…neighbourhood shattered by ‘Mariro’s’ death
HE attended every funeral in Mabvuku/Tafara since he was a teenager, had become a household name for his humility and love towards his neighbours and made death “so much easier” even for those whose funerals are not ordinarily “attractive”.
BY RICHARD CHIDZA
Born John Abraham, he was, according to locals, nicknamed Mariro (a Shona word for mourning) because he never missed a funeral.
“He was a humble and harmless human being full of love and generous that he united churches, political parties and all the people in this area,” former MDC-T councillor Casper Takura told NewsDay Weekender.
“We are all the poorer for his loss and the whole area is in mourning.”
Takura summed up the air of gloom currently gripping Mabvuku/Tafara on the eastern fringes of Harare in the aftermath of Mariro’s death.
He was reportedly bludgeoned to death by unidentified assailants ironically for money he had been given by an admirer.
“For some funny reason while the local cemetery has always seen an average of five burials, Mariro was the only person laid to rest on Wednesday (last week). It was a mystery that a man who had helped lay to rest hundreds, if not thousands, decided to go alone when his day came,” Takura added.
Harare’s poor neighbourhood of Mabvuku/Tafara is well-known at least in Zimbabwe’s capital for producing some of the country’s biggest actors, but local residents remember Mariro as “the greatest hero”.
His sister Anne described Mariro as simply “a loving man who never had a problem with anyone”.
“We are really not sure what happened but, he as usual had attended a funeral and burial at the local cemetery, came home and was playing with his nephews outside our home last Saturday. That is the last time I saw him alive.
He disappeared as usual and we just thought he was at one of the many funerals he ordinarily attended in the area.
“He did not come back and on Sunday I realised he had not eaten his food. I did not think anything bad had happened to him, but around mid-morning someone came and informed us that a body had been discovered in the Bhobho informal settlement (part of the adjacent Caledonia Farm),” Anne said.
Takura said information gathered indicated that Mariro had attended the burial of a local man who had been working as a gardener in one of Harare’s most affluent suburbs.
“The dead man’s boss had been so impressed with Mariro’s work ethic and humility that he reportedly gave him $100 as a token of appreciation. It is probably this money that attracted his killers who seem to have trekked him before pouncing on him late on Saturday,” Takura said.
According to Anne, Mariro’s body was discovered outside a shack in the nearby informal settlement.
“Surprisingly, the people inside that hut claimed they did not hear any noises or Mariro’s struggle for life, but people metres away from the shack told us they heard someone crying for help. He did not have one of his shoes, his cap was inside the fence that surrounds the shack while his belt was untied,” she said, adding her brother could have met a painful death.
Raphael, a nephew, had no kind words for the police whom he said had “made fun of our pain”.
“Local police officers laughed off the issue and treated John (Mariro) as sub-human. When we reported the matter, they did not assign anyone or try to cordon off the area for clues to his death. We were, as a family, also not asked about events leading to his death,” Raphael said.
Police chief spokesperson Senior Assistant Commissioner Charity Charamba said police had not received a complaint from the family.
“We have not received that report, but I can assure you we will investigate it. We do not allow our officers to tease anyone who comes to report a case, let alone a grieving family. We urge the public to report any case in which they are not happy with police conduct. As a force, we are driven by the motto of treating all citizens fairly and equally with the respect they all deserve,” Charamba said.
From the young to the old, Mariro’s death has touched many souls.
Legend has it that he at one time was the only mourner when a widow lost her son. “She could not afford food or the other provisions that are associated with today’s funerals so people had shunned her, but Mariro stood by her. She attended his burial and seemed gutted by his death,” Mbuya Taderera said.
“Our local parish will never be the same without him. From Chizhanje to Old Tafara, they all came to mourn his death.”
Mariro, according to Mbuya Musoso, was “a forthright Catholic”.
“He was a Catholic like no other and offered his service to God until his last day. His death is a great loss to the parish,” she said.
Collen Musoso, a fellow usher who worked with Mariro, said he would miss the “principal mourner”.
“We learnt a lot from him and came to appreciate him although he was born with a mental problem. He gave his all to the church,” Musoso said.
So well-known and appreciated was Mariro that his death was announced at all schools across Mabvuku/Tafara.