Cletus Mushanawani in Mutasa
There was commotion yesterday at the burial of seven-year-old Benza cousins murdered in Mutasa last week, with relatives demanding post-mortem results, and wanting to dump the bodies at the homesteads of the two suspects.
This resulted in the delay of the burial by four hours.
Police and soldiers were deployed at the funeral to ensure peace prevailed and they had a torrid time trying to calm down the restive relatives, who even hackled speakers, accusing them of trying to cover up when they omitted in their speeches what the mourners thought was crucial information.
Family elders, Roman Catholic priests, local traditional leaders and the law enforcement agents had to intervene to restore order and have the children buried.
Although the burial of Delane and Melissa Benza was scheduled for 10am, it was conducted only after 2pm, with the restive crowd demanding justice.
The Benza family believe that their children, who were in Grade One at St Robert’s Mbaza Primary School, were murdered for ritual purposes and they wanted to know the post-mortem results, which the police had promised to given them before the burial.
Two suspects, Solomon Manyama and Passmore Sambaza, have since been arrested in connection with the case.
The two appeared before Nyanga magistrate Ms Constance Marutya facing murder charges on Tuesday and were remanded in custody to May 6.
Manyama became the prime suspect after he was allegedly the person last seen with Delane and Melissa and when he was phoned by villagers during the night when the children disappeared, he allegedly gave three conflicting statements.
Sambaza was arrested after a blood-stained T-shirt and a blood-stained hoe where recovered from his parents’ homestead.
By 9am more than 100 people had converged at the Benza homestead in the Mhanda area of Mutasa.
The crowd continued swelling as the day progressed and by mid-day, more than 500 people had converged.
The funeral proceedings started early morning with the family taking the bodies to the scene of their death as is tradition.
Tension began mounting when some of the bitter relatives wanted to take the bodies to the Manyama and Sambaza homesteads, but had to be refrained by the family elders and traditional leaders.
A church service led by Roman Catholic priests was conducted without any incident. Interjections started when Benza family spokesperson Mr Johannes Benza was given the floor to explain to the crowd what had transpired from the day when the two disappeared up to the discovery of their bodies in a blair toilet at the abandoned Sambaza homestead.
Some relatives accused him of being economic with the truth, saying his narration was not conclusive.
He was later summoned back to explain some grey areas in his narration by Headman Sachirarwe and there was further disturbances when he spoke of Manyama and Sambaza, with the crowd saying it was common cause that the two had a hand in the disappearance and eventual murder of Delane and Melissa.
Melissa’s father, Mr Douglas Benza, did not mince his words and called for the dethroning of the Manyama family as the village head.
“We cannot allow murderers to lead us and I am asking the traditional leadership to ensure that the Benzas take over the village reigns,” he said, amid applauses from the gathering.
“I will assume that position because I want to ensure that justice prevails for our slain children without any interference from anyone.”
Headman Sachirarwe said justice should prevail in the matter.
“Although the law is taking its course, we are still to come to terms with this grisly murder,” he said. “Our land has been defiled and something should be done to cleanse it. Delane and Melissa’s souls can never rest because they died a cruel death and we will also deal with those found to be behind the murder to send a clear message to would-be offenders that shedding of blood is taboo in Mutasa area.”
Things came to a boil when police failed to avail the post-mortem results, despite the fact that the director of ceremony had announced they would.
Some broke into song and dance denouncing the suspects. Others vowed to refill the graves that had been prepared for the burial of the two children to stop the burial, while some threatened to take the bodies and dump them at the Manyama and Sambaza homesteads.
Headman Sachirarwe had a torrid time calming the restive crowd as they heckled anyone who tried to stop them from singing.
Police and soldiers also moved in and restored order, resulting in the conclusion of the funeral proceedings, as well as the burial of the two children.
Deputy president of the Senate, Senator Mike Nyambuya, who represents Manicaland and has been assigned special oversight for Nyanga and Mutasa by his party, attended the burial.
Earlier on he had called on the Benzas to allow the law to take its course.
He also called for the enacting of legislation that punishes both those who incite people to do ritual killings and the perpetrators.
“We are still in shock because of what happened here,” said Sen Nyambuya. Where have our norms and values gone? We should respect the sanctity of human life. Laws should be enacted to punish those who incite people to do ritual killings and the perpetrators.
“The nation is still mourning the death of Tapiwa Makore from Murehwa and now we are here today to bury the two Benza children who were ruthlessly murdered and we don’t know who will be the next victim.
“Communities should be on the look-out for ritual killers because they can also target adults. All those convicted should face the full wrath of the law.”