HARARE – A state witness in the trial of four people accused of the 2020 ritual killing of 11-year-old Tapiwa Makore in Murehwa was impeached on Tuesday after turning hostile.
Julia Kamunda, an aunt to Tapiwa, stunned the Harare High Court when she recanted a statement she gave to the police implicating two of the four people charged with Tapiwa’s killing.
Tapiwa Makore Snr and Thanks Makore – both uncles of the late Tapiwa – are charged alongside garden boy Tafadzwa Shamba and another relative Moud Hunidzarira. They all deny murder charges before Justice Munamato Mutevedzi.
Tapiwa was last seen on September 17 while tending to his parents’ garden. His torso was found the following morning with some parts, including the head, missing.
Ten witnesses are lined to testify in the trial and some have already given evidence.
When Kamunda took the stand on Tuesday, prosecutor Albert Masamha noted that her evidence was completely different from what she told police.
In her statement to the police, Kamunda indicated that her minor son, a cousin to Tapiwa, told her that Shamba – one of the accused men – had approached him and asked him to lure Tapiwa to his homestead.
She also indicated that Tapiwa Makore Snr gave her son US$5 and a green T-Shirt as a token of appreciation for delivering Tapiwa to Shamba, who was the gardener of the slain boy’s father.
Asked why she had lied, Kamunda said she was scared.
“I was scared of being assaulted by the police. I had seen that my husband and my then 11-year-old son had been beaten and I was scared of being beaten too,” Kamunda told the court.
“My son just came and told me what he told the police, and he said ‘ndangabvotomokawo’ (I just blurted out a made-up story) because the police were threatening to put him in a sack and throw him to the crocodiles. I then told the police the same story because that’s what they wanted to hear.”
Justice Mutevedzi said her account was scarcely believable.
The judge asked: “Do you want us to believe that a Grade 5 pupil who is always last in class, like you told the court, could come up with such a complex story and narrate it like that?”
Kamunda responded: “Yes, and I’m asking for forgiveness for lying.”
The judge agreed with the prosecution that the witness had turned hostile.
“The prosecutor has made sufficient basis for impeachment. Her statement is at variance with what she told the court and the police. The witness has been declared a hostile witness and the state is at liberty to cross-examine its witness,” the judge ruled.
The purpose of impeachment is to destroy a witness’ reliability as a witness for either side.
Shamba, the chief suspect, was linked to the crime by his blood-soaked pair of trousers.
In his defence, he claimed to have admitted to the murder under duress after being assaulted by the investigating officers.
He claimed that the blood spots that were found on his pair of trousers were from a chicken he had slaughtered at Makore Snr’s homestead. He also maintained that the blood stains found on his vest were menstrual blood left by his friend’s girlfriend.
The other three suspects also claimed assault by the police, while rejecting their confessions which they claim were scripted by investigators.
Tapiwa was murdered in Nyamutumbu village, Murehwa. His alleged killers, says the prosecution, admitted drugging and then killing him before mutilating his body with an intention to sell his body parts to a witch doctor for US$1,500.
His head was never found, and he was eventually buried without it six months later.
The trial continues.