Forensic experts busy at the scene of the exhumation at Tshitavha.
The scourge of grave robberies that has become a common feature in the Tshitavha Sambandou area seems to continue unabated.
Last Friday, police exhumed yet another grave after it was pointed out by one of the accused. This follows the exhumation of two more graves belonging to twins at Folovhodwe a week ago.
Grave robberies in the area outside Thohoyandou surfaced last month and the latest development has left many suspecting that the thefts could be far more widespread than people had thought.
Since the startling revelations by a 17-year-old girl a month ago about graves being dug up for human body parts from corpses, four graves have already been dug up. She told the community she and her former boyfriend were stealing body parts from the graves and later selling them.
The latest, the fifth to be dug up, was because of further confessions by the alleged syndicate kingpin Daniel Nephawe. Two graves belonging to the Nyavane twins were exhumed at Folovhodwe a week ago. Some of the body parts were found to be missing. The twins were Daniel Nephawe's brothers, who were 18 months old at the time of their death. They died of natural causes.
Nephawe and the other four are making a formal bail application at the Makuya Periodical Court relating to the various charges they are facing. Last Wednesday, the bail application had to be postponed after new information about another grave was received. The application is to continue this week.
On Friday, curious residents in the area arrived in numbers to witness yet another body being exhumed. The grave is that of Grace Phundulu, whose late son Alpheus had also had his grave violated. Forensic officials dug up the grave and what was retrieved were bones, clothing belonging to the deceased and pieces of the coffin.
Speaking after the exhumation, the Phundulu family spokesperson, Fhatuwani Phundulu, said the strange incidents that were happening in their area had become a source of much concern for residents. "As a family we are confused. Our other relative's grave has been vandalized and his remains are missing and now we have to face this again. Our prayers are that this time around, no part should be missing.”
He said that they were now like a “cursed family” and that they did not know how long it would take the police to conclude the tests. "Before they come back, we will have to bear having empty graves, and imagine when you are attending a funeral and the graves of your loved ones are opened. It is very embarrassing, but we will wait for the law to take its course," he said.
Dr Alunamutwe Randitsheni, who has done research on ritual murders, was present during the exhumation. He said that the use of human body parts for muti was extensive and he indicated five categories of people involved in these practises. Traditional healers and leaders, businesspeople, pastors and politicians are among those fingered in the practice.
"I strongly believe this is a well-planned syndicate with lots of resources. If one of the suspects can afford property in the Western Cape, it shows that lots of money is involved in the syndicate. All stakeholders should work together and fight for an end to the scourge," said Randitsheni.
Limpopo police spokesperson Brig Motlafela Mojapelo said that in the latest exhumation they could not determine if some parts were missing, but they had sent the remains for forensic tests that would give an indication if the body had been tampered with or not.
Date:08 October 2017 - By: Elmon Tshikhudo
Elmon Tshikhudo started off as a photographer. He developed an interest in writing and started submitting articles to local as well as national publications. He became part of the Limpopo Mirror family in 2005 and has since been a familiar name among the newspaper's readers.