Old Mutual Corpse saga :Angry Villagers Demand immediate exhumation

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Mangoromera Villagers in Nyazura are demanding the immediate exhumation of a stranger’s corpse they buried in the community following misrepresentations by suspects in the$70 000 Old Mutual fraud, while a traditional healer is demanding his dues.

David Garudzo (27) and his accomplices, reportedly killed an unknown person in a bid to fake his death, burnt the corpse beyond recognition, hired a vehicle and duped his family members and the villagers into burying the stranger’s corpse.

Garudzo, who is now serving 23 years in prison, later sent his wife and brothers to misrepresent to Old Mutual Funeral Services that he (Garudzo) had died in a vehicle accident and claim funeral cover of $70 000.

Although Garudzo pleaded guilty to burning a corpse stolen from a hospital mortuary, fresh evidence emerged during court proceedings last Friday that they had instead killed a drunk man they picked up at Odzi Business Centre.

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by Daniel Nemukuyu 

Rusape magistrate Mr Livingstone Chipadza directed police to carry out further investigations with a view to charging the suspects with murder.

Villagers had no kind words for the Garudzo family, saying they had been seriously prejudiced considering the contributions they made for the funeral in the form of food, cash and labour, not knowing that they were mourning a stranger.

Mangoromera Village head Mr Tirivanhu Tuhwe said having a stranger’s grave among his people was taboo and there was need for exhumation.

“These are some of the reasons why some areas do not receive good rains. It is taboo and the stranger’s corpse must urgently be exhumed and reburied at the right place by the real relatives.

“Our graveyard belongs to people of this village and not strangers. Who will maintain the grave in the event that it requires maintenance? We are not comfortable having a stranger’s grave in our village,” Mr Tuhwe said.

Garudzo’s uncle and surrogate father Mr Speke Garudzo said he was shocked to learn that David was alive after he had mourned and buried the corpse of a stranger.

“I honestly believed that my son had died and I did all I could to ensure his soul rested in peace only to discover a year later that he was alive and had faked his death for the love of money.

“I quarrelled with the detectives who came here 14 months after the burial to break the news that we had buried a stranger.

“I strongly believed that my son had died, but I was finally convinced when the police took me to the cells in Rusape where I saw him and talked to him.

“I am still in shock and I do not know what I will do with the stranger’s corpse. Worse still, we do not know the identity of the corpse,” he said.

He said David and his two brothers — Brian and Bernard — lost their father in 2005 and he took over as their surrogate father.

“The boys did not grow up here. They used to stay with their father and mother, who both passed away. Their biological father used to work at a white-owned farm near Nyazura Mission and that is where they stayed.

“The father died in 2005 and I, being brother to their late father, took over as surrogate father. I did not stay with them for long because they were grown up and had started working.

“But what I know is that David was an intelligent young man who was later employed by ZETDC as a manager,” said the uncle.

However, investigations by The Herald revealed that David was employed as a meter reader by ZETDC at Megawatt Building in Mutare up to March last year.

Zanu-PF district chairperson for Mutanda West, Cde Enock Chikwama, who is also a member of Mangoromera Village, said he was disappointed by the behaviour of the Garudzo brothers.

Cde Chikwama said Government should intervene to ensure urgent exhumation of the corpse.

“We appeal to Government to assist in the exhumation of the corpse. That is not a new thing because even the fallen heroes, are having their remains, exhumed and buried at right places,” he said.

Cde Chikwama said he was surprised to learn that David was still alive, a year after the burial of the corpse in the village.

He said when news of David’s death filtered in June last year, the villagers in the spirit of unity and solidarity, assisted the Garudzo family to accord their relative a decent burial not knowing that the culprit was alive and hiding somewhere.

“When we got the death message, as per our tradition and in solidarity, the village members contributed food, firewood, money and performed various chores to ensure our fellow villager was buried. We are disappointed because the incident tarnished our village,” he said.

Another villager and a member of the neighbourhood watch committee based at Odzi Police Station, Mr Farai Ramewu who assisted in removing the corpse from the wreckage and into a coffin, said strange things related to the unknown deceased were happening to him.

“I am having sleepless nights since the day I assisted in removing the corpse from the vehicle wreckage,’’ said Mr Ramewu.

Mr Tendai Mariga, a relative of the Garudzo family, said he would only believe of David’s existence after seeing him.

