Theories have been propounded to explain the incident on the hot summer evening deep within the hinterland of Chipinge.
But several schools of thought have failed to provide clear answers.
Many months since the gruesome incident, even the village elders remain speechless.
Because of the mysterious happening The Sunday Mail In-Depth last week took to the Middle Sabi region near the Mozambican border.
The aim of the crew was to delve into allegations that Celina Machinja Sithole (58) of Chikore Village bludgeoned her neighbour, Gogo Masceline Matsotso Thembani, to death with a rock, cut the body into pieces before cooking and consuming the flesh.
Cannibalism is taboo in Zimbabwe and many countries but it seems the habit is now existent in the country judging by a spate of mysterious confessions currently obtaining. Chief Musikavanhu, whose area Sithole, popularly known as Machinja, had settled, was at a loss for words as to why the widower allegedly killed the innocent grandmother, whose only crime was to inquire on her missing goat.
“She (Machinja) started behaving oddly of late. She relocated to this area about nine years ago as a normal person,” said Mrs Grace Mbonyeya (52), a neighbour of both the victim and the perpetrator.
Mrs Mbonyeya said Sithole’s increasingly bullish behaviour saw her being shunned by the community and this placed her into isolation.
“She would, without contrition, openly steal and eat other villagers’ livestock, that is when people began to fear her unbecoming behaviour,” Grace’s younger sister Jessica (35) alleged.
But it was the headman, Mwanandimai Muyambo, who narrated the whole incident which shook to the core the area situated near the Universal Church of Christ in Zimbabwe-owned Chikore Mission.
“The late Gogo Thembani went to Machinja’s homestead after one of her goats had reportedly gone missing.
“She had notified her daughter-in-law of her intention to look for the lost goat. As hours drifted into the night before her mother-in-law could pitch up, a missing person report was lodged with the police post situated at Chikore Mission,” he said.
Headman Muyambo said the villagers and the police mobilised themselves into a search party and Machinja’s homestead was their first port of call.
The team was confronted with horrendous images of a blood-stained hoe and mutilated human flesh strewn all over.
“A bloody hoe and a sharp stone which we strongly suspect were used to kill and slice the deceased lay at Machinja’s doorstep,” said the headman.
Deserted . . . Neighbours Grace Mbonyeya and her younger sister Jessica next to the late Gogo Matsotso’s hut
“We thought we had seen enough, but were in for a rude awakening. A four-legged pot with cooked human liver, genitals and intestines was discovered inside the lone hut which Machinja used as a bedroom cum kitchen.”
Herbert Dhundu, who is second to Chief Musikavanhu, said Machinja was nowhere to be located but pointers revealed that cannibal meals had taken place before the suspect had fled.
The search party decided to hunt for Machinja and took the Chipangai and Kondo trail where several other body parts were discovered, an indication that Machinja had allegedly continued with her unsavoury acts.
She was apprehended about 37 kilometres from her homestead.
Machinja was taken to Chipinge Police Station and later appeared in court facing murder charges.
Chipinge Magistrates’ Court prosecutor Mr Witness Nyamundaya said initially, a murder charge was preferred against Machinja as they waited for forensic reports to ascertain weather the cooked body parts belonged to Gogo Matsotso.
“At the moment she has been sent to the Harare psychiatric centre to determine her mental well-being. Until that (medical) determination, we cannot prefer other charges” he said.
Head of the UCCZ church at Chikore Mission, where some of the remains of Gogo Matsotso were interred, Reverend Peter Khosa, said he was still to come to terms with the incident.
“When the exact thing happened, I was in Mozambique for a church conference, but was briefed of what transpired by the hospital head and they even showed me where the remains were interred. We are praying hard so that the combined more than a thousand students we have here are not affected by the trauma which occurred on their
doorstep,” he said.
Cannibalism is the act of any animal eating or consuming members of its kind or their mates.
There are two types of cannibalism which are endocannibalism (which is an act of eating a human being from their own community or social group) and exocannibalism (which is an act of eating an individual human being outside their tribe or community).
Recent events in Zimbabwe point to the fact that, cannibalism is performed as rituals by some cult groups such as satani sts.