Due to circumstances I haven’t posted any article on this site for nearly four weeks. The reason for this silence on my part was certainly not the lack of ritual murder cases reported in this period. In the past four weeks African newspapers reported on ritual murder cases and related ritualistic acts in a number of SSA countries, notably in the Gambia, Ghana, Kenya, Liberia, Nigeria, Sierra Leone, South Africa, Uganda, Zimbabwe (in chronological order), with Nigeria leading this ugly list and Zimbabwe ranking second.
Having said this, two observations merit specific mentioning. First, as the list shows, the countries mentioned are all English-speaking countries (a heritage of their colonial past). This creates a distortion in the observation or analysis with a bias creating the impression that in non-anglophone countries ritual murders would not occur. Far from that! It is just a consequence of the fact that the collection of articles and reports on these heinous acts based on superstition is too narrow based. I have also reported this problem in a distinct section of this site (see under ‘Methodology’).
Secondly, and as I have also repeatedly stated on this site, we must fear that reported ritual killing cases are just the tip of the iceberg. Many cases of disappeared children, men and women remain unresolved, the bodies of the victims have successfully been hidden by the murderers. The effort of perpetrators to wipe out all traces of their crimes reveals an important aspect of nowadays ritualistic murders. The murderers know very well that their act is illegal, and constitutes one of the worst crimes one can imagine: to take the life of an innocent person for personal gains. Ritualistic acts may have been based originally – in the past – on traditional beliefs serving the interests of a community, in the course of the 20th century these practices have become criminal activities fed by a desire to become rich, famous or another selfish goal.
President Mnangagwa was speaking on the occasion of of the National Cultural Commemoration Day. He was accompanied by ZANU PF government officials and facing traditional leaders. Mnangagwa said the values of respect and honor must forever be cherished, but ritual killings and kidnappings have no place in Zimbabwe.
Zimbabweans are being confronted with a surge in ritual murders of both children and adults. People who believe ‘muti’ will bring them luck, power, prestige or good health, have been ruthlessly disregarding the sanctity of life for their own interests.
It is seldom that presidents, other high ranking government officials or cultural end traditional leaders are speaking out against these gruesome and age-old practices which have no place in a modern society where respect of human life and the rule of law must be the cornerstones of everyday life (webmaster FVDK).
Stop ritual killings: President Mnangagwa
Published: May 22, 2021 By: The Herald, Zimbabwe – Fungi Kwaramba in Gokwe
ZIMBABWEANS led by traditional leaders, as the custodians of the country’s culture, should shun ritual killings and live-in peace, unity and harmony enjoying the rich cultural diversity that the nation offers, President Mnangagwa said.
This comes as the nation has in recent months been witnessing a spike in gruesome murders of children with the murderers wantonly disregarding the sanctity of life. Apart from that cases of kidnapping of children are also on the rise.
However, such practices, the President said, have no place in Zimbabwe, a unitary state that values human life, tolerance, peace and unity which are all cornerstones of national development.
In his address on the occasion of the National Cultural Commemoration Day, that is marked globally on May 21, the President said the values of respect and honour must forever be cherished.
“The values of respect and honour must be promoted while our chiefs and traditional leaders must continue to dissuade our people to shun these so-called ritual practices. The killing of our children is not acceptable,” the President said.
He added that the convergence of people from all walks of life at Chief Njelele homestead is part of the African tradition of approaching life communally and must forever be observed as it defines, not only Zimbabweans but Africans at large.
“I want to express my profound gratitude to Mambo, Chief Njelele for allowing the nation to gather here at his homestead and to share this important day with the great people of this area.
“This tradition of communities visiting one another and celebrating important events is in keeping with our African culture and tradition. As a people, let us never lose our communal approach as we continue to build peace and cohesion among our communities and within the nation,” he said.
This year National Cultural Day commemorations were held at the homestead of Chief Njelele, under the theme “Resilience in safeguarding creativity and diversity,” an apt theme that speaks to the needs to preserve the country’s rich heritage.
The President who was accompanied by Defence Minister Oppah Muchinguri-Kashiri, who is also the ruling party Zanu PF national chairperson, Youth, Sport, Art and Recreation Minister Kirsty Coventry, Environment, Tourism and Hospitality Industry Minister Mangaliso Ndlovu, State Security Minister Owen Ncube, Government and Public Works Minister July Moyo and other senior Government officials, toured colourful exhibitions, where traditional cuisine, medicine, and instruments were on display as Zimbabweans in their diversity showcased their creativity.
The day also saw traditional artistes entertaining the gathering that thronged Chief Njelele homestead to celebrate Zimbabwe’s culture.
