“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,” said a distraught Maria Zhuwao, the wife of cleric and opposition CCC activist Tapfumaneyi Masaya, recounting how she identified the body of her husband whose life had been cut short by suspected Zanu PF supporters.
Masaya was abducted on Saturday 11 November 2023, as they embarked on a door-todoor campaign in Chizhanje, Mabvuku, ahead of the 9 December by-elections that have been necessitated by the recalls of Citizens’ Coalition for Change MPs initiated by Sengezo Tshabangu, the imposter secretary-general of the opposition party.
The police said Masaya’s body was found at the corner of Lobo Road and Arcturus Road in the Cleveland area on Monday 13 November 2023, and they transported his corpse to the Parirenyatwa Group of Hospitals mortuary.
Masaya, who became a symbol of resistance to the Zanu PF tyranny in Mabvuku, is the latest addition to the statistics of political activists who have been murdered in cold blood for dabbling in opposition politics.
But, sadly, a family has lost a father, a husband, a religious leader and a brother. “My husband was my friend, he was my brother, my friend, my everything,” said a distressed Zhuwao.
Her voice, hoarse from the crying and her eyes watery, 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 this moment, she was yet to discover the shocking revelation of her husband’s disappearance. In a country where state security agents have been central in the disappearance and murder of opposition activists, the abduction of Masaya evoked mixed feelings in Zhuwao.
As she narrated her ordeal, CCC supporters broke into song and dance and the harsh reality dawned upon her that all the people gathered at her house were present to pay their last respects to her husband.
“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.
Masaya was abducted with his friend, Jeffrey Kalosi, who walks with the support of a crutch. Kalosi was, however, fortunately set free but with injuries.
Witnesses say, Masaya and Kalosi were so close that the former would move at his friend’s painstaking pace.
They were caught because they lagged behind everyone else. When Kalosi returned, he narrated what had happened to his friend and assisted party members who set out to search for Masaya.
“He came back and told me that he and my husband had been thoroughly beaten, abducted and whisked away in unmarked vehicles, but the one that my husband was in went straight along Harare Drive while the one that Kalosi was in turned into Shamva Road,” she recalled.
During The NewsHawks interview with Zhuwao, a distraught Kalosi was seated outside the perimeter wall of the Masaya residence, in the shade of a mango tree across the road.
He would regularly stand up, albeit with difficulty, to greet mourners arriving at the Masaya house to pay their last respects to the slain pro-democracy activist.
After learning of the disappearance, Zhuwao realised that there was a real danger that her husband could been abducted, and she spent Saturday night into Sunday morning praying for her husband’s safe return.
“Kalosi returned around 11pm and told me that he was not sure what had happened to my husband and I spent the entire night praying. Even the following morning I was just praying hoping that he would come back,” said Zhuwao.
Unfortunately, during all this, it could have been the same time that Masaya was being murdered.
His son, who was in the company of councillor Alexio Nyakudya and MP candidate Munyaradzi Kufahakutizwi when they went to identify the body at the mortuary at the Parirenyatwa Group of Hospitals, could not identify his father as his body was swollen.
His limbs had been cut with a sharp object suspected to be an axe or a machete. At home in Shashe Street, Mabvuku, mourners were seated in the shade waiting for updates on the postmortem that was supposed to be conducted early Wednesday morning.
The postmortem was delayed by a day, because there was crude Zanu PF propaganda emanating from social media platforms suggesting that the body that had been positively identified as Masaya’s was actually not his.
An X handle linked to presidential spokesperson George Charamba, @dhonzamusoro007, had posted a message accusing the CCC of “stealing a body from the mortuary” and dumping it where Masaya’s body was found.
“MaYero mukada kushandisa zvitunha mupolitics, tinosangana kubwiro nemakuva, Musazoti mavara azare ivhu. We will fight you on any terrain of your choosing. Without blinking. Makajaidzwa!!! we cannot have politics of canibalising zvitunha to make up for (your) own blatant political failures. Never!!!!!,” Charamba posted on the X handle.
This was adding insult to the grieving Masaya family.
“After hearing that people are saying that the man I identified as my husband could as well not be my husband. It hurts,” said Zhuwao.
She recounted how she accepted his activities as a cleric and an opposition activist. “Everything that happened with the CCC party, he would tell me and I would encourage him to go. He knew God and loved Him. He taught me to pray,” added Zhuwao.
While they waited, they would occasionally belt out church songs as he was well known for his religious work and his unwavering support for the CCC in Mabvuku high-density suburb.
“Scott ndiwe wakauraya!” they would take turns singing or the alternatively chanted “Ndiwe wega wakatanga hondo, hondo here? Zvaunoda zvaunoda hondo (You [Scott] started this war. Do you want war?”
As the family awaits confirmation of the DNA results, Zhuwao is pinning her hope on the police to arrest the people who tormented her husband to death.
“I was hoping that by Monday, my husband would be back. I was hoping that maybe the police would tell me something pertaining my husband,” she paused as she broke in tears.
It was a heart rending sight.