The corpse of a nine-month-old boy disappeared from the grave three weeks after his burial on the banks of Matsungu River in Mutasa District, The Manica Post has learnt.
Clothes in which the baby was buried in – a white napkin, a yellow pair of fleece trousers, a jacket, a green hat, a white baby blanket and a white towel – were found neatly folded and placed near the baby’s desecrated grave by his mother, Ms Martha Matembedza of Hamunakwadi Village.
Right next to baby Abraham Benza’s yawning grave was all the soil that had been dug out of the grave, forcing the Mutasa community to rule out the theory that wild animals or dogs could have exhumed the body from the grave.
Sandy soil was also sprinkled at the area. The shocking incident was, however, allegedly swept under the carpet by the baby’s father, Mr Osward Benza and his Johanne Marange Apostolic church mates who reburied the clothes in the same grave two days after the discovery.
Abraham died on August 9 at the church shrine in Mutasa after a short illness.
The illness had also claimed his three-year-old sister a fortnight before that.
The two children’s deaths were not registered.
Acting Manicaland provincial police spokesperson, Assistant Inspector Wiseman Chinyoka could neither confirm nor deny that a police report had been made.
However, police in Mutasa confirmed that a report was made and when they attended the scene, they observed that the grave had been tampered with.
A report obtained by The Manica Post reads: “The deceased was buried in a shallow grave on the Matsungo River bank. His clothes, a blanket and a towel were at the scene partially covered with sandy soil. No spores were observed at the scene and Abraham’s body could not be located.”
The traditional leadership in the area said it was yet to come to terms with the shocking incident.
Village Head Hamunakwadi, Mr Edward Chakanyuka said investigations into the matter were halted after the father said his church would handle the matter.
“We reported the matter to the police and when the police came, they dismissed claims that wild animals or dogs had exhumed and devoured the corpse. No bones were found and a docket has since been opened.
“However, as a community we discovered footprints leading to the child’s grave. We searched for the body, but nothing was recovered. The father said he did not suspect any foul play and we were forced to stop searching because of his attitude. We later gathered that he went to the grave in the company of his church members and buried the clothes,” said Village Head Hamunakwadi.
He said he suspected that the Benza siblings succumbed to measles as their parents do not believe in seeking medical attention.
When The Manica Post visited the Benza homestead last week, Mr Benza was not at home.
His phone was also not reachable.
However, his wife said there is more to the corpse’s disappearance.
“My children died in unclear circumstances. They had flu-like symptoms and both died within two days of having contracted the disease. We do not seek medical attention because of our church doctrine.
“We took the ailing children to our church healer and we got help. I know that it was not measles because Abraham had recently recovered from measles when he got these flu-like symptoms that claimed his life.
“My husband says the matter has been concluded and that we will not consult traditional healers or prophets from other churches over this issue as we are not allowed to do that by our church.
“However, we did not stop the community from searching my child’s remains. It is very painful that my two children died one after the other now to learn that Abraham’s corpse disappeared from the grave is like adding salt to my wound.
“I cannot sleep thinking about the whereabouts of my baby’s corpse,” she said as grief overcame her.
Ms Matembedza ruled out suspicions that hyenas or dogs dug the grave and consumed the corpse.
“The grave was only a metre deep, but what everyone witnessed was not the work of wild animals. The clothes were all neatly folded and placed next to the grave.
“No wild animal would have done that. It was only when the police came the next day that we noticed that some of the clothes had some holes. The soil was in one heap and I know that when a dog digs out something, it scatters the soil everywhere. Someone took my son’s body,” she said.
Asked on why they did not seek medical attention for their ailing children, Ms Matembedza said doing so is against their church’s doctrine.
The deceased’s uncle, Mr Maxwell Benza said when Abraham died, he was buried by church members.
“When the corpse disappeared, my brother came with his church mates and re-buried the clothes. They did not consult other family members over the issue.
“When l suggested that we consult prophets from other churches, Osward vehemently refused. I am 78-years-old and I have never witnessed such an incident. A lot of children were buried along the river but the graves remain intact,” he said. Manica Post