“I want to commend stakeholders for the magnificent cultural exhibitions and displays we toured earlier. These demonstrate the universally recognised fact that as African people, we have rich arts, customs and practices. As we have seen today, these are expressed through crafts, clothing, cuisines, music, dance, folklore (ngano), religion and languages,” he said.
But such a history can only be preserved if it is passed from one generation to another because a people without a culture is like a tree without roots, the President added.
“In line with my Governments quest to build strong cultural identity, values and ethics, I challenge families, communities and institutions to diligently nurture a society that recognises our rich cultural heritage while embracing our diversity. These must be passed on from generation to generation.
“As one philosopher once said, ‘a people without the knowledge of their past history. Origin and culture are like a tree without roots.’ While another said, ‘to know your future, you must know your past’.”
The President also saluted First Lady Amai Auxillia Mnangagwa for the role she is playing in coming up with the National Dress Fabric and reviving the Nhanga/Gota/Ixhiba.
“These programmes sustain our social cultural systems, a people premised on the African philosophy of Ubuntu/Hunhu which says, ‘I am, because you are’.
“I exhort families and communities to continue implementing these cultural practices towards protecting the youth from immoral vices and alien values,” he said.
In line with history and cultural preservation, Zimbabwe is in the process of honouring its heroes and heroines who sacrificed life and limb to defend the country’s traditional values.
“This year’s cultural commemoration entails that we also reflect on our liberation war heritage. The rich heritage interests. Research must consistently enrich studies in heritage, arts and culture with the view of informing the course for a more prosperous future. We can only ignore our history at the detriment of future generations.
“Meanwhile, I commend the youth for their determination, towards developing, publishing and broadcasting our rich liberation war heritage. This will go a long way in enriching the discussions around the country’s liberation heritage from our own.”
The President, who is also the Commander-in Chief of the Defence Forces, commended players in the arts sector for the broadcasting of the story of the iconic national heroine Mbuya Nehanda and the publication of the zography on Comrade Herbert W Chitepo, among other literal and artistic works.
“It is in this vein that on Africa Day, May 25, we will also honour and remember Mbuya Nehanda, who is one of the great authors of our revolution for national independence. I urge the youth, academia and professionals to be actively involved in the ongoing memorialisation of our heritage.
“Projects such as the establishment of the African Liberation War Museum, upgrading of our liberation battle sites, detention and restriction camps must interest our young people.
“These sites include Kamungoma in Masvingo Province, Pupu in Matabeleland North Province and Sikombela here in Gokwe District, among others.”
Meanwhile, the President promised the arts sector, which has not been spared by the crippling effects of the Covid-19 pandemic, that Government recognises the role that culture and heritage can play as a catalyst for sustainable socio-economic development, national, regional and continental integration.
“To this end, the creation of an enabling regulatory and policy framework for the development and growth of the cultural and creative sector is on-going. Cabinet has since approved the enactment of the Arts and Culture Bill which seeks to promote arts and culture as a vehicle for empowerment and employment.”
The recent surge in ritual murders and suspected cases has led to an increased awareness that something must be done to stop these crimes. The Zimbabwe National Practitioners Association (ZINPA) recently met to discuss the situation. Read below what was discussed. The two ritual murder cases referred to are not the only ones which have been reported in recent months. See my previous postings (webmaster FVDK).
Traditional Healers Hold Meeting On Ritual Killings
Published: May 19, 2021 By: Pindula, Zimbabwe
Traditional healers, prophets and community leaders in Manicaland province held an emergency meeting in the wake of ritual killings that have been reported in the province in recent months.
The tractor was found by members of the police sub-aqua unit two days before his body was discovered in Nyangani Dam.
The ritual killings have brought traditional leaders under the spotlight, amid accusations that they are the ones who prescribe human body parts to be used as charms.
A spokesperson for the Zimbabwe National Practitioners Association (ZINPA) Petronela Yeukai Chiusaru said recently they held a meeting which was attended by the police, chiefs, headmen, and traditional healers including prophets.
ZINPA Vice President Dr Hatizivi Nyamandwe urged the public to consult registered healers. He said: It was agreed that a database of all registered practitioners in that area is to be produced to the police as well as chiefs. Healers are not allowed to practice witch-hunting in the area.
Traditional healers in Zimbabwe recently convened an emergency meeting with prophets and community leaders in Manicaland province in the wake of ritual killings that have been reported in the province in recent months.
In April this year two Grade 1 pupils from Nyanga were murdered on their way home from Mbaza primary school, and their bodies were found the following day dumped in a disused toilet at an abandoned homestead.
