Samuel Kadungure Senior Writer
Headlands farmer Simbarashe Sipiwe Chimonyo is in the eye of a storm after she exhumed the remains of a baby from her farm without the consent of its parents and dumped them on a gravesite in a plastic bag.
Chimonyo reportedly proceeded to force-march another couple to exhume the remains of its child that had been buried next to the one whose grave she had violated, arguing that she intended to put a paddock on that land.
When reporters entered the room in which the couple is keeping the remains of its son, they found a decomposed corpse, almost diminished to a skeletal frame, in clothes. The stench of death was heavy in the room.
Two village heads under Chief Makoni – Headman Mary Nyambiya (63) and Headman Manyara Mupedzisiwa (74) – who accompanied journalists to the farm, said they are distressed by the development which violates the norms of their community.
The remains were interred on May 26, 2015 and exhumed on December 27, 2015 at Chimonyo’s Moreson Farm.
Peter Chakaora (30) said his wife Janet Chizunza (30) gave birth after eight months and the baby died moments later.
Chimonyo allegedly granted elderly women the nod to bury the baby closer to a stream in the farm as per tradition.
Another couple also had a similar mishap and the husband, Mr Bigboy Kawara, approached Mrs Chimonyo who told him to bury the cadaver on the same site.
On December 27, 2015 Chimonyo had a change of heart and approached the two families to exhume the remains.
Mr Chakaora refused, while Mr Kawara complied.
“When she ordered me to exhume the body of my child I refused, but the other family complied. I took the order as a mockery and inhuman. I knew she had no right to do that, but was shocked when I was later informed that she had exhumed the remains and put them in a plastic bag before dumping them by the grave site.
“I reported the case to police, who attended the scene, but instead of collecting the remains, they ordered me to guard them on site.
“I spent two traumatic nights at the gravesite, and as the situation became unbearable, I took the remains home and put them under the bed in my bedroom,” explained Mr Chakaora.
Mr Chakaora works as a general hand for a white farmer who is leasing the farm.
“We buried the child there with her blessings and my workmate, Bigboy, was also told to bury his child on the same site. I do not understand what came over her to do such a thing. Since the incident occurred, my family has not known peace, and I see her actions as the trampling on the rights of the poor. I am still living with the remains in my bedroom,” said Mr Chakaora.
Mr Kawara’s wife, Clara Nhongo, confirmed being coerced to exhume the remains of their child.
They were reburied 500m away.
When our sister publication The Manica Post visited the new gravesite on Monday, it had been tampered with.
“She threatened to have us fired and arrested, and we complied. She barked instructions as my husband exhumed the remains.
“What shocked us was that there was nothing in the grave. There were only blankets with no trace of the remains. We were disturbed. And, how do you explain this mystery now that this new grave has also been tampered with?” asked a sobbing Nhongo.
Workers at the farm complained bitterly of rampant abuse and violation of their rights.
Chimonyo was not available for a comment. She was not at the farmhouse on Monday.
A security guard who attended to reporters behind the locked gate said Chimonyo had gone to Rusape where she was expected to appear in court on charges of violating a grave.
Repeated efforts to get a comment on her mobile phone on Tuesday and Wednesday were fruitless. Her mobile phone was continually unreachable.
Manicaland police spokesman Inspector Tavhiringwa Kakohwa said Chimonyo was charged with violation of Section 110 of the Criminal Law (Codification and Reform Act) (Chapter 9:23) which criminalises the infringement of a grave.
However, the outcome of report from Rusape Central Police Station issued by Sergeant Mugare on Monday at 11.23am shows that the case recorded under CR244/12/15 had “prosecution declined” stamped on it.
It reads: “Reference to your report to the police on 29/12/15, it is advised that as a result of the investigations carried out: (a) Prosecution has been declined. (b) The relevant papers are held by this station pending possible receipt of further information. In the event of any further developments you will be advised.”
Chief Makoni has described the incident as “abominable” and vowed to crack the whip.
He said the incidents were a gross violation of traditional customs.
He subpoenaed her to his court.
Chief Makoni (Simbai Cogen Gwasira) said it was unheard of for someone to exhume the remains of a stranger without the consent of the deceased’s relatives.
“I want to know what inspired her to act in this uncultured way. Where did she draw the courage to do such an abominable act that grossly violates our cultural norms?” asked Chief Makoni.
“We have a special way to bury such children; they are interred lying on their right side with the head resting on the right palm. This custom is now impossible to perform because the body has been violated. You do not bury them looking up like we do adults. The family risks not conceiving again if requisite rituals are not performed.
“I also want to know how the graves were disposed of, because our culture dictates that once a body has been removed, you do not just fill and close it with soil, but plant a banana tree or sugar cane. I want her to explain what she put in the graves,” said Chief Makoni.
The area where the graves were initially located has since been ploughed using an ox-drawn plough. – Manica Post.