JUSTICE finally prevailed for the slain inseparable Benza cousins after a Mutare High Court judge, Justice Isaac Muzenda, sentenced the two assailants to double life imprisonments on Wednesday.
The Benza cousins, Melisa and Dylan (both seven) from Kanganya Village in Mutasa, were murdered on April 13, 2021 on their way from Mbaza Primary School, about 4km away from their homesteads.
They were laid to rest 11 days after meeting their fate at the hands of their assailants, Solomon Manyama (Dylan’s maternal uncle) and Passmore Sambaza.
Manyama and Sambaza were each facing two murder charges and they got a life sentence for each of the two cases.
Manyama and Sambaza slit open the minors’ throats and harvested blood before stashing their bodies in a blair toilet at a deserted homestead.
When they appeared before Justice Muzenda last week, the two men pleaded not guilty.
However, they were this week convicted of murder due to overwhelming evidence against them.
The State, led by principal prosecutor, Mrs Jane-Rose Matsikidze, managed to present overwhelming evidence against the duo.
Witnesses who testified against Manyama and Sambaza also nailed them during cross-examination by both the State and defence counsels.
In a recent interview, Dylan’s mother, Ms Lydia Manyama who also testified in court during the trial said: “My son’s life was cut short, but his memories will live forever. He was seven years old when he was brutally murdered. He was the first born in a family of four, but Dilan had matured well past his age.
“The shining light was doused by the cruel hands of the heartless murderers. I constantly ask myself why the murderers targeted the Benza children. What wrong did we do to lose our children through such merciless killings?”
Prosecuting, Mrs Matsikidze said on April 13, Melisa and Dylan were dismissed from school, and along their way home, they met Manyama who invited them to walk with him as they lived in the same village.
The two children never arrived home.
“The accused persons connived and killed the two children in an abandoned home and concealed the bodies in a disused blair toilet. The abandoned homestead is close to Sambaza’s homestead. They attempted to cover the bloodstained grass using Sambaza’s hoe.
“Around 4pm on that same day, Melissa and Dylan were considered missing and a search for them commenced. Manyama told the search party that he had parted ways with the children close to their homesteads.
“The search continued till it was suspended around 8pm when Manyama indicated over the phone that he had left the children near Nyagambu River,” said Mrs Matsikidze.
The search resumed the following day and incorporated learners from Mbaza Primary and High schools.
About a kilometre from the school, the search party came across a patch of weeded and bloodstained grass.
There was also a spoor of flattened grass which led to a disused toilet.
The children’s bodies were found in the toilet pit.
When they were retrieved, both of them had a deep cut on the left side of the neck.
A further search led to the discovery of a bloodstained hoe and blood stained clothes from Sambaza’s homestead.
Post-mortem examinations concluded that the deaths of the two children were a result of severe neck trauma.
Testifying in court, Melissa’s father, Mr Douglas Taurai Benza said when he inspected the bodies of his daughter and Dylan, he noticed that they both had a deep cut on the left side of the neck and no other injuries.
“On April 13, I was working in my garden when Manyama passed by using a road beside the garden. We exchanged greetings and I asked Manyama if he had seen Melissa and Dylan. Manyama told me that he had seen them and left them near the Chiromba homestead.
“About 20 minutes after Manyama had left, my wife and mother arrived from a school meeting and told me that the children were not yet home.
“We waited in vain, and we decided to spread word that the two children were missing. A search commenced, but it was to no avail. I was present when my wife phoned Manyama to enquire where he had left the children.
“Manyama told her that he had left them near Nyagambu River. As the search continued, a neighbour, Mr Norbert Chiromba, called Manyama again, but he changed his statement and said he had left the children near the road,” said Mr Benza.
Sambaza’s mother, Ms Idah Pandukari said: “On the day in question, I left home to do my laundry at a nearby borehole. My son was at home when I left. Around 2pm, I saw Manyama walking along a footpath which is 30 metres from the borehole. He was being followed by Melissa and Dylan.
“When I returned home, I was surprised to hear my son Sambaza announcing that he was leaving for Nyanga. He was acting strangely. As I went about attending to my chores, I met Dylan’s mother who informed me that the two children had not yet returned home.
“The next morning, I heard that the two children were still missing. On that same day, I heard that the two missing children’s bodies had been found in a disused toilet at an abandoned homestead about 50 metres from my homestead.
“I later found a bloodstained hoe in my yard. Tests on the blood confirmed that it was the children’s blood,” said Ms Pandukari.
The minors’ cold-blood murder shocked the nation and Deputy President of the Senate, Senator Mike Nyambuya, joined thousands of mourners to give them an emotional send-off at a joint funeral at an open space near the Benza homesteads.
Speaking at the funeral, Senator Nyambuya said the two cousins’ deaths touched the whole nation.
“It could have been one of your children or grandchildren dying in such a cruel manner. It could have been any one of us here being murdered in cold blood because these ritual killers know no age.
“Where have our norms and values gone to? We should respect the sanctity of human life. Laws should be enacted to punish the perpetrators and those who incite people to conduct ritual killings.
“We don’t know who will be the next victim. Communities should be on the look-out for ritual killers. All those convicted should face the full wrath of the law,” said Senator Nyambuya.