“THEY must die at 10PM!” the man kept chanting to himself as he waited in the darkness outside his parents’ bedroom.
Lisani Nleya (45) repeated the mantra as he led police on indications on Tuesday, explaining how he killed his elderly parents on September 1 last year.
The self-confessed killer appeared remorseless as he said his father Nicholas Cain Nleya (83) and his mother Margaret Nleya (78) deserved to die because they were bewitching him to enrich the rest of the family.
His insistence on 10PM has led to speculation that the killing could have been ritually motivated.
The elderly couple were allegedly tortured to death before their bedroom was set on fire and blow up with explosives, charring the bodies beyond recognition.
The chilling killing at the Nleya homestead in Empandeni, Mangwe District in Matabeleland South Province, horrified the country.
Lisani was the complete opposite of the stereotype of a villainous killer as he swaggered into the homestead in leg irons, handcuffs and about 10 police officers — two armed with AK 47 rifles — guarding him.
Wearing white jeans, blue tackies, a brown jacket and a black face mask, Lisani looked relaxed.
He towered above most of the police officers.
Born the seventh out of 10 siblings — four boys and six girls — Lisani, the youngest son, is an army deserter who served in the DRC war.
He is said to have been an explosives expert in the army.
There was palpable tension when he came face-to-face with four of his siblings for the first time in 15 years after he cut ties with his family and moved to South Africa.
Lisani appeared to enjoy narrating how he killed his parents.
To him they were witches and not parents.
The only way to deal with them, he said, was to kill them.
“Everything was supposed to start at 10pm,” he repeated almost to himself.
Lisani said he was by the window through which he entered the house at 9:50pm.
“I used five minutes to recount all the pain my parents had put me through and the last minute to countdown to 10pm,” he said, explaining how he psyched himself up to carry out the ruthless double murder.
His three sisters and one brother had an opportunity to confront him about his actions.
One of his sisters, in an emotional moment, told him his mother was longing to hug him when he finally returned home after his 15-year absence, but he rudely responded saying: “Engaging yena wayengiloya? (Why would she want to hug me when she was bewitching me?)”
Lisani would visit Zimbabwe during the 15 years he never visited his family. He would stay at a house in Bulawayo’s Emakhandeni suburb but he never contacted his family.
Speaking in fluent English throughout the proceedings, Lisani showed the officers and his siblings how and where he entered the homestead on his mission.
Some of the questions they posed to him were: “What exactly happened inside the room after you gained access? Did you axe your parents? Did they fight back? Did your parents say anything to you?”
During his narration, his sister, Sindisiwe, appeared stunned and had crossed her hands on top of her head. Lisani’s brother, Edmund, just folded his hands on his chest in disbelief while the other two seemed like they were under a heavy sedative.
After a brief discussion between the family and investigators, Lisani was put back inside one of the two police cars and they left for Plumtree.
A probe into his past revealed he fathered two children with different women.
“He grew up like all normal boys. He went to Embakwe Secondary School where he did his O-levels after which he joined the Zimbabwe National Army in 1999. At school he was very bright and had a very good hand writing. Before you read what he wrote, you would first admire his neat handwriting. But I really do not know what transformed him; I ask myself daily what happened and I can’t find answers,” said his brother Edmund.
Edmund said his father once tried to spiritually cleanse his brother, thinking his behaviour emanated from his time in the DRC war but Lisani refused.
“That’s when he started accusing mum and dad of bewitching him,” he said.
Lisani deserted the army in 2004 and left for South Africa.
Director of Army public relations Colonel Alphios Makotore said Lisani was discharged for desertion in 2004.
“Nleya was serving with 33 Reserve Force Battalion stationed in Chipinge after he had joined the ZNA in 1999 and was deployed to the DRC. He only served in the army for five years. He went Absent Without Official Leave (AWOL) in December 2003,” he said.
Col Makotore said Nleya was later arrested and tried by the General Court Martial which found him guilty. He was then dismissed.
Zimbabwe National Traditional Healers Association (Zinatha) president George Kandiero said it was crucial for soldiers to be cleansed after participating in war.
“In a war situation there is killing that happens. A person is not like a chicken, you need to get rid of certain spirits because some of the people you kill during war would have undergone certain rituals which might torment or follow you. This may explain Lisani’s behaviour,” he said.
Mr Kandiero said members of the public must report all Zinatha members who tell clients that they are being bewitched during consultations, as such claims are highly unethical.
“If ever he was told that he was being bewitched by his parents by our member that member must be brought to book. This is unprofessional. We don’t encourage them to divulge such information and to bring disunity in families,” he said.
A mental health expect, Dr Nemache Mawere, said drug abuse and other mental challenges can lead to violent tendencies.
“We see these kinds of cases, although they are sporadic. Sometimes it can be a natural mental illness or substance abuse. Subjects may become paranoid when they fail to progress in life even when it is their own failing. Since he also went to war a lot of things can happen. I do not know if they went through the post-traumatic stress disorder counselling,” he said.
Roman Catholic Church Archbishop of Bulawayo, Alex Thomas said some of the things Lisani said suggested he could have been involved in cults or satanism.
“I do not understand why he would wait for exactly 10pm to start his evil deeds. Maybe he was advised by a prophet or traditional healer. From my research also, ritual cults and satanists conducts their activities from around 10pm to 12 midnight,” he said.
Archbishop Thomas called for justice to be served in the case as the death of the couple who were devout Catholics was gruesome.
Chronicle traced the Emakhandeni family in whose home Lisani stayed when in Zimbabwe.
They seemed traumatised.
The family requested not to be named saying the events of the past days disturbed them.
“I have known him since 2018. I sell my wares in town and I met him as he was selling sandals. We made a deal for me to buy in bulk from him so that I could sell and make a profit. We chatted a lot until he opened up that he had accommodation problems as he had problems with his family. He told me that he was returning to South Africa because he had no one to accommodate him. That is how it started,” said a family member who described Lisani as a “free-spirited” dreamer.
“He told me that he wanted to open a bakery in Empandeni. He spoke also of his love for farming and we even talked of doing a joint venture because I had interest in farming as well.”
Every time he visited, the member said, came, he would not spend more than a day at the house as he would come in the morning and say he is going to his rural home and only return to bid them farewell when he was returning to South Africa.
“He never brought any serious groceries when he came. He would buy my kids some sweets and just one or two things. He is that person who would just arrive without calling. On some occasions he would sleep on the veranda and when you ask him why he would say he arrived late and did not want to disturb us,” said the family member.
Lisani is said to have arrived at the house early in the morning from South Africa on the day of the murder, slept for a few hours before leaving around 9am in the morning only to return early in the morning on 2 September.
A source said Lisani often said he came from a very rich family but he was the poorest.