They had deep cuts on their necks. A week later a tractor driver from Allied Timbers was also murdered and his body was found floating in Nyangani River with eyes missing.
The ritual killings have brought traditional leaders under the spotlight, amid accusations that they are the ones who prescribe human body parts to be used as charms.
Spokesperson for the Zimbabwe National Practitioners Association (ZINPA) Petronela Yeukai Chiusaru said recently they held a meeting which was attended by the police, chiefs, headmen, and traditional healers including prophets.
“ZINPA Vice President Dr Hatizivi Nyamandwe urged the public to consult registered healers. It was agreed that a database of all registered practitioners in that area is to be produced to the police as well as chiefs. Healers are not allowed to practice witch-hunting in the area,” Chiusaru said.
Warning: the following article contains graphic details, the reader may find the article shocking.
The following article from Eric Naki, the Political Eitor of The Citizen, a South African online news magazine, contains several frank observations which are worth specifically mentioning here.
First, Naki, citing an expert on ritual murders, Dr Alunamutwe Rannditsheni, from Limpopo province, tells us that ritual murders are a worldwide phenomenon, occurring not only in Africa or Sub-Saharan Africa. I am very happy with this expert-observation even though it results in mixed feelings because of its sad contents. I have also mentioned it in my introduction to this website on ritual killing, witchcraft and superstition in African countries (‘Why publish this site‘).
Secondly, reportedly, kidnappings, human trafficking, and ritual murders, often referred to as ‘muti murders’, are well-known crimes in nearly all 16 member-states of the Southern Africa Development Community (SADC). This is shocking. The combined population living in the 16 SADC-countries totals about 300 million people.
Lastly, the well-informed author confirms the ghastly details of the way muti murders are committed. Organs or other body parts are extracted live from the poor and helpless victims, not seldom children. The reality is sometimes too hard to describe and too revolting to imagine.
Ritual murders, human trafficking, kidnappings, and associated fear and torture are a plague in many African countries and must stop immediately. To the governments which have a sacred obligation to protect their citizens I would say: ‘If you’re not part of the solution, you’re part of the problem.’ (webmaster FVDK).
Muti murders: ‘Genitals only work if cut from live victims’
Published: May 20, 2021 By: The Citizen, South Africa – Eric Naki
Victims were lured with promises of jobs, but when they arrived at the destination, they would be abducted and taken away to have their body parts cut off.
An expert on ritual murders, Dr Alunamutwe Rannditsheni, from Limpopo, said ritual killings were a worldwide phenomenon and not only an African problem.
Almost all of the SADC countries experienced ritual killing-related kidnappings and human trafficking.
A 2008 investigation by the Human Rights League in Mozambique found such murders were rife in the country. It found people were trafficked between countries with the purpose to remove parts to be trafficked separately.
The league, which interviewed survivors, eye-witnesses, families of victims and civil society in Mozambique and South Africa, found body parts were forcibly removed from children and adults, causing death or severe disability.
“Throughout the report, informants share personal experiences, which confirm that body parts are taken across the border between South Africa and Mozambique.”
A custom’s official in Sofala province, Mozambique, said: “They say the treatments with genital organs only work if they are taken from a person alive.”
In some instances in Mozambique, victims were beheaded before the parts were removed.
“The murderer cut her throat like she was a goat. He cut her head just like that and removed her genital organs, leaving all the rest,” the report quoted a police officer at Cabo Delgado Province, Mozambique as saying.
In another case, a female stall holder at Ressano Garcia on the border with South Africa was fingered for ritual murders.
“The police searched and found that she was carrying genital organs of adult men … I don’t know how many exactly, it was several. But they were from adult men, I saw them myself,” an officer said.
Cases of muti killings were also reported in Zimbabwe, Botswana, Mozambique, Swaziland, Lesotho, Malawi and Tanzania. People living with albinism were the main targets in Tanzania.
Community leader and businessman Phumudzo Mukhwati alleged the ritual murder gangs had spread to provinces such as KwaZulu-Natal, Mpumalanga, North West and Gauteng.
Victims were lured with promises of jobs, but when they arrived at the destination, they would be abducted and taken away to have their body parts cut off in Limpopo or a neighbouring country.
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.
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.
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.
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).
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.
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.
More ritual murder cases have been reported recently whereas – as I have said repeatedly – discovered or reported cases are just the tip of the iceberg. I fear that most cases remain unknown to the outside world, even within the country.
According to the report presented below, ritual killings of kids are on the rise after the Tapiwa Makore ritual murder. To listen to the report, click on the link below the screenshot. More in the next few days (webmaster FVDK).