Sunday, 22 May 2022

HE WAS A GENIUS : SERIAL KILLER'S SISTER SPEAKS


“GROWING up, he was so bright in school, just like his name, Bright. We all had high hopes for him. He attended his secondary education in Chiweshe, where he attained eight As and one B at Ordinary Level. His results were the best at school.”

These are the words of Benhilda Zhantali, sister to suspected serial killer Bright Zhantali, who is before the courts on allegations of murdering at least 23 people in different parts of the country.

Police say he has confessed to most of the heinous crimes. He has even suggested the victims could actually be more.

If true, this would probably make him the most prolific serial killer to ever walk the land. Zhantali hails from Concession in Mazowe District. He allegedly committed the egregious offences in areas that include Marondera, Harare, Mutare, Rusape, Hwedza, Goromonzi and Macheke. The victims, who were invariably women, were raped before they met the most violent end imaginable.

Sex workers were also not spared.

Benhilda said the family has been shattered by allegations levelled against her brother, who unfortunately could not proceed to Advanced Level, as the family did not have the money to finance his education.

“I think this is when his strange behaviour started. He would leave home and be away for months, only to come back for a couple of days and go back again. He would leave without notice. He was arrested multiple times for theft. He was in and out of jail for theft, but back then, we never heard of any murder cases against him,” she said.

Apparently, he was always a secretive person. “We grew up together in Concession. Bright was always quiet and …very secretive. Nobody could tell what was going through his mind. When he married, he lived in Mabvuku with his wife, but she regularly complained that he was hardly at home. He would leave his wife and go away for months until they separated. They have one child.”

Charges against Zhantali have left people in his hometown, Concession, shell-shocked.

His childhood friend Alvin Chibaya said he was an easy-going character, but had a short temper.

“We called him Zhants. He was calm and collected but he never wanted to be provoked. We were together at nursery school as well as at Dandamera Primary School in Concession. At primary school, he would pick up fights, bullying others at school because he was slightly older than the rest of us. He was easily agitated and any slight provocation would lead to a fist fight,” Chibaya said.

“For some time, he was involved in gold panning. When I met him in 2017, he personally told me he was into gold mining. His actual words were, anything happens when you are into gold panning …”

Concession resident Enock Chirodziva said police should investigate some cold murder cases in the area. “There was a period, I think between 2018 and 2019, when some ladies of the night were murdered in Concession and Glendale. Police should look into these cases,” he said. Police spokesperson Assistant Commissioner Paul Nyathi confirmed that Zhantali’s suspected murder cases stand at 23.

Investigations, however, are continuing.

“I can confirm that Zhantali’s cases are still at 23. Police continue to pursue investigations into his cases. We are calling upon individuals or anyone with more information to report to the nearest police station.”

Details of most of the murder cases linked to him are simply spine-chilling and blood-curdling. Victims were either stoned, stabbed, axed or strangled to death.

In one of the cases in Dombotombo, Marondera, the victim’s body was wrapped in a blanket, set ablaze and burnt beyond recognition in order to conceal the crime.

In a separate case, it is alleged that on July 17, 2020, at around 7pm, Zhantali approached Priscilla Chidakwa (24), who was a sex worker, and offered to pay US$10 for her services.

He reportedly lured her to Donnybrook Race Course in Mabvuku, Harare, where she was subsequently raped and strangled. The body was found dumped in a trench.

On December 7, 2021, at around 1pm, it is alleged the suspect approached Manyara Chisora of Ruwa under the guise of looking for a piece of land to rent.

When they went into her house to sign a lease agreement, Zhantali is believed to have raped Chisora and fatally struck her thrice with the back of an axe.  Her valuables were also stolen. Again in December 2021, Spiwe Nyamoto was at Double Jay Night Club in Mabvuku when she was approached by Zhantali, who hired her for the night.

The pair agreed to go near Mabvuku Sewerage Ponds, where he allegedly raped and stabbed her to death.

The body was thrown into a sewage pond. When the police attended the scene, two cellphones that later linked Zhantali to the murder were recovered. The long arm of the law finally caught up with him in March after tracking the cellphone stolen from one of the victims.

Zhantali would probably go down in infamy for being linked to the highest-ever number of murder cases.

The rap sheet of notorious duo Stephen Chidhumo and Edgar Masendeke, which includes a series of armed robberies, pales in significance compared to the latest allegations.

South Africa’s Thozamile Taki, known as The Sugarcane Killer, is reported to have killed 13 women aged 18–25, dumping their bodies in agricultural plantations.

Taki was in 2011 sentenced to 13 life sentences for the murders and an additional 208 years, 16 years for each of his victims.

One of the world’s most prolific serial killers is Pedro Lopez of Colombia, who was convicted of murdering 110 girls in Ecuador and confessed to 240 more murders in Colombia.

He was inexplicably later set free after serving some years in prison and his whereabouts remain unknown. Another infamous serial killer is British doctor Harold Shipman who killed about 250 people that were mostly his patients.But Zhantali’s story is a gripping tale that is still unfolding.

If convicted, the 30-year-old could possibly face the noose.

Although the Constitution abolished mandatory death penalty, it is only excluded for women, persons below the age of 21 and persons above 70. Sunday Mail

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