THE story of a Lupane man who was allegedly fatally bitten by a snake in a 49-metre deep well has taken a new twist amid claims that he fell to his death in the shaft after a rope he was using broke.
It appears the snake never existed and may have been created to cover up the fall.
The Bulawayo Fire brigade has since revealed that it took long to retrieve the body mainly because the victim’s family was refusing to have it hooked out of the narrow bottom of the well.
“They said they suspected foul play in their relative Sandile Mguni (25)’s death. They feared that if we used grappling hooks we might damage the body and destroy evidence of the actual cause of death,” said Bulawayo Chief Fire officer Mr Richard Peterson.
He said when the family finally gave permission on Friday; the body was retrieved within minutes.
“We hooked the clothes and the body was not damaged at all,” he said.
The owner of the well Mr Glen Moyo of Mkarabuli Village under Chief Mabhikwa had contracted Mr Jacob Ndlovu to rehabilitate it.
Mr Ndlovu popularly known as Ndosi sub-contracted the now deceased of Sikhwehle Village and Mr Bhekani Nyoni to do the job.
On Wednesday November 14, Mguni entered the well using a rope with the help of Mr Ndlovu and Mr Nyoni.
According to earlier reports, while Mguni, better known as Mgunyana in his village was inside the well, Mr Ndlovu and Mr Nyoni heard him screaming that he had been bitten by a snake.
Mguni’s body was fished out on Wednesday last week by rescuers from Hwange Colliery Company and Bulawayo Fire Brigade using grappling hooks, eight days after the fatal incident. They used floodlights at the bottom of the well whose diameter is less than one metre and hooked Mguni’s pair of jean shorts before pulling his body out.
The body was still intact with injuries on the head and shoulder, the Chronicle was told.
There are claims that Mr Ndlovu hatched a plan to conceal the accident and cooked up the snake story to avoid possible arrest for negligence.
Allegations are that Mr Ndlovu promised to give Mr Nyoni a cow to buy his silence.
A news crew visited the area on Friday a few hours after Mguni’s burial and spoke to the two families.
The burial site reportedly almost turned into a warzone because of a post-mortem report which has not been made public.
Efforts to speak to Mr Ndlovu and Mr Nyoni were fruitless as the two are now residing at Gomoza Police Base for security reasons because of the tense atmosphere in their home area.
The news crew also visited the police base and saw the duo busy with household chores.
Both the late Mguni’s and Moyo families said the snake story was a cover-up as no-one has seen it. “We started drilling the well in 1996 and finished in 2000. We hardly use it and wanted it cleaned. We drained all the water and paid Ndosi $30 to inspect the well to find out why the water level was low and he said there was cement at the bottom,” said Mr Moyo at his homestead.
Mr Moyo said Mr Ndlovu and crew earlier told him about a hissing sound of a snake in the well.
He said days before the tragedy the trio boiled a drum full of water and poured it in the well in an attempt to kill the snake.
“We had just had tea with the three when I went to check on my donkeys and my wife called me to rush back. Ndosi said there had been an accident. He said they heard Mguni groaning in the well and suddenly went quiet,” narrated Mr Moyo.
“No one else saw the snake around the well before and even after the incident. We’ve since filled up the well with rubble.”
His son Mr Sambulo Moyo said they were ready to engage the Mguni family which wants compensation.
The late Mguni’s uncle Mr Luka Mguni said the family wants compensation.
“They narrated to us the story of the snake which no one else has seen. The postmortem says that he had injuries on the collarbone and head which suggests that he fell and we’re unhappy because of the fabricated report they gave us. We didn’t bring the postmortem because police wanted it for investigations,” said Mr Mguni without stating how much the family wanted as compensation.
Mr Mguni said false claims of a snake in the well scared rescuers who could possibly have saved Sandile’s life.