When news reached The Voice that a man was due to appear before Masunga Magistrates on Thursday morning accused of the gruesome murder of his mother, we rushed to the small court to cover the story.
It was rumoured that the previous night in Nkange village, someone had bitten their elderly mother in the throat and then gouged out her eyes.
Arriving just in time for the day’s arraignments to start, we speculated on which of the shackled, slightly shady looking men might be appearing for the murder.
One by one the defendants took their place in the dock, where they faced charges ranging from rape to robbery.
None, however, were accused of murder.
Finally, three hours later, just when it looked like our information was wrong, 45-year-old Banyaladzi Katshame was called.
Shuffling slowly up to the stand with the aid of crutches, the physically disabled, mentally unstable middle-aged woman was charged with killing her mother, Chakadzwa Katshame on May 16.
When the charges against her were read out, Banyaladzi, with her relatives huddled together in court, responded loudly, “She said she was my mother but I do not believe she gave birth to me.
“She hated me. She preferred my other siblings and she also used to steal my stuff and then deny it! What kind of a mother steals from her own child?”
Before either the presiding Magistrate Tumelo Amos or the prosecutor could respond, Banyaladzi blurted out, “The way she treated me is why I murdered her. She has instilled that evil spirit in me!”
Enquiring after the suspect’s mental state, a worried Amos was told by the prosecution, “ She is suspected to be mentally disturbed. Her medical cards indicate she is visiting a health facility and receiving treatment.”
Banyaladzi, who told the court she had lost two of her children, said she knew what she was being accused of and demanded to be provided with legal representative.
Amos reminded her that government could only appoint a lawyer when the matter has been committed to the High Court.
“May the matter be referred to the High Court then,” responded the unemployed Banyaladzi, causing many in court to laugh in spite of the tense atmosphere.
“That’s not how it works. There’s a process that we should follow,” replied Amos gently.
Requesting the accused be remanded in custody – a request that was granted – the prosecuting officer said, “Investigations are ongoing and the postmortem is yet to be done. There is more evidence to be collected from possible witnesses and the suspect is to be taken to the psychiatric doctor for medical examination.”
Banyaladzi, seemingly unfazed, then hobbled out of court, where she was consoled by anxious members of her family, many of them in tears. She was then taken away by the police, her tattered blue jersey symbolic of both her difficult past and the seemingly miserable future that awaits her. She will next appear in court on May 31.
Meanwhile, when quizzed on the details of Chakadzwa’s death, Tutume police Station Commander Jerry Halala said, “I can’t say she killed her with her teeth, but it was really bloody. It was a terrible sight!”
The top cop added that it was difficult to deal with whatever confession Banyaladzi makes considering at her mental state.