IN a bizarre suspected ritual killing, a 25-year-old woman was sawn in half and part of her body was mutilated and stashed into a drum filled with acid in Bulawayo.
Part of the body, from the waist going down, is still missing while breasts and palms appeared to have been sliced off.
Police yesterday arrested a suspect, Tawana Ngwenya (20), the son of a caretaker where the woman lived. He was arrested in Harare where he had allegedly fled.
Tawana allegedly had a message from a sangoma based in South Africa which instructed him on how to kill Ms Thabelo Mazolo so he could get rich.
Mazolo’s sister secured employment for Ngwenya at a company in Bulawayo and he was staying in Matsheumhlophe suburb at a guest house where Mazolo worked, with his father Mr Buzwani Ngwenya (60) who was the caretaker.
“You must cut yourself and spill your blood onto a mirror. Gaze into the mirror and say out loud that you are selling your soul for riches. After that you must open the door for my boys to go out,” read part of the message that allegedly had additional instructions on rites that Ngwenya was supposed to perform on the body.
Sources who told the Chronicle about the message said they freaked out and have not been able to eat or sleep, since the body was discovered on Wednesday morning.
Mr Ngwenya said Mazolo moved to Bulawayo from Harare just before the national Covid-19 induced lockdown.
He last saw Mazolo alive on May 29 when she said she was visiting someone in Sizinda suburb.
On June 1, he received a message from Mazolo’s phone informing him she would be away for about a week.
Tawana told him she could have visited friends after he discovered she had not been home since May 29.
He said Tawana disappeared from home on Tuesday when he asked him if he knew Mazolo’s whereabouts and he switched off his phone. “Thabelo’s phone had stopped ringing. On Wednesday there was a strong smell of something rotting from the main house. I called the police. We opened the door with a spare key and found the body in a blue drum in the toilet. It had been cut up and some of Thabelo’s clothes appeared to have been used to wipe up plenty of blood,” said Mr Ngwenya.
He said Tawana was the last of three children who was always quiet and had never shown homicidal tendencies.
Mr Benny Moyo, Mazolo’s uncle, said the family had tried to locate her when she suddenly became unreachable on her phone.
“I went to her workplace and each time I would be told she is busy or had just left. We are devastated to learn she has been killed. We hear the suspect was arrested in Harare today. We may have more information when the police complete investigations,” said Mr Moyo.
Miss Nomathemba Ndaba, Mr Ngwenya’s employer, choked on her words in an interview.
“At least Tawana who is suspected to have done this horrible thing has been arrested,” she said. “We are very sorry for Thabelo’s family but we want to warn young people against partaking in rituals. He may die in jail after this. Young people must be careful who they play with.”
Chronicle went on the ground yesterday and unearthed grisly details of what could have happened.
Tawana who did his O-Levels at Allan Wilson High School in Harare was said to be a loner. He allegedly borrowed a hacksaw from a neighbour on May 25 saying he wanted to prune some trees and cut a drum.
It is suspected the hacksaw was used to cut up the body.
Neighbours said around that time, he said he was looking for sulphuric acid.
He allegedly made inquiries at a company along Khami Road but was told it was out of stock.
Tawana’s colleagues said he seemed spooked and was reluctant to have them spend time at his home with him.
“He was acting weird. It was as if he expected someone to suddenly appear behind him and harm him. He was furtive and withdrew further into himself. When he left, he said he was going to Mutare. We heard a relative had seen him in Kadoma. We are all shocked that he killed someone,” said a friend who declined to be named.
There were heart-tugging moments when some neighbours burst into tears as they talked about Thabelo.
“We had known her for a short time but she was nice to all of us,” said a woman who asked not to be named.
“Tawana was slim and looked frail. If he did it, he could not have done it alone because Thabelo was significantly bigger than him. I doubt he could have lifted the body and put it into the acid drum by himself,” said the neighbour.
Bulawayo police spokesperson Inspector Abednico Ncube said police were investigating the killing.
“The informant last saw the deceased on 29 May 2020 at around 11AM when she was going to town. On 1 June 2020 the now deceased sent a message to the informant advising him that she was going out of town and will be back on Sunday 7 June 2020,” said Inspector Ncube.
He said when Mr Ngwenya called the police, they found Thabelo’s body inside a blue 200 litre drum in the bathroom in a decomposed state.
The body was conveyed to the United Bulawayo Hospitals (UBH) for post mortem.