Four women and a baby allegedly killed by a three-man gang in Stanmore near Gwanda a week ago could have been murdered for ritual purposes, as it emerged their bodies were reportedly mutilated, NewsDay can reveal.
Sources told NewsDay, the three-man gang accused of killing Mthombani Moyo (81), Senzokuhle Moyo (44), Melgina Mahlangu (62) and Nothando Dziba (20) as well as her seven-month-old baby, whose name was not given, had implicated a local businessman as the mastermind of the operation.
Although the businessman was not mentioned by the police last week, sources said he was also arrested and they believed it was in connection with the killings that are believed to have occurred between November 18 and December 8 this year.
Sources said the businessman in question had been picked up by police initially for stocktheft but was later implicated in the alleged ritual murders.
“It is believed that the breasts that were missing from the women were cut off to enhance the businessman’s butchery operations. People fear that although these people were robbed of their goods after disembarking from public transport along the Bulawayo-Gwanda highway at Stanmore terminus, the real motive was to take body parts from them for ritual purposes hence the alleged involvement of the businessperson,” a source said.
Matabeleland South police spokesperson Inspector Tafanana Dzirutwe confirmed the arrest of the businessman but refused to comment on the witchcraft allegations saying the case was now before the courts.
“The businessman was picked up on suspicion of cases of theft of stock, he was not arrested for murder. It is important to clarify that. However, we might have reason to interview him later in connection with the murder cases.”
But police sources said the suspects fingered the businessman as having been the one who sent them to kill after he had been arrested for stocktheft.
A police source explained why they were mainly interested in proving murder charges against the gang first before looking at the possible role of the businessman.
“Murder is unlawful, that is what the police go for first and they cannot go to court and start inferring that these were ritual murders because they cannot prove it and again the issue of the breasts is a bit complicated because these bodies were found in an advanced stage of decomposition and might have been gnawed by maggots but as you say the villagers believe the breasts were actually taken off,” said the source.
“There are other things that give rise to the suspicion of witchcraft because when the bodies of the women were found they had their waists tied with head-scarfs.”
The three-man gang waylaid its victims as they disembarked from buses or other public transport at Stanmore bus station and took them to a nearby bush and robbed them of their goods before killing them.
The three were arrested after allegedly murdering 81-year-old Mthombani Moyo on December 8.
The family had been expecting her home and when she did not arrive they conducted a search for her resulting in the discovery of the bodies which were in an advanced state of decomposition.
Investigations led to the arrest of the three men who are reported to have already been in court for initial remand.