealth, only misery, and then encouraging people to come forward. 

In fact traditional healers in a particular area might well have a better idea of which one of their number has turned to the dark side than the average lay person, and should be encouraged to pass on this information.

Traditional leaders, who have already made their abhorrence of such crimes very clear, can also go further in prevention, as well as doing what they do now by calling on their communities to assist after a crime. 

The ideal is to have a murder trial with both the killers and the n’anga who offered advice all in the dock, with sufficiently good evidence that all can be convicted and then go to jail together. 

Detectives chosen for such investigations might need to be carefully selected; there is still a significant number of superstitious people, and even some Christian churches who worry about the creativity of evil, although this is a heretical belief in mainstream Christianity.

Such severely aggravating murders also stress the need for Zimbabwe to upgrade its sentencing laws for murder, now that we have effectively abandoned the death penalty as an active punishment. 

The reforms need to give judges setting sentences more discretion, and as we have argued before we need a system of parole.

In his latest clemency order, the President, with Cabinet consent and what must have been detailed advice, in effect set 15 years behind bars as the absolute minimum for a life sentence. This is not unreasonable and is the effective minimum period of incarceration in many jurisdictions for an “ordinary” murder.

However, countries that have formally abolished the death penalty and substituted life imprisonment usually allow the sentencing judge to make a recommendation over the minimum term in each case. 

In most cases this is whatever the standard is in that country before parole can be considered, frequently 15 years. 

But where there are aggravating circumstances the judge can set a longer minimum term before release can even be considered and, in exceptionally aggravating circumstances, can even call for a “whole life” sentence, or “life imprisonment without any possibility of parole”, as some American states word it. 

Because the killer is not executed this can always be adjusted later if perceptions change or new evidence emerges, but meanwhile the deterrent is in place.

A parole system also means that a released lifer is monitored for the rest of their lives, forbidden to do certain jobs, enter certain businesses and possess anything on a list of prohibited items, such as anything that could be used as a weapon.

And parents clearly need to be protective. This is always difficult, of deciding where do you draw the lines. But one general rule is safety in numbers and having older children helping to shepherd younger children.

We have all seen gaggles of schoolchildren who live near each other moving as a group and automatically having some older teenagers in that group.

Admittedly a lot of this breaks down, as in the latest two cases, when relatives are suspected to be involved, people who are normally trusted. 

But every bit helps and at least there are witnesses if a child is whisked away by an uncle or aunt. 

That is precisely how the police made their initial arrests in the latest two child killings, by following up reports from people who saw something that in retrospect needed to be told.

Source: EDITORIAL COMMENT : Combined effort needed to thwart ritual murders

Human sacrifices, myth or reality? – A viewpoint

On November 22, Blessing Mandabva, from Zimbabwe, shared with us his view on the history of human sacrifices as well as present-day practices of this age-old ritual. His contribution was published in The Standard, a Zimbabwean Sunday newspaper. Recently, I posted other articles with African voices protesting against this phenomenon of ritualistic murders, commonly called muti murders in Southern Africa. See the Op-Ed article in the online Namibian newspaper New Era Live, entitled: ‘Ritual killings: Cry my beloved humankind’, posted on October 27, 2020 and  an older article, dating from 2011, ‘Africa: Breaking the silence in ritual killings‘, written by Fanuel Hadzizi, also from Zimbabwe and posted on November 14, 2020.

The recent turmoil in Zimbabwe, following the death of a 7-year old boy, Tawire Makore, who was murdered for muti purposes, clearly shows that the gruesome practice of human sacrifices has not disappeared. See my October 26 posting on this ritual murder that shocked Zimbabwe.  

As Blessing Mandabva describes, more people have raised their voices against muti murders including Zimbabwe National Traditional Healers Association (Zinatha) president George Kandiero who distanced his association and all members from all acts of ritual killings. George Kandieo, who also mentioned the ritual murder of Tawire Makore, confirmed what I have stated repeatedly on these pages: “These ritual killings are just a tip of the iceberg (…)“.

Also the Zimbabwe Human Rights Commission (ZHRC) has denounced ritually-motivated killings and issued the following statement: “The ZHRC has noted with concern the alarming rise and high frequency of ritually-motivated killings in Zimbabwe, specifically targeted at children and young people.

What else can I add?? Read the following contribution and join the struggle against ritualistic murders and other acts based on superstition and motivated by the greed for power and/or wealth.

Warning: the following article contains graphic details of ritual murders (webmaster FVDK).

