Piet Rampedi and Russel Molefe
A DECADE after a Limpopo Task Team Report on Ritual Murders confirmed that muti killers terrorised communities in Vhembe, very little appears to have changed.
According to the report, ritual murderers had killed at least 47 people and severed their body parts for muti purposes.
In the latest incident this week police have launched a man-hunt for a Mutale prophet, Zimbabwean Richard Mlambo suspected of involvement in the brutal murder of Lufuno Caroline Mandebvu on December 31.
Mandebvu (30) was laid to rest at her village of Khalavha in Ndzelele on Sunday, weeks after the mother of two’s decomposed body was found in the Tshilavulu Mountain, Mutale last month.
Speaker after speaker, including Thulamela Mayor Tshifhango Mushoni and Chief Chip Rodgers Tshivhase, took turns lambasting Mlambo. The main suspect, prophet Richard Mlambo appeared in the Mutale Magistrate Court on January 16 on a charge of murder.
Mlambo and another bishop, whose name is known to African Times but cannot be disclosed until he appears in court, allegedly killed Mandebvu at Mulodi-Bashasha Village in Mutale on New Year’s Eve.
Mandebvu’s brother, Khathu and locals said Mlambo, when confronted about her disappearance, implicated his bishop, who has since gone into hiding.“He said to us, ‘I am going to the bishop, I am going to sort out my issues with the bishop. The bishop knows everything. When we called the bishop, the bishop said, ‘I have stopped the pastor to go back because you guys are looking for him, so he must help you guys with whatever you want,” Khathu said.
“He [Bishop] kept on saying, due to his prayers she will come back because she is alive. But ‘give me four days’. But, from there, you know it’s not easy to believe, we kept on searching.”
Khathu said the search for Mandebvu took him and the community to the mountains, the homes of taxi drivers who transported her on the day of her disappearance, her workplace in Thohoyandou as well as the homes of her ex-boyfriends without any luck.
“It was not easy for us. We went to different mountains, not knowing, and the people kept asking us, ‘why are you going in that direction when you know the bishop knows what is happening?’. People got mad and went to the bishop, the bishop said, ‘you are disturbing my prayers’”.
Limpopo police spokesperson Captain Maano Sadiki said Mlambo remained in custody and would appear in court again on March 2.
However, Sadiki would neither confirm nor deny that the bishop was also a suspect.
“Our investigators are following all the leads, hence I said earlier on that our investigation is in full swing, meaning that everything is possible,” Captain Sadiki said.
Mlambo’s arrest has done very little to allay fears in the community.
Makwarela Mbengeni, a pensioner from Tshiavha Village, said she did not feel free travelling in some parts of Vhembe.
“I fear coming to this side of Tshivhase because people here behave as if they eat human flesh. In my area, in Tshiavha, we don’t have ritual murders. People die natural deaths,” Mbengeni said.
“If you are running a business, and you don’t have stock, no miracle will produce it for you simply because you killed people.”
African Times visited Mlambo’s home at Mulodi-Bashasha, about 300 kms north-east of Polokwane, on Sunday. His two houses had been burnt to ashes allegedly by locals after he emerged as a suspect in Mandebvu’s disappearance and subsequent murder.
The gates were locked. Inside, ashes and debris could be seen scattered all over the yard while parts of the walls had been flattened.
A neighbour, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said it all started in 2002 when Mlambo, believed to be in his late 30s, moved into the nearby Zumbama Village in Mutale from Zimbabwe.
Three years later, he relocated to the nearby Mulodi-Bashasha with his South African wife, who hails from the same district.
However, the neighbour stressed, the community got concerned when Mlambo immediately put up four yellow flags and crosses on top of a tree at the entrance to his yard.
When they asked him what the flags were for, Mlambo said he was a prophet. Agitated community members then asked him to first obtain from the headman permission to practice as a prophet, in line with local tradition.
“He left and later returned with some concocted certificate signed by some unknown bishop. But we could see that something was wrong with him. If a person is dodgy, you can see,” said the neighbour.
The ritual murder task team report had recommended, among others, that the police set up a specialised unit to deal with ritual-related crimes.
It’s not clear whether this has been done by the police. Limpopo police spokesperson Brigadier Motlafela Mojapelo requested time to double check whether a new unit had been established.
He had yet to comment at the time of print. – African Times