Increase in child ritual murders, a cause for concern

Regina Pasipanodya

In September 2021, the decapitated body of Tapiwa Makore, a seven year old boy from Nyamutumbu village in Murehwa  was laid to rest, a year after he had been gruesomely murdered.

His head was missing and hasn’t been found until today.

A day after his disappearance, the minor’s torso was found being mauled by dogs whilst his hands and legs were later found dumped in a disused blair toilet in the village.

Yesterday, two prime suspects  in the boy’s murder, Tafadzwa Shamba and  Tapiwa Makore Snr were found guilty of killing him, in case of ritual murder.

The late Tapiwa Makore’s funeral proceedings

A judgment delivered by Justice Munamato Mutevedzi found Shamba guilty of murdering the boy while Makore Snr was convicted of as an accomplice to the murder of the boy.

According to Shamba’s confession, the boy was drugged, killed and mutilated so that they could sell his body parts to a witch doctor for US$1 500 as well as boost their cabbage business.

Justice Munamato Mutevedzi chastised the two for preying on the child “like butchers on a slaughtered beast.”

Tapiwa Mokore’s case is one of many child murders that have sparked a larger national conversation about child safety in Zimbabwe.  

Child murders in Zimbabwe

Just like any other African country, reports of child murders linked to ritual killings have become the order of the day in Zimbabwe and this has tainted the reputation of the country which used to be regarded as one of the safest and most peaceful places on the continent.

Over the years, countless children have gone missing and some found dead in isolated places with their bodies dismembered.

On the 4th of  December, 2020, eight year old Trevor Mpxashike from Masocha Village under chief Zimuto was murdered by his uncle Clever Chitiga who after allegedly beheading him,  shaved his head in hot water and pounded it using a hoe handle and pestle before boiling the result in a cooking pot, preparing it for consumption.

He went on to  dump the rest of the body in a nearby dam after wrapping it with a mosquito net.

The gruesome murder happened when the boy, who was in Grade 2 at Matova Primary School had sought shelter from heavy rains at Chitiga’s home.  

Four months later, seven year old Dylan and his cousin Melissa Benza from Sambaza Village in Nyanga were also murdered for suspected ritual purposes. The two cousins went missing in April 2021 on their way from school and their bodies were found in an abandoned house in the village, along the road children in the area use every day to walk to school, with deep cuts on their necks.

Michael Benza, left, visits his son’s grave. The 7-year-old was murdered in a suspected ritual killing. (Pic by Gamuchirai Masiyiwa/Global Press Journal)

Two man who live in the village were arrested in connection to the murder of the Benza children are held in custody pending trial.

On the 22nd of September 2022, the body of a six year old Early Childhood Development (ECD)pupil, Zvikomborero Gumedhe from Mabwematema under Chief Hwedza in Zvishavane was found in the Mabwematema mountains with no clothes on, two days after she had gone missing whilst on her way back from school.

The late Zvikomborero Gumedhe

Cultural beliefs and Ritual Killings of Children in Zimbabwe

In Sub-Saharan Africa, witchcraft and ritual killings have a strong cultural and societal presence with a significant impact on the lives of many people as they are seen manifesting themselves in horrible acts like child murders.

Some witch-doctors and traditional healers have long promoted the idea that the blood of young children is pure and can bring good fortune and luck and that body parts may be used in rituals intended to create wealth.

“Many people are being deceived by traditional leaders into believing that spilling blood of innocence children is a good luck charm that guarantees them wealth that is beyond comprehension,” George Kandiero, president of the Zimbabwe National Traditional Healers Association (ZINATHA) told She Corresponds Africa.  

Kandiero added that their organization does not condone such evil practices.

“We are against the use of children’s or any human’s body parts as a remedy for whatever ailment or situation. If any of our members is found guilty of such, their membership will be revoked and they will be prosecuted,” he said.  

Communities  agony over the needless death of children

One of the legislators who has been vocal on issues affecting children in the 9th parliament is Trevor Saruwaka, MP for Mutare Central. In September 2022, he demanded the Minister of Home Affairs and Cultural Heritage, Kazembe Kazembe appear before parliament to answer on why many cases involving child murders were not being solved with the police.

Watch: Hon Saruwaka speak on ritual child murders in Zimbabwe

In  a recent interview with She Corresponds Africa, Saruwaka said various communities in Zimbabwe were in turmoil due to countless cases of child murders that in recent years have taken the country by storm.

“I am aware that Zimbabweans are concerned about the needless loss of young lives that has been happening over the recent years due to ritualistic murders.

As a member of parliament, I was hoping that these cases are concluded swiftly since it appeared that for most of them, evidence was pointing towards the suspects but time has elapsed and nothing tangible has been done to apprehend the criminals.

It is sad to know that those who were arrested as suspects have been let off the hook.

On top of that, we have the biggest challenge of having a country populated by fake prophets and traditional leaders. Where are they when the nation needs them the most?

If possible I would also want to suggest that the judiciary system, consider an eye for an eye, especially for those convicted of murder as a nation we are hoping that the Minister of Home   Affairs will uphold the commitment he made before parliament last year to address these issues swiflty so that the society can be at ease especially the families that have suffered such losses,” said Saruwaka.

Police Intervention

National Police Spokesperson Assistant Commissioner Inspector Paul Nyathi told She Corresponds Africa that several cases regarding child murders have been reported over the years and the numbers are so worrying but as the police they are still conducting the investigations to bring criminals to book.

“For example, the Tapiwa Makore case is before the courts, the Benza children case is also before the courts, a case of a child that was murdered in Masvingo with her body parts kept in a pot among others are also before the courts,” said Assistant Commissioner Nyathi.

“As the police, we are now on high alert, and for all reported cases most of them are still under investigation since suspects have been arrested.

“However, it is worrying that nowadays several allegations are being made regarding child murders where people talk about rituals and others talk about getting rich quickly and sadly others would be setting scores by killing one’s child.

“Therefore, there is a need for society to restrain and recognize child rights. As the police, we are getting child murders more often these days. Since 2022 the number of reported cases surpassed 10 which I believe is too much,” said Assistant Commissioner Inspector Nyathi.

“As the police we are urging  communities to protect children in the best way they can and should avoid being hoodwinked by n’angas (traditional healers) who encourage rituals for people to get fortunes,” he added.

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