Human sacrifices, myth or reallity?

Published: November 22, 2020
By: The Standard, Zimbabwe –  Blessing Mandabva

Since time immemorial, human beings the world over have pursued answers to the puzzling questions of their origins, sickness, death and after death, poverty, power, the meaning of natural phenomena such as earthquakes, diseases and accidents, among others. They have also inquired on how to protect themselves from such mysterious events. Invention of personified deities, gods and the occult sciences, witchcraft, divination and soothsaying in order to seek the protection of supernatural powers has been the order of the day. Individuals used them for protection from their enemies, to dominate others in societies be it in business, politics, churches and other religious circles to gain power and to accumulate wealth. Human sacrifice has been a phenomenon which has been passed from generation to generation albeit it appearing in various forms.

Human sacrifice is defined as the ritualised, devotedly motivated killing of human beings. It is a fundamental which is not endorsed by any state, but was once practiced by societies across the globe in the past. In this landlocked country of Zimbabwe, there is a misconception on many deaths of humans, children, women and albinos being attributed to human sacrificial rituals which are said to bring quick wealth and fortunes. Human sacrifice, especially of children, occurs frequently despite the government’s efforts to stop it. Times are tough in Zimbabwe, and people are looking for sacrifices to improve their fortunes. Hunger and starvation coupled with the purported economic meltdown which has been attributed to the economic sanctions by the ruling elite whilst those in the opposition blame the ruling elite for poor governance.

Zimbabwe National Traditional Healers Association (Zinatha) president George Kandiero distanced his association and all members from all heinous acts of ritual killings. 

He, however, said those ritual killings are mainly done by witches and witchdoctors. According to Kandiero, Zinatha has some specialists who could have been involved in the case of Tapiwa Makore to give guidance in finding a lasting solution. 

“It’s rather unfortunate Tapiwa is no more, but we believe the full wrath of the law will take its course. The perpetrators must be brought to book even if they are members of our associations,” said Kandiero.

”These ritual killings are just a tip of the iceberg since a lot of sacrifices in various forms are happening in the underworld. 

“Those who do such are everywhere including churches, homes and workplaces and this has to be addressed for people to live in harmony.”

Reverend John Makaniko, a United Methodist Church in Zimbabwe pastor, said: “Human sacrifice is a reality though in this contemporary world it’s now rare.

“The law has abolished human sacrifice and it’s now treated as murder.” According to him, in Christianity, only Jesus Christ was sacrificed for sins of all humanity. He becomes a sacrifice once and for all [Hebrew 10:10]. 

“Jesus Christ becomes a sacrificial lamb for salvation of all humanity. The human sacrifice done by individuals is for selfish reasons like riches and fame.
“This human sacrifice that is shedding blood of other people for selfish ends is evil, sinful and a serious crime.”

“As Christians, we are guided by the scripture’s teachings and commandments like: ‘Thou shalt not kill’ (Exodus 20:13) and our social principles say, ‘life is a sacred gift’; therefore, every human life should be treated with dignity and shouldn’t be sacrificed. 

“In short, human sacrifice is a devilish act that has no place in Christianity and progressive society.” 

Rev Makaniko added: “In contemporary society, faith in God and appreciating the dignity of hard work will result in success and prosperity.

“The core values of the United Methodist Church clearly state that, ‘we do good, do no harm and stay in love with God’; thus human sacrifice isn’t good because it brings harm to other people and breaks relationships with God.”

According to some South African media reports, body parts can be sold for as little as
R3 000 in that country. 

I recall vividly growing up in a township when public transport in the form of the commuter omnibuses had just been introduced. At that age, we were scared to death by the stories doing the rounds in the township of the disappearance of children. We were told how kids were being lured by strangers who promised them sweets. 

The next thing, their bodies would be found in the bushes with body parts missing. Rumours were that businesspeople were taking the children’s heads to Durban and were trading them off for taxis, kombis and grinding mills. Another unfortunate case is that of Given Flint Matapure who disappeared at Harare Exhibition Park in August 2011. The case took ages to be finalised.

Ritual killings, or human sacrifices, are committed for the purpose of taking human body parts which are said to be used to prepare charms and other traditional medicines for spiritual fortification. In some instances, ritualists and occults target vulnerable members of society such as the poor, women, children and albinos whose families often do not have the resources to demand justice. 

In some African countries there is a belief that female body parts possess supernatural powers that bring good fortune or make criminals invisible to police and other authorities. Children and young people are mostly preferred since they will be having a whole lot of life to live than the elderly. 

