SLEEPING under a heap of sacks in the heart of Harare, Panashe Uchena (16) appeared traumatised and disoriented.
Life on the streets of Harare is all he has known for the past decade, surviving on food handouts and sleeping in the open.
The recent unfolding events in his territory, where five of his colleagues were gruesomely murdered and eaten by one of their own who has gone rogue, has left him wondering who is next.
“I am lucky to be alive, I could be dead by now. Imagine being roasted for relish,” Uchena said.
As he slept at his usual spot near Town House, visibly intoxicated, Uchena could not hide his fears.
The suspected killer, Thandolwenkosi Ndlovu (20), a fellow urchin, has since appeared in court facing five counts of murder.
“He has been arrested, but I am still afraid. The streets are not safe anymore,” Uchena said.
He recounted how he witnessed bodies of his colleagues lying lifeless with several body parts missing.
“It was scary, especially when I saw the dead bodies of the victims. Blood was all over, bowls out. I do not know what came over him (Ndlovu),” Uchena recalled.
Another street urchin, Blessing Maungwa (17), said though they are relieved by Ndlovu’s arrest, it was scary to continue living on the streets.
“When we lost one of us, we thought the murderer was a ritualist from somewhere. It was a torrid week for us when we learnt that more street kids were being killed,” he said.
“The streets became hell. We did not know who was next. We left everything in the hands of God.”
As the battle for survival continues, the street kids have devised ways of protecting themselves from further attacks.
“We are living in fear of being attacked because of the cruel murders on some of us and since then, we are now sleeping in groups so as to protect ourselves. He should stay in jail and not come out because we are scared for our lives,” said Prosper, another street dweller.
Ndlovu was arrested and charged with eight counts of murder in Harare and Bulawayo.
According to police, Ndlovu, whose street moniker was Sauro, committed the crimes between August 28 and September 6 in Harare, where he targeted homeless people.
He allegedly committed three other murder cases in Bulawayo in 2020.
It is alleged that he targeted street kids who would be fast asleep and would crush their heads with boulders, chop off their genitals using broken bottles, rip open their bowls and dismember them.
Ndlovu would then either boil or roast the human flesh on an open fire and eat it.
Ndlovu was caught on September 4 along Rotten Row in the capital moments after he had tried to attack another street kid.
Zimbabwe National Traditional Healers’ Association president George Kandiyero said though they were still investigating Ndlovu’s intentions, his actions are synonymous with a ritualist murderer.
“Unfortunately, this is still under investigation to know how the issue will end, but all in all, if it is true that he was roasting and eating human flesh, then it could be insanity, but at the same time could be his beliefs of gaining some certain power from that. This is definitely found on the dark side, and it is not clear at all,” he said.
“We had a meeting with (national police spokesperson) Assistant Commissioner Paul Nyathi, we are still investigating to get more information to know whether he is working for someone and selling the human parts or he is just protecting them by stating that he was consuming the flesh,” he said.
Zimbabwe has been experiencing several cases of gruesome murders and emergence of serial killers.
A few years ago, suspected serial rapist and killer Bright Zhantali was arrested after killing more than 20 women in Harare, Macheke and Marondera, while ex-cop Jaison Muvhevhi gunned down three people in a single day early this year.
Meanwhile, two street kids were attacked and left nursing serious injuries in central Harare on Thursday night.
When NewsDay Weekender arrived at the scene, one had his face crushed with a stone and thrown in a ditch, while the other had blood all over his body.
Chitungwiza-based Johane Masowe Echishanu prophet Simbarashe Nengomasha, popularly known as Madzibaba Simba, said it is high time churches unite and exorcise the killer demon.
“A lot has been happening in this country as far as shedding the blood of innocent people by individuals is concerned. This is the time for churches to unite and pray for the nation so that we avoid the spilling of blood like this. We need to exorcise this demon once and for all,” he said.
Harare nights are no longer enjoyable for Uchena and other street kids.
Though Sauro has been removed from the streets, they are still living in fear and feel that more attackers could be trailing them.