WAKING up to desecrated graves and coffins left in the open has become a norm for residents at Odzi Township.
So grave is the situation that on Wednesday morning, the Makaza family woke up to find its grandmother’s coffin dumped at an open space at Odzi Cemetery.
They buried their 98-year-old granny, Gogo Cecilia Makaza on December 12 after she succumbed to diabetes and asthma.
For the past two months, residents have been waking up to desecrated graves, mostly of elderly women.
To date, 12 known graves have been violated in the cemetery, with 11 of them being of elderly women.
Some graves had pictures removed from tombstones, with the others having the tombstones shifted to a new place.
The son to the late Gogo Makaza, Mr Gift Makaza said they were yet to come to terms with the bizarre incident as this is the second time the grave has been desecrated since his mother’s burial on December 12.
“She was buried on December 12, but on December 14, we discovered that the grave had been violated. We went to the police and asked if we could open the coffin to see if anything was amiss on the body, but we were ordered not to do so. We went to the grave and refilled the soil that had been removed from our mother’s grave.
“We were shocked this morning (Wednesday) when we discovered that the grave had been dug again. The coffin was exposed and had been opened. The coffin screws were missing.
“We alerted the police and they gave us the nod to open the coffin and find out if our late mother’s body was still intact. We opened the coffin and discovered that the body was not tampered with. However, the shroud which we buried her with was not wrapped around her. It had been removed and was placed on top of her body. The shroud covering her head was also removed,” he said.
The family reburied Gogo Makaza shortly afterwards after performing some rituals. Footprints of three people were visible near the grave.
“One person was barefooted, the other had boots and the other print looked like those of a woman’s shoes. There was a trail of blood in the graveyard and it was clear that one of them was cut by the iron sheets that were in the grave.
“We followed the blood trail and it led us to where the tools that had been used to dig the grave were hidden. The shovel and pick were hidden in a bush in the graveyard,” said Mr Makaza.
A knife was also found inside the grave.
Ms Joice Matanhire whose relative’s grave was also desecrated appealed to Headman Nyamanhindi to help them in consulting ZINATHA healers.
“This has been happening for a long time. We are requesting ZINATHA healers to help us. The headman should act fast and approach Chief Makoni on this issue. Our relatives’ graves are being tampered with,” she said.
In an interview, Mutare Rural District Council representative for Ward 31, Councillor Maclean Murauro, said that same night (Tuesday), the suspects tried to dig three more graves, but failed.
“We are suspecting that these people are doing this for rituals. This is not the work of artisanal gold miners like what others are suspecting. It is clear that they want something from the dead bodies.
“We have tombstones being removed from their graves and others being broken using iron bars. Most of the targeted graves are of elderly women who died in the early 2000s, save for Gogo Makaza and two others who died this month,” he said.
Councillor Murauro said the community is engaging the traditional leadership on the way forward.
In an interview, Headman Nyamanhindi, Mrs Brandina Nyamanhindi said she is yet to inform Chief Makoni of the bizarre incident.
“I have never come across this macabre real life drama. At first it was the Dzumbira family that approached me, telling me that their late mother, Mrs Rose Dzumbira’s grave had been desecrated. She died in 2002. More cases were reported.
“There is need to consult Chief Makoni over this issue because we are in his area. He has no idea of what is happening here. However, I suspect foul play. We need to sit down as a community and raise money so that we can consult Chief Makoni,” said Headman Nyamanhindi.
Zimbabwe National Traditional Healers Association (ZINATHA) president, Mr George Kandiero referred the victims’ families to their provincial offices.
“We have respect for dead bodies and tampering with them is unheard of. This is a clear case of wanting to get rich quickly. In most cases, those who are tampering with these graves will turn the avenging spirit of the dead against their families and that is when you will see living family members struggling and being tormented by their late relatives’ spirits.
“They should deal with this matter forthwith. Our traditional leaders will help cleanse the graveyard to avoid future grave desecrations,” he said.-Manica Post