All the success which could have happened to them will now be transferred to the ritualist as the children continue to live in the underworld. It is time governments turned up the heat on culprits and put an end to this violation of human rights. 

Heavy sentences should be given to those who commission and carry out the ritual killings.

The Zimbabwe Human Rights Commission (ZHRC) denounced ritually-motivated killings.

“The ZHRC has noted with concern the alarming rise and high frequency of ritually-motivated killings in Zimbabwe, specifically targeted at children and young people,” the ZHRC statement read. 

“The heinous murder and mutilation of innocent people is disheartening and should be denounced in the strongest terms by our society and nation as a whole.”

ZHRC also stated that participation in ritual killings violates Sections 48 (1), the universal human right to life, of the Constitution and other sections of international agreements on rights to human life, such as the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (1948), and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. 

The rights body called for a collective effort among authorities to end the ritual killings and urged police to undergo further training to adequately deal with issues of human rights violations.

In July 2015, a four-year old pupil from St Lucy Primary School in the Kombo area of Insiza district in Matabeleland South province was found dead with her lips, liver and other body parts missing in a suspected case of ritual murder. Her body was found mutilated in a pond. The incident struck fear into villagers who indicated that they suspected the child was killed for ritual purposes. They started escorting their children to and from school. 

Legislator Pupurai Togarepi has moved a motion on the proliferation of chilling incidents of murder indicating that victims of such heinous crimes are the vulnerable and unsuspecting members of society, mostly women and children. 

In another bizarre suspected ritual killing in June 2020, a 25-year-old woman, Thabelo Mazolo, had her body mutilated and stashed into a drum filled with acid in Bulawayo. Part of the body, from the waist going down, was missing while breasts and palms appeared to have been sliced off. The ritualist murder had message from a sangoma with instructions to perform on the body, it 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.” 

The practice of ritual killing and human sacrifice continues to take place in several African countries in contravention of the African Charter on Human and People’s Rights and other human rights instruments. In this 21st century, human beings are still being hunted down, mutilated, murdered or sacrificed for ritual purposes across the region. 

Several cases of kidnapping and disappearance of persons are traced to the vicious schemes and activities of ritualists. Ritualists hunt for blood and harvest human body parts to prepare charms and magical concoctions. In some cases desperate ritualists invade cemeteries and exhume dead bodies to extract body parts, said one anonymous source.

Many cases of ritual sacrifice take place in secret locations. They are largely unreported, not investigated and go unpunished. The perpetrators and their collaborators capitalise on the prevalent irrational fear of the supernatural among Africans, and the poor and corrupt policing and justice system, to get away with these egregious violations. 

Victims of ritual sacrifice are mostly minors nd vulnerable individuals who do not live to seek justice or redress or who lack the resources to seek redress if ever they survive the ordeal. 

Human sacrifice is real, it is neither fallacious, frivolous nor fiction. It is a cancer which needs urgent attention and collective efforts by all stakeholders from grassroots level before it is normalised by satanic and evil forces in our societies.

Source: Human sacrifices, myth or reality?

Africa: Breaking the silence in ritual killings (2011 article)

Browsing on internet I found this 2011 article written by Fanuel Hadzizi from Zimbabwe. The article could have been written in the year 2000, or much earlier, and even nowadays, in the year 2020 !

I find it encouraging reading this article on a topic which it too often swept under the carpet although its main message is a sad one. The author pleads to break the silence on ritual killings in Africa and points to several cases of ritual killings in Southern Africa to warrant his plea. He concludes “It is time governments turn up the heat on culprits and put an end to this violation of human rights.”

What else can I say? Highly recommended – read ‘AFRICA: BREAKING THE SILENCE IN RITUAL KILLINGS’ by Fanuel Hadzizi, Gender Links Justice Program Officer of PeaceWomen. Peacewomen is the Women, Peace and Security Program of the Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom (WILPF), the oldest women’s peace organization in the world. 

Warning: The following article contains graphic details of ritual murders (FVDK)

Africa: Breaking the silence in ritual killings

Published: September 26, 2011
By: Peace WomenFanuel Hadzizi

Ritual killings and human sacrifice happen in many, if not all countries in Africa. Cases have been reported in such countries as Botswana, Lesotho, South Africa, Swaziland, Zambia and Zimbabwe.

