AS police and Parirenyatwa Hospital staff called in the exhausted and anxious search team into a morgue, slain main opposition CCC activist Pastor Tapfumaneyi Masaya’s son was struck with horror.
He was shaken to the core, a bundle of nerves.
Police and hospital medical staff deal in dead bodies. It comes with the territory.
A dead body marks a staggering awakening of reality, and finality at best. It embodies death.
Facing his father’s body hit him hard.
But that was not the only problem: The body, which reportedly was injected with some toxic substance, was naked, mutilated and battered beyond recognition.
The face was crushed. His private parts were tied with a wire. The body was decomposing.
The cruelty with which he was murdered was gruesome.
As Masaya’s son inched closer, he looked horrified. He looked at the body and failed to identify it. He tried to look at the boot the deceased was wearing, but no clue could be seen.
The son initially said it was not him.
So the search party led by Mabvuku Ward 21 councillor Alexio Nyakudya had to dig deeper into more creative and cerebral ways of identifying the body.
A member of the team, Tonderai Dombo, spoke to The NewsHawks about the macabre situation and the atmosphere of horror which enveloped the group at Parirenyatwa.
“It was a horrifying event. We had received a call from a contact person in the funeral parlour while we were still at Chabwino farm searching for his body because we feared he had been killed. The person said we should rush to Parirenyatwa Hospital because a body had arrived with CCC regalia,” Dombo said.
“We rushed there. Police and hospital staff checked our IDs [national identity numbers] and then allowed us in. Me and Masaya’s son remained outside chatting while others went in. They failed to identify him. So the son had to go in to help. Horror-struck, he also failed. At one point, he said it was not him. We were sceptical and tried to look for more clues. The body was battered beyond recognition. He had one shoe on him, but that did not help either.”
Nyakudya and his team then enquired from police — who had found the body and taken it to Parirenyatwa — where the clothes were.
They were then told they had been taken to Rhodesville Police Station in Harare. So the search party went there.
“We left Parirenyatwa and went to Rhodesville late afternoon on Monday November 13 — the very day we had done the search at the farm where we thought he could have been dumped like former Mabvuku MP James Chidhakwa on 23 October. We spoke to the police about the issue. They agreed to show us the clothes. Nyakudya was shown the clothes — the CCC overalls he was wearing; a T-shirt with recalled MP Munyaradzi Kufahakutizwi emblazoned on it.
That brought the reality home that Masaya was indeed gone. At that point we were almost 100% sure it was him, although we still needed DNA tests to confirm, especially because George Charamba [President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s spokesperson] came up with a bizarre theory that we had stolen a body to make a political case.
“From there we went where he had started the day – at Kufahakutizwi’s home. Masaya was abducted while campaigning for the recalled MP. We had left people gathered. So we had to go back to inform the people. We also went to Masaya’s home to inform his family about what had happened. We had left his wife at Kufahakutizwi’s house, but by that time we returned she had left. We informed her and she looked devastated. We then planned events for the following day, including taking the wife to Parirenyatwa. That’s where the DNA was later done using material from the sister to confirm beyond reasonable doubt it was him. From there preparations for the funeral and burial were done. It was a disturbing situation and experience. No one deserves to die that way. It was brutal, cruel and barbaric. You can even begin to imagine how a peaceful man like Pastor Masaya went through during his last moments through the gruesome murder.”
Meanwhile, Masaya’s family, relatives and friends expected the police to play their part beyond just recovering the body.
Police investigation goals include preserving the crime scene and gathering evidence, establishing the victim’s identity, determining cause and time of death, finding and interviewing witnesses, reconstructing the victim’s last hours or days, establishing suspect identities, locating suspects, and arresting suspects and preparing for prosecution.
Investigators must consider homicide statistics, types of homicides, and methods of committing homicide during this stage. Tactics used in the investigation relate to the initial police response, suspect handling, victim identification, forensic medical examination, evidence collection, and media relations.
Even though police were given names of the suspects, they have done next to nothing about it.
So the suspects are still roaming the streets scot-free despite that police were given the names of the Zanu PF-connected assailants, some of them with links to the ruling party candidate in the looming Mabvuku-Tafara by-election Pedzai “Scott” Sakupwanya.
A number of by-elections will take place on 9 December after recalls of CCC MPs, senators and councillors by opposition activist Sengezo Tshabangu who fraudulently claims to be the party’s interim secretary-general.
Tshabangu’s action, aided and abetted by Zanu PF, Parliament and the judiciary, as well state security agents, has given the ruling party an opportunity to secure a two-thirds parliamentary majority amid President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s secret plans for a third term.
A two-thirds majority will help Zanu PF amend the constitution and change it where necessary to facilitate the process strongly opposed by Vice-President Constantino Chiwenga and his political allies.
Soon after Masaya was abducted, the CCC activists in Mabvuku gave police the names of four suspects.
However, 23 days later no one has been arrested and there has been little interest to get down to the bottom of the murder saga.
Tapfumaneyi was abducted together with his fellow activist Jeffrey Kalosi on 11 November during the party’s by-elections campaign.
Kalosi was severely beaten and dumped hours later at Chabwino Farm not far from the area where Tapfumaneyi’s body was found the following day.
A police statement issued on Monday confirmed the discovery of a body a day earlier on Sunday, but they maintained the body had not been positively identified.
