Two accused in the case of body parts for sale at Tshitavha, Colbert Nemasisi (already inside the van) and Mathadzhila Munyai, are being taken away in a police vehicle after their appearance on Tuesday.
The case involging the harvesting and selling of human body parts from buried corpses took a dramatic turn when the police arrested five suspects. This was described as a major blow to human parts merchants.
The stealing of human body parts in Vhembe and in particularly in Tshiravha Sambandou gave birth to hair-raising rumours in the area.
The suspects were arrested around Vhembe and one was apprehended in George in the Western Cape.
The drama unfolded some three weeks ago when a 17-year-old girl from Tshitavha revealed that she and her former boyfriend used to dig up graves to steal human body parts at night. She also said that they had later sold these to customers and even pointed out two graves at a local cemetery.
Following the revelations, the police went on to dig up the identified graves and the community's fears were confirmed when the first body, that of Mr Alpheus Vhudzikadzika (74), was exhumed and his head was found to be missing. The grave of the late Mr Alpheus Phundulu (81) was also dug up and his whole body was found missing.
Residents in the area went on the rampage, blockading roads with rubble and burning tyres. They also set alight property belonging to those identified as suspects in the case.
The speedy establishment of a police task team yielded fruits in a short time, when the police arrested the first suspect, traditional healer Erick Kwinda of Tshikonelo. He is believed to be the buyer of the harvested human body parts. Kwinda appeared in the Thohoyandou Magistrate’s Court last Friday and his case was postponed to 30 September for further investigations.
Following on Kwinda's arrest were those of Colbert Nemasisi (29) and Mathadzhila Munyai (20), a Grade 9 pupil at a local secondary school. Munyai is the son of another local traditional healer at Tshitavha. Two bakkies and two huts of Munyai’s father were burnt to ashes by angry residents.
They appeared in Thohoyandou on Monday and were each charged with two counts of violation of graves and two counts of corpse violation and one each of defeating the ends of justice.
Daniel Nephawe (23), who is believed to be the mastermind behind the syndicate, was arrested at the weekend during a swoop on a house allegedly belonging to traditional healer Erick Kwinda in George. He appeared in court in Thohoyandou on Tuesday. During his appearance, Nephawe looked calm and composed when his rights were read. He requested legal assistance from Legal Aid.
Nephawe faces two charges of violation of graves, two of violation of corpses and one count of defeating the ends of justice.
The police also made a breakthrough on Tuesday evening, when they arrested a 42-year-old traditional healer from Mbilwi village in Sibasa. Avhapfani Nemungadi and the other accused appeared briefly appeared in Makuya Periodical Court. The case were postponed to Wednesday (20/9) and they remain in custody for a formal bail application.
These events opened a can of worms about the dark and shocking secrets of ritual murders and body parts from corpses offered for sale in the area.
For years, rumours have been doing the rounds in the Tshitavha village about ritual murders. Speaking immediately after the court appearance of Nephawe, the Tshitavha Sambandou community's task team leader, Mr Joseph Mudzanani, said the community was partly satisfied by the arrests but had some reservations. "We welcome the speedy arrests but with reservations. There are many alleged cases of ritual murders here - as many as five cases are known here - but the perpetrators are still to be brought to book. We had a case here of a traditional healer, Vusiwana Baloyi, who was sentenced to life in prison for the ritual murder of his patient from Shayandima.”
He said that the people were surprised that Baloyi was sentenced "alone, even though the names of accomplices were doing the rounds. We believe he did not act alone and that the police should probe the case for new information," he said.
Mudzanani said they were in court to monitor the case and urged the police to dig deeper and probe the links between the arrested suspects. "We believe the grave robberies are just the tip of the iceberg and that the situation could be far worse than imagined. The suspects should point out their trail of gruesome acts. We fear that many bodies could have been stolen," he said.
Date:15 September 2017 - By: Elmon Tshikhudo
Elmon Tshikhudo started off as a photographer. He developed an interest in writing and started submitting articles to local as well as national publications. He became part of the Limpopo Mirror family in 2005 and has since been a familiar name among the newspaper's readers.