In Zambia, there have been cases whereby people’s heads were found in Asian owned shops whilst in Swaziland, some politicians commissioned ritual killings so that they could win elections. The grossness of the ritual murders is quite scary to imagine as victims’ bodies are mutilated and certain body parts go missing. Needless to mention that in South Africa for instance, body parts can be sold for as little as R3000.

On 24 September, South Africa celebrated Heritage Day under the banner “celebrating the Heroes and Heroines of the Liberation Struggle in South Africa.” According to the Department of Arts and Culture, the theme allowed the nation to “celebrate the lasting legacy of the national liberation struggle.”

Most importantly, Heritage Day provides an opportunity for South Africans to celebrate their cultural heritage and diversity of beliefs and traditions. As a concerned resident, I also feel that this is an opportunity for us to break the silence around the negative cultural practice of ritual killings that is prevalent in society and yet violates the basic universal human right to life.

During the course of Women’s Month in August, South Africa became the ninth Southern African Development Community (SADC) country to ratify the Protocol on Gender and Development. This brought to two thirds the number of countries that have done so, and means that the Protocol is now in force.

As we also celebrate the coming into force of this crucial instrument, let us ponder what is meant by the provision that all states adopt laws and policies to protect the girl and boy child from “harmful cultural attitudes and practices in accordance with the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child and the African Charter on the Rights and Welfare of the Child.”

I recall vividly growing up in one township in Zimbabwe. This was just when public transport in the form of the Toyota Hiace taxi had just been introduced in the country. At that tender age, we were scared to death by the stories doing the rounds in the township of the disappearance of children. We were told how kids were being lured by strangers who promised them some sweets.

The next thing, their bodies would be found in the bushes with some body parts missing. Rumours were that business people were taking the children’s heads for instance to Durban in South Africa and were trading them off for the taxis. Weren’t we all scared!

Ritual killings or muti killings are committed for the purpose of taking human body parts which are used to prepare charms and other traditional medicines. These charms are believed to have supernatural powers which are greatly enhanced if the organs are removed whilst the victim is still alive.

In Southern Africa there is a belief that female body parts possess supernatural powers that bring good fortune or make criminals invisible to police and other authorities. Research has shown that in other countries, especially in East Africa, the breast and a woman’s private parts enhance business success, a man’s private parts are believed to increase virility whilst a tongue can smooth one’s path to a lover’s heart.

In fact, ritual killing is perceived as an act of spiritual fortification.

In an article titled New Magic for New Times: Muti Murder in Democratic South Africa, Louise Vincent (2008) says that “the use of human body parts for medicinal purposes is based in the belief that it is possible to appropriate the life force of one person through its literal consumption by another.” The victim is thus carefully chosen.

The Sowetan reported in July this year that the brother of Gladys Mogaramedi (61) killed her for her body parts. Police discovered the badly mutilated body without the private parts. I felt a very cold chill down my spine as I read through the story with shock and disbelief. Even after reading it twice I still found myself at a loss for words, trying to comprehend how a person could execute such a diabolic act moreover to a sibling without any conscience.

The South African case highlighted above is but the tip of the iceberg to some of the cultural problems that our society is still grappling with in relation to gender based violence. More often than not, these crimes evade the spotlight because they are largely unreported or recorded merely as murder. Ritualists target vulnerable members of society such as the poor, women, children, people with disabilities and albinos whose families often do not have the resources to demand justice.

It is time governments turn up the heat on culprits and put an end to this violation of human rights. Heavy sentences should be given to those who commission as well as carry out the ritual killings. It is heartening to note that in a July 2010 ruling, the High Court of Mwanza region sentenced 50 year old Kazimiri Mashauri to death. The Tanzanian court convicted him for hacking to death a 5 year old girl for muti-related purposes.

Fanuel Hadzizi is the Gender Links Justice Program Officer of Peace Women,

Source: Africa: Breaking the silence in ritual killings

Murewa ritual killing: President Mnangagwa decries evil act (Zimbabwe)

The cruel ritualistic killing of 7-year old Tapiwa Makore in Zimbabwe inspired the president of this country, Emmerson Mnangagwa, to raise his voice against the killing of children for ritualistic purposes – because the gruesome murder of the young boy is not the only ritual killing case in his country. The police found evidence on the crime scene that more children had been murdered, possibly by the same suspect, Tafadzwa Shamba, a herdsman in the same village with the Makores.