“The ZRP is conducting investigations in connection with the location of a body at the intersection of Arcturus Road and Lobo Road in the Cleveland area of Harare on November 12,” national police spokesperson Assistant Commissioner Paul Nyathi said.
“The identity of the victim is yet to be established. More details will be released in due course as investigations unfold.”
The body was then identified by Masaya’s son and his wife. Initially they struggled and failed to identify the body as it was battered beyond recognition.
The only clue that indicated it was him were the clothes. DNA later confirmed the situation.
Assistant Commissioner Nyathi refused to comment on progress made in investigations when The NewsHawks called.
He said he was preparing a public statement on the matter which would be posted on the police’s X social media page.
Police later released a statement saying investigations were still in progress although he said indications were that “this is purely a murder case.”
“The Zimbabwe Republic Police wishes to appeal to the public or politicians to allow investigations to proceed normally without any form of distraction or interference. Current investigations, though still in motion, indicates that this purely a murder case,” Nyathi said.
Soon after the body’s discovery, Masaya’s widow Maria Zhuwao told The NewsHawks she was shocked by the state it was in.
“I almost could not recognise him, he was naked, his body was swollen, but his shoes sold him out and I knew that the body that lay lifeless at the mortuary at Parirenyatwa was my husband,” a distraught Zhuwao said.
Zhuwao explained in utter disbelief how a man she left on the morning of Saturday 12 November 2023, well and alive, was found at the corner of Arcturus Road and Lobo Road in the Cleveland area, cold, mutilated and lifeless two days later.
“I left him in the house in the morning like we would do any other day and he told me that he would be going to the door-to-door campaign. He was asking me why I was going to work, but I wanted to go to work. Part of me was not keen to go, but I encouraged myself to go, hoping to see my husband when I returned home,” said Zhuwao.
This was the last time they were to see each other and embrace each other as was custom in their household.
“When I returned at around 6pm, I checked the ground where they used to meet, hoping to see a crowd, but I did not see anyone, so I decided to rush home so that I would see him and ask him how the door-to-door campaign had played out. As I reached home, I saw four women under our tree and I asked them how the day went and they said it didn’t go well, people were beaten,” said the grieving widow.
At that moment, she was yet to discover the shocking revelation of her husband’s disappearance.
“The four women followed me inside the house and they said my husband and his friend Jeff had been taken by men who were in an unmarked vehicle. They said that both of them were blindfolded and thoroughly beaten by their abductors,” said Zhuwao as she tried to put the events in chronological order.
He did not survive the beatings.
Masaya’s murder was roundly condemned by human rights organisations.
A joint statement by Amnesty International, Southern Defenders and Human Rights Watch released on 15 November called on the Zimbabwean government to immediately address the escalating cases of abductions, arbitrary detention, torture and killing of parliament members, opposition political activists and human rights defenders.
“The authorities should urgently take effective measures to prevent these grave human rights violations, bring those suspected to be responsible to justice, and ensure access for survivors and victims to justice and effective remedies,” the human rights organisations said.
“Following the August 2023 general elections, government security forces have systematically attacked human rights defenders, activists and members of the main opposition party, Citizens’ Coalition for Change (CCC). The elections had been marred by reports of irregularities, including voter intimidation, the arrest of civil society organization staff members, and interference with the internet.”
The organisations noted that Zimbabwe had a long history of human rights violations surging during election periods, including abductions and enforced disappearances, arbitrary detention, and excessive use of force by police.
They condemned Masaya’s murder and the kidnaping and torture of fellow activist Jeffrey Kalosi during the party’s by-elections campaign. Kalosi was severely beaten and dumped hours later at Chabwino Farm not far from the area where Tapfumanei’s body was found days later.
The organisations noted that on 26 August, suspected state security agents disrupted a CCC news conference and attempted to abduct its national spokesperson, Promise Mkwananzi.
Mkwananzi was saved by members of the media and other people, including an opposition activist, Nelson Mukwenha.
Mukwenha was abducted later that evening at his home. He was tortured and dumped in Mapinga.
On 2 September, ward 27 councillor Womberaiishe Nhende and his friend Sanele Mkhuhlane were abducted, tortured and injected with an unknown substance.
The organisations also noted that former legislator James Chidhakwa, was abducted and totured on 23 October before beng dumped in Arcturus.
Legislator Takudzwa Ngadziore was abducted near his home in Harare before being tortured and dumped in Mazowe he however recorded his abductors, but the police failed to take action.
The organisations expressed concern that Zimbabwe had a history of unresolved cases of forced disappearances, including that of journalist and activist Itai Dzamara in 2015.
They condemned the arrest of lawyers, the violation of the constitution and international charters in relation to torture.
“Amnesty International, Southern Defenders, and Human Rights Watch therefore call on the government of Zimbabwe to: Conduct prompt, thorough, impartial, independent, effective, and transparent investigations into the abduction and subsequent killing of Tapfumanei Masaya; and cases of abductions, arbitrary detention, enforced disappearances, torture and other ill-treatment, and injection of foreign substances into activists and opposition political party members;
“Ensure that anyone suspected to be responsible for these serious violations of human rights is brought to justice in fair trial. The government must also ensure access to justice and effective remedies, including quality medical and psycho-social (mental health) support, for survivors and victims;
“Put an end to violations of human rights and take concrete and effective measures to respect, protect, promote and fulfil the human rights of everyone in the country, as required by Zimbabwe’s constitution and international human rights treaties to which Zimbabwe is a state party,” the statement said.