Tendai Gukutikwa and Liberty Dube
HELL broke loose in Hobhouse high-density suburb of Mutare on Monday, with irate neighbours baying for the blood of a step-mother who allegedly bludgeoned a teenager to death and faked suicide as a cover-up.
Ishmael Chishakwe (13), who was a Grade Seven learner at Sheni Primary School in Dangamvura, had visited his father and stepmother at their Hobhouse lodgings when he allegedly committed suicide in the bathroom, something neighbours dismissed as the boy was always on the receiving end of his step-mother, Precious Chishakwe’s ire.
Residents and neighbours who suspected foul play in Ishmael’s death bayed for Precious’ blood, demanding an explanation on what had transpired as they claimed that circumstances of his death were not tantamount to suicide.
Ishmael’s father, Tapfumaneyi — an officer with the Zimbabwe Prisons and Correctional Services (ZPCS) — was at home when the teenager died and was reported to have been at sixes and sevens to narrate the events of the day.
Police could neither confirm nor deny that it was a murder case and said investigations were in progress.
“We can confirm that the boy was found dead in a suspected case of suicide in Hobhouse on Monday afternoon. However, investigations are in progress,” said Manicaland provincial police spokesperson, Inspector Luxson Chananda.
A neighbour who managed to force her way into the house after the Chishakwes had locked themselves inside their rented premises who spoke on condition of anonymity, said she saw Ishmael’s body in an empty bathroom tub, while a sponge that was around his neck was hanging from the tap.
She queried why a teenager would commit suicide using a soft sponge.
Neighbours also said it took more than an hour for police who are stationed less than 200 metres from the Chishakwe lodgings to be alerted of the incident.
Another neighbour, Ms Sara Chakuhwa, alleged that the couple wanted to keep the death as a secret and had already initiated processes of ferrying the corpse to their rural area when Tapfumaneyi was overheard talking to someone over the phone.
“He was overheard by someone informing a relative of Ishmael’s death and their decision to ferry the corpse to their rural home. They wanted to keep the death under wraps, but it was all over the neighbourhood within minutes, prompting neighbours to besiege the house demanding the truth,” said Ms Chakuhwa.
She said Ishmael’s body had switch marks all over, allegedly inflicted by his step-mother’s beatings.
“I was outside when I heard the step-mother (Precious) calling the boy and shouting: ‘Idiot, unoda kudeedzerwa chikafu, unotenga chikafu pano here iwe. (You want me to always call you to come and eat, do you buy any food here?) Within 20 minutes, the child was dead and who can buy these suicide lies?
“I quickly rushed to their house and asked the stepmother if I could view the child. My intention was to render him first aid, but I was denied access. Precious told me that she was scared to go into the bathroom where the body was,” said Ms Chakuhwa.
Another neighbour who managed to view Ishmael’s body before it was taken to the mortuary for a post mortem by the police, said it was clear that the body was dragged into the bathroom.
“Precious told me that she was informed by a niece who was at the house that Ishmael had committed suicide. It is, however, shocking that anyone would believe that the child committed suicide in that bathroom, as tall as he was.
“He had marks on his neck and there was no water, towel or soap in the bathroom to corroborate their claim. His was just lying in an empty tub with his eyes open,” she said.
Ishmael’s former teacher, Mrs Victoria Chimonyo, said the teenager was staying with his aunt in Dangamvura after fleeing from abuses at the hands of his father and step-mother.
She said Ishmael had resorted to be a street urchin on countless occasions.
“I taught him when he was in Grade 5. Ishmael was a hardworking learner, but he was staying in an abusive environment. When I taught him, he was usually late and at most times, he would ran away from home to become a street kid at Sakubva Musika. Her aunt decided to take custody of him,” said Mrs Chimonyo.
In an interview, Precious distanced herself from Ishmael’s death.
“I was not there when the incident happened. I was told by my niece who was here that Ishmael had been instructed by his father to take a bath when he committed suicide. His father was reading a novel in the dining room. The boy took long to come out of the bathroom and when a follow-up was made, it was discovered that he had died. He might have been choked by a sponge which was around his neck. I could not entertain our neighbours at that time because I was still in a state of shock,” said a teary Chishakwe.
Efforts to contact Tapfumaneyi proved fruitless as he was said to be busy with Ishmael’s burial arrangements.