Mnangagwa’s condemnation of ritual murders triggered the anger of an opposition politician, Paul Nyathi, who accused President Mnangagwa of hypocrisy. He accused Mnangagwa of several politically motivated murders. Moreover, while Mnangagwa was Minister of State for National Security – under then President Robert Mugabe – the 5th Brigade of the Zimbabwe National Army killed thousands of civilians in the Matabeleland region. These massacres, known as the Gukurahundi, lasted from 1983 to 1987, and resulted in an estimated 20,000 to 30,000 deaths. 

Warning: the following articles contain graphic details of a cruel crime (webmaster FVDK).

Murehwa ritual killing: President decries evil act

The late Tapiwa Makore

Published: September 26, 2020
By: The Herald, Zimbabwe  

President Mnangagwa yesterday condemned the killing of children for ritual purposes, saying the Government was concerned with all forms of threats and abuse to children and vowed to end violence against them.

The condemnation comes in the wake of the murder of a seven-year-old Murehwa boy, Tapiwa Makore, last week for ritual purposes, allegedly by a herder.

“I am disturbed by the loss of young children as a result of heinous and evil actions for rituals and witchcraft purposes. These cold-hearted acts of murder have no place in our country.

“The stakeholders in our criminal justice system must speedily and strongly deal with perpetrators so that this evil trend is expunged from our society,” said the President during a virtual Junior Cabinet meeting at State House yesterday.

Murder suspect Tafadzwa Shamba

Tapiwa was looking forward to resuming classes on November 9, and rejoining his peers at Nyamutumbu Primary School in Murehwa after a six-month hiatus.

Like millions of other pupils across the country, particularly his Grade One fellows, he was raring to go as the phased reopening of schools, which comes into effect on Monday, puts an end to their daily routine of playing house, horseplay and hopscotch, in-between errands as may be assigned by their parents.

The seven-year-old Tapiwa was his parents’ gift from God as was reflected in his name. With school lessons temporarily shelved owing to Covid-19, the bubbly boy, like the gift he was, often helped out his mother in tending to their vegetable garden.

In the morning of Thursday September 17, as she has always done, Tapiwa’s mother prepared food for him and set him off on the excursion to keep stray livestock away from their vegetable patch.

She and her husband were set to relieve him later in the afternoon.

However, fate had decided otherwise. It was set in the stars that they would never see their beloved son alive again, neither were they to bury him intact.

Unbeknown to them, the Makore family had set in motion a chain of events that would leave the serene community of Makore Village in Chief Mangwende’s domain of Murehwa District, dumbfounded, distressed and in deep mourning as a dark cloud of both grief and fear engulfed them.

Tapiwa’s story reads like a horror movie where death is traded with such abandon that the grisly ceases to be abnormal with the Grim Reaper, in his dark shrouds, hooded robe and scythe daring the living as they dare each other.

Bereft of words, the community fretfully tries to come to terms with what could have befallen their child; for in African societies, a child belongs to all. No one knows what he went through, and how the Grim Reaper tore through his fragile heart to “reap” his soul. All else pointed to ritual murder.

When Tapiwa’s parents got to the garden around 3pm, where they expected to see him as usual, they were confronted by his “last meal”, untouched, and his pair of shoes. Their boy was nowhere to be seen.

The parents’ enquiries on the whereabouts of their cherished son from other children, who were also keeping watch over their gardens revealed that Tapiwa had last been seen swimming in a pond close-by.

A visit to the pond, however, did not yield any result. Suddenly an air of fear filled them as they alerted other villagers of the missing boy, resulting in an immediate search of the area.

Nonetheless, the search, which was immediately conducted into the wee hours of the night and the morrow, yielded nothing; except more pain, anxiety and regret. By then, the Zimbabwe Republic Police (ZRP) had joined in the search.

The following day, Friday September 18, villagers reported that a neighbour had woken up to an enigmatic sight in his yard. He discovered his dog and puppies feasting on human organs. The body had its head, neck, both legs and arms hacked off.

National police spokesperson Assistant Commissioner Paul Nyathi said of the discovery then:

“The body of the boy was later discovered on September18, 2020, being eaten by dogs with the head, arms and legs chopped off for suspected ritual purposes.”

With the police leaving no stone unturned, one of the suspects, Tafadzwa Shamba was nabbed on kidnap and murder charges, while his two alleged accomplices are still at large.

Shamba, a herdsman in the same village with the Makores, and his co-conspirators ostensibly allegedly waylaid the boy from his family’s garden, took him to a mountain and detained him for the entire day.

