ON a hot Wednesday afternoon this week, silence engulfed Shashe Crescent in Mabvuku where mourners gathered to pay their last respects to cleric and pro-democracy activist Tapfumaneyi Masaya, who was killed in yet another case of suspected state-sponsored abduction, torture and murder.
They must have been restless and anxious from waiting for an update from family members and area leadership that had gone to the Parirenyatwa Group of Hospitals for a post mortem to determine the actual cause of death.
Masaya was abducted in broad daylight during a door-to-door campaign on Saturday 11 November 2023, drumming up support for the opposition party’s MP candidate, Munyaradzi Febion Kufahakutizwi, who was expelled from Parliament in the first batch of recalls by a man posturing as the party’s secretary-general, Sengezo Tshabangu.
By-elections will be held on 9 December in the five constituencies whose MPs were recalls. The mutilated body of the cleric and pro-democracy activist, Masaya, was discovered two days later at the intersection of Arcturus and Lobo roads in Cleveland area and positively identified by his wife at the Parirenyatwa Group of Hospitals’ mortuary despite having been swollen.
The body was found naked.
A few hours after our arrival at the core house where Masaya and his family had lived till Saturday 11 November, some distraught but intoxicated opposition party supporters belted out songs that accused the Zanu PF candidate for Mabvuku-Tafara constituency and a close ally of the First Family, Pedzai “Scott” Sakupwanya, as the person behind the abduction and murder of Masaya.
“Scott ndiwe wakauraya hazvina mhosva pahukama. (Scott you are behind this murder, but it is okay),” they would break into song.
The song was sung repeatedly, while many people bemoaned the fact that a peace-loving pastor was killed just because someone desperately wants to enter Parliament.
“Amai nababa musandicheme kana ndafa neZanu, ndini ndakazvida kubvisa Zanu pamwechete nevamwe vangu (Mother and father, do not mourn me when Zanu PF kills me. It is I who chose to remove Zanu PF from power alongside my friends),” they sang.
In between the silence and the songs were screams and cries from relatives who would intermittently arrive at the Masaya residence.
Masaya leaves behind a wife, a son and two daughters. Although the murder was shocking, human rights and opposition activists say violence has been an operating manual for the ruling party and state security agents.
Tonderai Dombo, a party member, who was part of the search party, said Mabvuku residents know Masaya’s assailants.
“We have since made it known to the police that those people were positively identified during the abduction of two of our members. Unfortunately, one of them didn’t make it back home to his family, that is why we are gathered here to mourn his death,” he said.
Mourners expressed frustration at the lack of action by the police.
“We know that ZRP Mabvuku has got all the names which we have made known to them; the people who were part of the entourage of vehicles that hijacked and abducted our comrades,” said one of the mourners.
“So the matter has been reported to the police and we are surprised that the police have not acted.” The deceased’s brother, Edwin Masaya, said they would ideally want to have the perpetrators brought to book by the authorities.
“From the pain induced by this murder, we would be hoping that the perpetrators would have bad things befall them or even have them caught by the police and arraigned before the courts,” he said.
“We have seen and heard that opposition activists’ disappearances and murders are barely a priority for the police, but we do not know who did this.”
Amid the confusion surrounding the abduction and murder and all the emotions around the loss of a father, a husband and a church leader, presidential spokesperson George Charamba believes that the positively identified body is not that of Masaya.
Masaya’s death was widely condemned.
“The Zimbabwean government must promptly investigate the death of Tapfumaneyi Masaya, a CCC activist who went missing in Mabvuku on 11 November 2023 and was found dead yesterday,” Amnesty International Zimbabwe said on their X account.
The Zimbabwe Human Rights NGO Forum, weighed in, saying: “The Zimbabwe Human Rights NGO Forum (the Forum) registers its concerns regarding the discomforting and shocking recent wave of political intolerance that has manifested in abductions/enforced disappearances of dissenting voices in the post-election phase. In one recent instance, this uncheckered wave has culminated in an unnecessary and unfortunate loss of life.”
On the eve of Masaya’s disappearance, Harare Youth Quota Member of Parliament, Takudzwa Ngadziore, was abducted and he fortunately caught the faces of his gun wielding abductors on a seven second posted live video on Facebook.
Many believe he was dumped in the Mt Hampden area a few hours later, because the faces of his tormentors were all over social media and they had to abort the mission, but they injected him with a substance which is yet to be known.
It was Ngadziore’s second abduction, with the first one occurring outside Impala Car Rental where he ended up at Harare Central Police Station.
On 23 October, former member of Parliament for Mabvuku-Tafara, James Chidhakwa, was abducted and dumped in Arcturus. His dreadlocks were cut and his feet were bleeding, suggesting he was cut with sharp objects.
He also suffered a fractured leg and pelvis. Earlier on 2 September 2023, Harare’s elected Ward 27 councillor, Womberaiishe Nhende and Sanele Mkhuhlane, were abducted in similar fashion, by men in an unmarked Toyota Fortuner vehicle at Selbourne Routledge in Harare. They were dumped in Mapinga about 73 kilometres from Harare and in line with the modus operandi, they were injected with unknown substances.
After the first batch of recalls, Parliament was ungovernable for three hours until all CCC members were removed from the House.
In the aftermath, on 16 October 2023, Harare West lawmaker, Joana Mamombe, sent an SOS that gun-toting men had jumped into her residential yard.
On 27 August 2023, former Marondera West councillor Nelson Mukwenha (2018-2023) under the MDC-Alliance was abducted after he jumped to the defence of Citizens’ Coalition for Change spokesperson Promise Mkwananzi, when Law and Order section police details, who had not identified themselves, wanted to forcefully snatch Mkwananzi during the Press briefing.
A few hours later, the Citizens’ Coalition for Change put out a notice that Mukwenha had been abducted and he had been found.
These are the cases that have been reported during and after the 23 August 2023 general elections, but, well before that, dissenters have been abducted and killed or are yet to be found. Elections in Zimbabwe are generally bloody.
On the eve of the 23 August elections, Tafadzwa Chitsunge, a CCC supporter was killed in cold blood during an election campaign programme in Glen View, Harare.
His killers are all out on bail, and they were not charged with murder but, surprisingly, incitement to commit public violence. In the run up to the by-elections of 26 March 2022, another CCC activist, Mboneni Ncube, was killed in cold blood at an opposition rally.
In 2020, Mamombe, Cecilia Chimbiri and Netsai Marova were abducted from Harare Central Police Station and dumped in Mashonaland Central province.
In every election period, a life is lost. Well before Mnangagwa ascended to presidency, in 2008, opposition activist Tonderai Ndira was abducted and was found murdered days later.
In 2015, journalist and activist Itai Dzamara disappeared without a trace. Many opposition activists were also murdered during the 2008 run-off election campaign.