Mutilated bodies – often missing arms, tongues, lips, genitals or skin – are being found with increasing frequency in different parts of Zambia in what authorities say are ritual killings.
“We’re amazed by the increased number of bodies discovered with parts missing,” Police Deputy Inspector-General Solomon Jere told Anadolu Agency.
“This is a mystery we need to solve,” he asserted.
“Sometimes, we’re forced to agree with… people claiming that these acts are nothing less than acts of ritual killing,” Jere said.
Recently, the dismembered body of a 19-year-old student, from which certain body parts and facial skin had been removed, was discovered in Lusaka.
Earlier, the body of a 70-year-old woman – from which the nipples had been severed – was found in the town of Sesheke in the Western Province.
A number of other victims in the Central Province had their hands and legs chopped off.
In the Sinazeze Township in the Southern Province, two businessmen were recently arrested after being caught attempting to purchase a cadaver – along with a number of body parts – for 45,000 kwacha (roughly $882).
In Kabwe, capital of the Central Province, another man was arrested after attempting to sell his children to a witchdoctor for $58,000.
Professor Mubanga Kashoki, a former lecturer at the University of Zambia, said ritual killings were perceived by some as acts of “spiritual fortification.”
“The use of human body parts for medicinal purposes is based on the belief that it is possible to appropriate the life-force of a person through its literal consumption by another,” he told AA.
“More often than not, these crimes evade the spotlight because they’re largely unreported, or recorded merely as murder,” Kashoki said.
He added that perpetrators usually target vulnerable members of society – such as the poor, women, children, the disabled or albinos – whose families lack the resources to obtain justice.
Lusaka businessman Julius Mebelo, for his part, believes the crimes constitute ritualistic murder.
“I wonder why most victims are young girls whose lips, tongues, genitals and other organs have been removed,” he told AA. “I agree with the people who feel the missing parts of the body are used for rituals.”
Such killings have already led to violent attacks on those accused of practicing ritual murder.
Police official Jere said protests had recently been staged in different parts of the country against the troubling phenomenon.
He said that in Mansa, provincial capital of Luapula Province, three people had been burnt to death by angry residents following rumors that they had hired ritual killers to abduct children and use their body parts to make magical charms to boost their wealth.
“Not only did residents kill these businessmen, but they looted all their goods and threatened to kill anyone using human blood to get rich,” Jere said.
Sanaula Ibrahim, a 51-year-old Indian business owner in Luapula, narrowly escaped with his life after angry protesters looted his chain of shops and torched his home.
He had been accused of involvement in ritual murder – a charge he vehemently denies.
“I was accused of ritual killing,” he said, “but I don’t want to talk about it now.”
Professor Mubanga Kashoki, a former lecturer at the University of Zambia, said ritual killings were perceived by some as acts of “spiritual fortification”.