The herdsman was promised US$1 500 for his part in the kidnap and subsequent gruesome murder.

However, before the envisaged windfall, Shamba’s luck ran out, as the blood-stained clothes he wore on the day he allegedly committed the crime betrayed him.

Naturally, the discovery of Tapiwa’s dismembered body, and one of the suspects’ subsequent arrest would have put closure to the sad story, as some questions could have been answered.

That was not to be. More human body parts were found strewn all over the place including a skull. However, this turned out not to be Tapiwa’s.  This discovery with all the trappings of the macabre, led to more questions than answers.

Could there be a conspiracy to wipe out children from the area for ritual purposes? Has the area’s Grim Reaper made a date with the Makore villagers for a ransom as an appeasement for some ill-informed engagement from the past?

Villagers and the police unearthed more than they could chew. Among the skulls found, was one that looked so old it could not be linked to the victim’s; the other one was still blood-stained, but with the eyes gorged out and missing jawline. The chin and tongue were also missing.

Also discovered were a fire-singed child’s palm, a jaw with seven lower teeth, and other body pieces.

It is not clear how many other children could have met their fate in Tapiwa’s manner, which has left a cold chill running through the villagers’ spines.

Tapiwa’s relatives are convinced that the discovered fresh skull could not be their “son’s”.

Mr Isaac Makore (57), the deceased boy’s granduncle, said the newly discarded skull they chanced on was not his grandnephew’s, but that of a 12-year-old, yet to be identified child’s.

As a result of the uncertainty, Tapiwa is still to find rest, as burial arrangements have been put on hold pending further investigations.

“My grandnephew went missing, and we later discovered his torso with other organs, like the head, hands, and legs missing. We also discovered separate sets of teeth; and two separate skulls, one with lower teeth and the other one with upper teeth but without a tongue.

“Indications are that the other skull belongs to a yet to be identified older child, and not our ‘child’s’, Mr Makore said.

However, the boy’s privates were untouched.

Following Tapiwa’s grisly murder, and the unearthing of more mutilated body parts, villagers are now living in fear of death merchants who could be on the prowl in the area, seeking children’s hearts for ritual purposes.

Tapiwa’s uncle, Mr Simbarashe Makore (38), said it is believed that there could be many children, although not from their area, who could have been killed for ritual purposes, and had their bodies dumped in the proximity of their village.

“We are now living in fear. Our prayer is that the police apprehend the culprits and rid our area of this menace. Who knows, after our children, they may also come for us, their parents. How could someone kill a fellow human being in such cold blood just like that?” he bemoaned.

Ms Easther Makore (52), Tapiwa’s aunt concurred, saying the police should not leave any stone unturned and get to the bottom of the issue as it was mind-boggling that so many human organs could be discovered hard upon her nephew’s demise.

Mr Summer Murwira (78), a nephew to the Makore family, at whose homestead Tapiwa’s dismembered body was found, said it (body) was bloodless when it was discovered.

Another villager weighed in, saying: “I do not think the place the torso was found is where he was murdered, otherwise there would have been blood stains all over. This is a serious matter.

“We now fear for our children. No one even wants to attend to the gardens anymore, or guard them against roaming livestock since the incident occurred.” —  (Additional reporting by Kingstone Mapupu — Kwayedza).

Source: Murehwa ritual killing: President decries evil act

President Mnangagwa’s remarks provoked an outcry from Paul Nyathi, a Zimbabwean opposition politician, which is interesting to note (webmaster FVDK).

“Mr President, All Murders Must Be Condemned And Stopped”

President Emmerson Mnangagwa 

Published: September 26, 2020
By: ZimEye The Truth & The Future – Paul Nyathi

President Mnangagwa who himself is accused of several politically motivated murders and abductions yesterday condemned the killing of children for ritual purposes, saying the Government was concerned with all forms of threats and abuse to children and vowed to end violence against them.

The condemnation comes in the wake of the murder of a seven-year-old Murehwa boy, Tapiwa Makore, last week for ritual purposes, allegedly by a herder.

While it is noble for Mnangagwa to condemn the killings of innocent children the President himself has a history of killing which taints his otherwise noble call. Zimbabweans have through the years called on Mnangagwa to speak to the murders attributed to his authority and call for an end to the wanton killing of citizens for political purposes as he has done on the killing of children for ritual purposes.

“I am disturbed by the loss of young children as a result of heinous and evil actions for rituals and witchcraft purposes. These cold-hearted acts of murder have no place in our country.

