MOURNERS included people from all walks of life — from classmates at St Robert’s Mbaza Primary School in Mutasa to deputy president of the Senate, Senator Mike Nyambuya.
They all formed part of the gathering filled with grief as they gave the slain Benza cousins a befitting send-off last week on Friday.
Dilan and Melissa Benza (both seven years old) were brutally murdered on their way home from school on April 13. The Benza cousins were laid to rest 11 days after they had met their fate at the hands of suspected ritual murderers.
The prime suspect is Solomon Manyama, Dilan’s maternal uncle. The death of the Grade One pupils left the country shell shocked.
From as early as 7am, scores of people of different ages from as far as 10km from the Benza homestead in Kanganya Village started gathering to attend the funeral of the two inseparable cousins who were together until the day they breathed the last.
More than 500 people defied Covid-19 regulations to come together to mourn this shared loss at a joint funeral at an open space near the Benza homestead. Despite the large numbers, the Roman Catholic-run St Barbaras’ Mission Hospital ensured that everyone in attendance was sanitised while facemasks were availed to those who did not have them.
Family members and even those who never got the chance to meet Delane and Melissa said they had been shaken by the young lives taken too soon. With heads bowed, agony and despair were clearly visible on most people’s faces.
A sombre atmosphere engulfed the area, especially when the two children’s bodies were returned from a brief ritual ceremony that was conducted at the scene of their murder. People wept as reality sank that Delane and Melissa’s lives had been cut short in such a brutal manner.
“My son’s life was cut short but his memories will live forever. Each time I see his peers returning home from school, I pinch myself thinking that the nightmare will soon be over and I will hear my Dilan announcing his arrival from school,” said Ms Lydia Manyama, Dilan’s mother.
“He was seven years old when he was brutally murdered, being 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 am constantly asking myself why the murderers targeted the Benza siblings. What wrong did we do to lose our children through such merciless killings?” moaned Ms Manyama as she struggled to come to terms with the loss of her son.
“There will never be a day, hour or minute when I will stop loving or thinking about my son. Sadly Dilan is gone forever,” she recently said in a hear-trending interview with The Manica Post recently.
Melissa’s father, Mr Douglas Benza, wants justice to prevail, even it means the banishment of the perpetrators from the area.
“My daughter was brutally murdered and my heart is bleeding. When her body was retrieved from the pit latrine, she had dust all over her body, an indication that she had tried to resist the attack but was overpowered,” he said.
Although it was initially thought that the two were killed on the same spot, it emerged during the funeral that Melissa was the first to be killed on the grass near the Blair toilet where their bodies were dumped, while Delane was slain in a maize field near the Sambaza homestead.
While chronicling the events that transpired between April 13 when the children disappeared and April 14 when their bodies were recovered, the Benza family spokesperson, Mr Johannes Benza, confirmed the fresh details. Shrieks of pain characterised Mr Benza’s chronology of events as the gathering failed to stomach the gory events, especially when Mr Benza described how the two children’s throats were slit open.
Some called for the parading of the suspects, Solomon Manyama and Passmore Sambaza, who are in remand prison after appearing at Nyanga magistrate’s court last week on Tuesday facing murder charges. They were both remanded in custody to May 6, but the gathering demanded instant justice. In anguish, some mourners suggested dumping the two minors’ bodies at the Manyama and Sambaza homesteads. Tension continued mounting and Melissa’s called for the dethroning of the Manyamas as the village heads when he was given the chance to address the mourners.
“We cannot allow murderers to lead us. I am asking the traditional leadership to ensure that the Benzas take over the village reigns. I will assume that position because I want to ensure that justice prevails for our slain children without any interference from anyone,” said Mr Benza, amid applauses from the gathering.
Speaking at the same event, Senator Nyambuya said the two cousins’ deaths had 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. We are still in shock. 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.
“The nation is still mourning the death of Tapiwa Makore from Murehwa and now we are burying the two Benza children who were ruthlessly murdered. We don’t know who will be the next victim. Communities should be on the lookout for ritual killers. All those convicted should face the full wrath of the law,” said Senator Nyambuya.
Headman Sachirarwe called for stiff penalties on all ritual murderers.
“We want justice to prevail. Although the law is taking its course, we are yet to come to terms with this grisly murder. Our land has been defiled and something should be done to cleanse it. Delane and Melissa’s souls can never rest as they died in pain. Those found to be behind their murder must be dealt with to send a clear message to would-be offenders. The shedding of blood is a taboo in this area,” charged Headman Sachirarwe.
Chaos also reigned supreme as emotions reached boiling point when the police failed to avail Delane and Melissa’s post-mortem reports as had been promised earlier. Some suggested that the two children’s bodies be returned to the mortuary until the post-mortem reports were availed.
The agitated crowd broke into song and dance denouncing the suspects. Mourners called for thorough investigations as they believed that there was a third hand behind the two children’s murders. It took the intervention of law enforcement agents, Roman Catholic priests and local traditional leadership to restore order and pave way for the burial of the two children.