“I still cannot believe that he is alive until I see him with my own eyes. As in-laws, we did all the dirty work at the funeral with an understanding that we were doing everything for our beloved brother-law.

“I am still shocked and I cannot believe that I touched a stranger’s corpse with my hands and dug the grave.

“The ground was too hard and we sweated a lot until we finally reached the required depth,” said Mr Mariga.

David’s wife on Friday pleaded guilty to the US$70 000 fraud after she took a fake death certificate, burial order and a police accident report to the Old Mutual Funeral Services and misrepresented that David had died in a car accident.

She, however, denied the charges of burning the hired Toyota Spacio and tampering with a corpse.

A Rusape court remanded her in custody to October 16 for trial on the charges she is denying.

David is currently serving the 23 years imprisonment imposed on him by the same court.

Siberty Marambwanya who confessed in court that he had assisted the Garudzo brothers to kill a drunk man is also in remand prison pending finalisation of investigations on murder charges.

Brian and Bernard Garudzo were still at large and police were looking for them.

Police sources said they had not yet received any missing persons report at police stations closer to Odzi where the offence was allegedly committed.

The Zimbabwe National Traditional Healers Association chairman for Rusape district Mr Nikodimo Godfrey Chitumba says he harboured David Garudzo at his homestead at Nyabadza area for at least six months after the commission of the offence.

While others were still shocked by the horrendous offence, Mr Chitumba claims he offered refuge to Garudzo, his wife Primrose Jecha, his brothers Bernard and Brian and their children at the time they were hiding from the police.

Mr Chitumba (74) said he also rendered various ritual cleansing services to the suspects and to that end, he was now claiming outstanding fees.

The traditional healer told The Herald in an interview that he was related to the Garudzo family, but David and his brothers short-changed him.

“I am bitter that the boys, who I stayed with here together with their wives and children for more than six months decided to dupe me.

“For the services rendered, they promised to pay me $8 000, but when they got their money from Old Mutual early this year, they only gave me $1 000.

“There is a balance of $7 000 and when they refused to pay me I decided to set my dogs on them. In a few days, I heard David had been arrested in Harare over the offences,” said Mr Chitumba.

Mr Chitumba said David, his two brothers and their friend Siberty Marambwanya approached him seeking refuge saying they had committed a serious offence.

“They are my nephews and together we are originally from Bikita in Masvingo. In June last year (just after the offences were committed), the Garudzo brothers visited my wife who worked at Rusape Magistrate’s Court and asked for directions to my homestead here (Nyabadza in Rusape).

“They later arrived and told me their story that they had committed a serious offence of burning a corpse and burying a stranger at their homestead.

“They finally came to stay with me in July last year together with their wives and Siberty.

“Siberty only stayed for three weeks, and after seeing that there were now too many people at my house, he decided to find somewhere to stay,” he said.

Mr Chitumba said at one point, he tried to chase the suspects away, but he allowed them to stay after being promised $8 000.

“At one point I told them that I could not assist them on the issue of killing a stranger and tried to chase them away.

“Since they are my relatives, I later calmed down and they promised to pay me $8 000 for the services or to buy me a car. That is when I allowed them to stay until December 25 last year when they left.

“They had some money that time and they left for an unknown place with their families,” he said.

Mr Chitumba said the Garudzo brothers later resurfaced in March this year and they came driving two new vehicles.

“They told me that they had made money and that is when they gave me $1 000 only.

“I complained that it was not enough, but David threatened me saying ‘Sekuru zvamataura izvozvo ndokubhombai. Munoona nesu kwete kuti mutibvunze’ (Uncle, I will bomb you if you ask for money in that way. You will only hear from us),” said Mr Chitumba.

“That is when I got angry and decided to set my dogs on them. The next thing, I got the news that David had been arrested in Harare,” he said.

Meanwhile, legal experts said harbouring a criminal is an offence.

Mr Wellington Pasipanodya of Manase and Manase said any person who harbours a criminal knowing that he is evading arrest is liable for prosecution.

“The case you referred to is still ongoing and I do not want to comment on it. I can only give you a general legal position in matters of that nature.

“Aiding and abetting a criminal in evading justice is a punishable offence and anyone who does that with intent and knowledge that the suspects are wanted by the police for an offence should be charged,” he said.

Another lawyer who spoke on condition of anonymity said protecting or assisting a suspect in evading arrest was tantamount to obstruction of justice.

“Obstruction of justice is an offence and anyone one who commits it should be charged,” he said.Herald