“The stakeholders in our criminal justice system must speedily and strongly deal with perpetrators so that this evil trend is expunged from our society,” said Mnangagwa during a virtual Junior Cabinet meeting at State House on Friday.

While Mnangagwa was Minister of State for National Security, the 5th Brigade of the Zimbabwe National Army killed thousands of civilians in the Matabeleland region. These massacres, known as the Gukurahundi, lasted from 1983 to 1987, and resulted in an estimated 20,000 to 30,000 deaths.

More recently military officials – many behind his rise to power – have been accused of benefiting from the rich Marange diamond fields in eastern Zimbabwe, with reports of killings and human rights abuses there.

His ruthlessness, which it could be argued he learnt from his Rhodesian torturers, is said to have been seen again in 2008 when he reportedly masterminded Zanu-PF’s response to former President late Robert Mugabe losing the first round of the presidential election to long-time rival the late Morgan Tsvangirai.

The military and state security organisations unleashed a campaign of violence against opposition supporters, leaving hundreds dead and forcing thousands from their homes. Tsvangirai then pulled out of the second round and Mugabe was re-elected in a one man race.

On August 1 2018, the Zimbabwean army shot at protestors killing at least twelve and injuring many others. The government of Mnangagwa again denied involvement. A commission headed by Mohlante found the army responsible for the killings. The commission made recommendations and all were ignored by Mnangagwa’s military government. None of the recommendations were carried out.

In January 2019, more protestors were killed by the same army in cold blood. Scores of women were raped, some in front family members. A brazen Mnangagwa, would later demand to see graves of those killed and the women raped should come to him that he can believe that such atrocities took place at the hands of the army he directs. Many Zimbabweans were shocked and hurt by such reckless statements from a heartless president.

Source: Mr President, All Murders Must Be Condemned And Stopped

The business, science behind ritual killings

The murder of Thabelo Mazolo in Zimbabwe inspired Bruce Ndlovu, the author of the article reproduced below, to dwell on the phenomenon of ritualistic murders, muti or muthi murders as they are called in Southern Africa. The staggering details of recent murder cases in Botswana, South Africa and Zimbabwe are shocking. The author is to be commended for his frankness to expose and discuss these heinous crimes which have no place in the 21st century.  

Warning: the following article contains many graphic details as to how these murders are committed (webmaster FVDK). 

Murder economy: The business, science behind ritual killings

The suspected ritual killer, Tawana Ngwenya (right) and his disillusioned father, Buzwani Ngwenya (left).

Published: June 21, 2020
By: Nehanda Radio – Bruce Ndlovu

“You must cut yourself and spill your blood onto a mirror,” the message to Tawana Ngwenya reportedly read. “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.”

The messages, from a South African sangoma, were allegedly part of a chain of instructions to Ngwenya, messages that allegedly led him to take the life of Tawana Mazolo at Matsheumhlophe, Bulawayo.

The messages were witchcraft delivered digitally, as the unknown sangoma, from his lair somewhere in one of South Africa’s nine provinces gave Ngwenya instructions on how to spill blood and in the aftermath, prepare for a life of riches.

The details of the alleged murder are gruesome. Half of Mazolo’s body, from the waist down, was missing while her breasts and palms were cut off. On the surface, the tragic killing of Mazolo already looks like a ritual murder. The grizzly details suggest that this indeed is the case.

After all, every once in a while, the pages of publications in Zimbabwe and neighbouring countries drip with the blood of innocents murdered at the altar of self-enrichment.

There was the case of Edmore Rundogo, whose dismembered remains were found in Maun, about 500km from Botswana’s second city of Francistown.

Rundogo had left his home in Lobengula West (Bulawayo) in search of a better life in Botswana. Instead of the proverbial greener pastures on the other side of the Plumtree border, he had found machete-wielding men who savagely murdered him, ripping his heart out.

The five killers also cut off his hands, feet, privates and took part of his brains. The killers, after being told by the traditional healer that had hired them that they had killed the wrong person, had then tried to burn his body.

South of the Limpopo, there was the case of 10-year-old Masego Kgomo, a schoolgirl who was still alive when Brian Mangwale ripped out her womb.

During the course of his trial for murder, Mangwale would change his story three times, a fact that the courts took as evidence that he had no remorse for his actions. In one of the three accounts he claimed that he and a group of friends had taken the young girl to a traditional healer in Soshanguve, who gave them a concoction to drink before he dragged the crying Masego into a room.

