These words can sum up the callous killing of three sisters in New Magwegwe suburb in Bulawayo last week, an incident that has sent tongues wagging with many wondering what could really have pushed someone to commit such a crime.
The murder of Ashley Phiri (21) by her husband, Carlos Tinashe Chapeyama (23) a soldier together with her siblings Nkosivumile Ncube and Rita Nkomo has left residents of New Magwegwe dumbfounded. Chapeyama allegedly opened fire on his four victims between Wednesday midnight and Thursday morning last week but the fourth victim, his 18-month-old son, Tlowi survived the attack. Carlos, after the blood-curdling attack turned the gun on himself in a botched attempt to kill himself.
A visit to New Magwegwe yesterday revealed a sad, scared and worried community. Young people could be seen lingering on street corners discussing the issue, old women hand in jaw as they tried to come to terms with the gruesome murder.
Relatives of the deceased were not in a position to speak to this reporter as they felt betrayed by media reports on what transpired on the fateful day.
“Please bantu be media sixoleleni, asilifuni lapha ngoba lilamanga. Labhala izinto ezingayisizo ngendaba leyi,” said a woman who was at the home.
She then went inside the yard and announced that the mourners and family should not entertain the news crew. A vehicle with other relatives was at the gate and they said they were leaving for the mortuary where they were to meet ZNA officers and promised to give an interview later in the day to clarify issues but they never did.
Archbishop of the Roman Catholic Church Bulawayo Diocese Alex Thomas visited the bereaved family who were members of the Roman Catholic Church to console them.
“I am here to console them and pray for them because we belong to each other. It is very sad to hear of this, we are all shocked because it happened all of a sudden without anyone expecting it. My message is let us solve our problems with dialogue, patience and prayer. Let us communicate our problems with the elders of the family and the church because problems are there everywhere but everything can be solved if we open up. Again in marriages there are so many issues, stresses and challenges but everything can be solved if we trust in God,” he said.
Some neighbours who spoke to Sunday News said Chapeyama was a coward.
“He is a coward, a big one, why did he not hit the bull’s eye and shoot himself in the head or chest where he was surely going to die? He developed cold feet after realising he had killed people, that is why he aimed for his stomach,” said one elderly man.
Others are “praying” for his speedy recovery.
“Carlos must recover quickly and face the music; he deserves to live and be punished severely for his crime. He cannot take away innocent lives just like that,” said one woman.
Another youthful man from the same area said he heard the gunshots in the morning of the killings.
“I heard the shots but I ignored because I thought it was the electricity poles outside that had exploded as we had no power that time. So I went back to sleep. Later on that is when we heard some commotion and we went to investigate and we saw the girls lying dead on the floor. It hurts because we grew up together with Ashley and her sisters, we actually attended Magwegwe Secondary School together,” he said.
However, it is said Chapeyama arrived in the area earlier in the day.
“Carlos came and he was harassing people at the beer hall that same afternoon. He went to the women who sell isitshwala and he was demanding that they sell him some food and they did. He was armed with a screwdriver, an AK47 and a pick and that is what he used to gain entry into the house,” claimed a resident.
He was said to have been intoxicated as he was drinking alcohol while in full military gear and actually brushed shoulders with other patrons, while asking his wife’s whereabouts.
“He came to scan the area, he was looking for his wife as she is said to have run away from him and had not disclosed where she was staying. She had run away three months prior to the day she was killed. He found out that she was there at her grandmother’s house and he pounced on her in the dead of the night,” said the resident.
According to sources close to the happenings Chapeyama was known as the son-in-law but he had not paid any bride price and was not a favourite of the family because of his violent nature.
“Ashley was always coming back home fleeing that violent man. She complained all the time about abuse but he would sweet talk her and she would go back. It is sad that it has had come to this,” said the source.
Other neighbours also concurred that Chapeyema was seen in the neighbourhood that afternoon and the family spoke to him.
“When he came to the house he was told to bring elders so that they solve their problem and he went away. He went only to return in the night and killed the girls. The police were also warned that afternoon that Carlos was likely to cause problems after he had visited but they did not react but look at what has happened now,” said a neighbour.
She left behind a six-year-old child.
Professor Claude Mararike, a lecturer in Sociology at the University of Zimbabwe said Chapeyama could have been influenced by a number of things.
“This man could have been possessed by a demonic force or he was under the influence of alcohol and drugs that saw him lose his mind momentarily,” he said.
Prof Mararike went on: “Another dimension is that being African people we send mamhepo/imimoya to each other and these cause havoc in the life of the receiver. So this man got aggrieved by something we are yet to find out and decided to kill his victims. Failure to get counselling over the matter then pushed him to commit the crime. Had he been assisted by members of his clan he would probably not have committed the crime.”
Prof Mararike, however, said the soldier now has possibly invited ngozi/ingozi which will affect his clan if not dealt with.
“Now that pava nengozi it is not only going to haunt him alone but the rest of the family is now involved, it becomes generational if he does not pay retribution to the other family. He may be tried in a court of law which is a European style of dealing with murder but in our African context he will not be done if he appears in court only. He now has to appease the spirits of the deceased people or face being haunted,” he added.
Culturalist Mr Pathisa Nyathi said the murder was committed in such a manner because the perpetrator had reduced his wife to a sub-human.
“Man does not kill another man, what he does is to reduce the other to a sub-human so as to take away the guilt. He may have thought to himself — I want to kill that dog — already he no longer valued her life or humanness, that is why he came all the way armed with a gun to kill. The other sisters were also categorised as such because of them being siblings,” he said.
Mpilo Central Hospital clinical director Mr Solwayo Ngwenya said both Carlos and Tlowi were on the path to full recovery.
Provisional burial arrangements are set for tomorrow in Bulawayo.