A disturbing hush filled the air in Mtangatanga Forest Reserve, Mzimba District, with Group Village Headman Bwanaholo’s subjects left baffled as legs, and sometimes heads, of dead people were taken out of a hastily made grave.
This is because Malawi Police Service officers, medical personnel and prisoners were picking one body after another from a shallow grave, where bodies of unknown people have been discovered.
In total, 25 bodies were exhumed Tuesday.
Attention had turned to the forest reserve on Tuesday, when one unsuspecting 17-year-old boy, namely Saiti Ndhlovu, discovered one body half buried in the forest.
He immediately abandoned the insect (nyenje) hunt mission he was on, rushed to the village to inform elders, who in turn alerted relevant authorities to the despicable spectacle in the forest.
Visibly shaken, Ndhlovu said it is, in fact, the strange, nauseating stench that directed him to the lonely grave of many people.
“I normally come to this forest to search for wild insects which are called nyenje.
“However, this time was different because, from a distance, a bad stench conquered my nostrils and I could not do otherwise but follow the scent. When I came closer, I saw the hand of a person who was visibly dead,” Ndhlovu said, fighting back tears.
He said he reported the matter to traditional leaders, who rushed to the scene in the company of their subjects.
Group Village Headman Bwanaholo described the development as “a tragedy”, adding that such a scene has never played out in the area.
“It is unbelievable that 25 people can die, and be buried, in this way. To make matters worse, they have been buried in a mass grave,” he said.
The chief suspected that the people could be illegal immigrants, who normally hide in the forest on their way to Dzaleka Refugee Camp in Dowa District.
“When we came here, we found a body in the open. Later, we reported the matter to police who have come here today [Wednesday].
“However, when we came back to the forest today, we were surprised to discover that part of the body that was in the open had been eaten by what we suspect to be wild animals. Two metres from where the body was, we discovered a mass grave.
“This is strange. It is a real tragedy. We are shocked!” said the chief.
When The Daily Times crew visited the scene Tuesday, it noticed that the bodies were buried in a two square metre grave, with the corpses arranged in heaps, as if they were tree logs, facing each other.
The place itself resembled a camp, a temporary one where people visit and then depart for whatever destination appeals to them, as evidenced by empty water bottles, plastic papers, packed meal disposals, among other things, that filled the place.
Group Village Headman Alick, whose area is in the vicinity, said, following the macabre discovery, his subjects are feeling insecure.
The local leader, who distanced his people from the practice of abetting illegal immigrants, said there should be a lasting solution to the influx of illegal immigrants, most of whom are believed to be aided into the country by unpatriotic Malawians.
“No one in my village or nearby villages has reported of a missing person, let alone people. We suspect that these are Ethiopians or people from Somalia, who sometimes hide in this forest. The police know this because we always try to report such issues to them,” Alick said.
Police detectives who rushed to the scene in the morning found exhibits such as Sim cards for telecommunications service providers based in Ethiopia, as well as identity cards, clothes shoes, among other things, suspected to belong to Ethiopians.
Malawi Police Service spokesperson Peter Kalaya said the law enforcers are still investigating the matter but was quick to say exhibits point to the victims as illegal immigrants.
The bodies have since been put in an open grave close to the scene but are covered with logs as medical experts get ready for the next task at hand; post-mortem, which has been slated for today.