The girl was still crying when the traditional healer returned with her 10 minutes later and started sprinkling something on her body.

Mangwale claimed the medicine man had then returned with a knife and a clay pot and ordered Masego to lie down on a bed.

When she refused, she was forcibly held down while the traditional healer stabbed her in the stomach, put his hand inside her body and removed something that looked like a ball, which he put into the clay pot. He also removed her left breast.

Mangwale told the magistrate he heard the others had wrapped the child’s body in plastic and drank muthi before dumping her body in the veld on the instructions of the traditional healer.

While his testimony kept changing, the courts were convinced that Kgomo had died after meeting the nasty end of Mangwale’s knife. A life in prison sentence was handed to the killer.

Body parts are big business in Africa, but particularly in South Africa where trade in human body parts is lucrative. In the race to get rich in places like the City of Gold, Johannesburg, some believe that the key to getting their hand on all that glitters is taking a shortcut.

Many Zimbabweans, like Mazolo, can trace their gruesome ritual death to powerful sangomas south of the Limpopo. While Ngwenya was the one allegedly wielding the instrument of death when Mazolo took her last painful breath, this is not always the case.

Middle men, like in the case of Mangwale, are usually the ones that handle the dirty work. According to South African scholar Louise Vincent, certain gangs specialise in killing people for the harvesting of body parts only.

“It is believed that certain murder gangs specialise in muthi killings. Unlike human sacrifice where death is the express purpose of the act, in muthi-related killings, death is an anticipated and accepted by-product of the garnering of human organs but it is not the main aim.

Indeed, it is often preferred that the victim remain alive during the process. When body parts, including internal organs, are removed while the victim is still alive it is believed that the power of the resultant medicine will be greatly enhanced. Depending on the wants of potential customers, the instructions that the sangomas give specifics.

“Sangomas seldom do the killing themselves. The order will include not only specifications as to which particular body part or parts are required — testicles for virility purposes, fat from the breasts or abdomen for luck, tongues to smooth the path to a lover’s heart — but the very specific manner in which they are to be collected.

“The use of human body parts for medicinal purposes is based in the belief that it is possible to appropriate the life force of one person through its literal consumption by another. For this reason, a victim is often carefully chosen — not just any person’s penis as a cure for male infertility, for instance, but that of a man with several healthy children.”

Those who grew up in Zimbabwe urban areas will recall how the shadow of ritual murder has never been far off the horizon. Some, no doubt, know of the stories of businessmen who are said to have suddenly turned rich after they lost a spouse or a child. That child, or any other loved one, is assumed to be the blood sacrifice that was necessary for their businesses to turn a sudden corner.

Such perceptions of course, may be nothing but jealous rumour, but they are not helped by actual cases like that of Robert Tazvireva, a bottle store and general dealership owner in Magunje who allegedly instructed Samuel Mushonga in 2017 to murder his own sister so he could enhance his business.

After Mushonga had allegedly fatally stabbed his sister and hacked off her head, he delivered it to Tazvireva who told him to hide it in a nearby bush. Such instances, have helped convince many that businesspeople profit from the spilling of blood.

“‘If the business is not doing well, get a boy or a girl’s head — someone who has a future — and your business will have a future too,” said Dr Gordon Chavunduka time president of the Zimbabwean Traditional Healers Association, once said.

Those who grew up in Bulawayo in the late 90s will remember the myth of men who reportedly drove around the city with a blood sucking frog, looking for unsuspecting victims to profit from.

While such urban legends have never been confirmed, they are an entertaining reminder that people live on the constant lookout for people trying to profit off their ritual sacrifice.

“I recall vividly growing up in one township in Zimbabwe. This was just when public transport in the form of the Toyota Hiace taxi had just been introduced in the country,” says Fanuel Hadzidzi of Gender Links.

“At that tender age, we were scared to death by the stories doing the rounds in the township of the disappearance of children. We were told how kids were being lured by strangers who promised them some sweets.

“The next thing, their bodies would be found in the bushes with some body parts missing. Rumours were that businesspeople were taking the children’s heads for instance to Durban in South Africa and were trading them off for the taxis. Weren’t we all scared!”

With claims of human body parts sold by vendors on the streets of South Africa and other countries, it may be a long time before ritual killings lose their lustre to those trying to make a quick dollar.

Source: Murder economy: The business, science behind ritual killings

The Limpopo River Basin (Botswana, Mozambique, South Africa, Zimbabwe). Source map: The Economist