By Wellington Zimbowa and Jonathan Mbiriyamveka
DEAD men tell no tales, but not so for Fortune Muparutsa whose family wants him to “tell” them how he died.
Some of the artiste’s family members are throwing allegations of murder and want his body exhumed to establish the actual cause of his death.
Though some family members agree that the ex-Runn Family band member died of cancer and want him to rest in peace, his sister Hariet wants Fortune’s body exhumed. The authorities are letting her go-ahead, but since Muparutsa died in Britain, few expect anything got past the British authorities when they investigated the death.
The singer died on October 25 last year after a long battle with an undisclosed ailment. He was only buried nine months later in Mutare owing to family squabbles.
According to sources, the exhumation is expected next Tuesday in Mutare after the District Administrator granted permission for this.
In her affidavit, Hariet accuses her sister Abigail Muparutsa, her son Tonderai Andrew Chinyanda and Gloria Joylyn Muparutsa as well as Christine Mukute, Fortune’s widow, of being involved in the “murder”.
Police have since opened a docket to investigate the issue, as they are usually bound to do so when a close relative makes these sort of allegations.
But Hariet has yet to make up her mind.
In one section of her affidavit, she alleges that her other sisters together with the deceased’s widow could have had a hand in Fortune’s death while in another section she says he could have died of leukaemia, cancer of the bone marrow. She claims bruises on the neck and stomach could be signs that Fortune was stabbed while again she acknowledges he was undergoing chemotherapy.
Hariet, who lives in Harare’s Avenues area, outlined how the family members allegedly murdered the versatile singer. It is now four months after the burial, but Hariet believes that the exhumation of the body for examination by a pathologist could prove that Fortune was murdered. In her catalogue of allegations, she does not seem to leave a single relative unnamed:
She says: “I know the deceased Fortune Tendai Muparutsa as my young brother. He was a hard working musician, singer, songwriter and producer. I also know the suspects Abigail Muparutsa, Gloria Joylyn Muparutsa as my blood sisters and blood sisters to the deceased too.
“Christine Mukute the other suspect is the late Fortune’s wife and Tonderai Andrew Chinyanda is Abigail Muparutsa’s son — he is also involved in the suspected murder case. Gloria Joylyn is residing in South Africa and Abigail, Tonderai and Christine are all in the United Kingdom,” Hariet said.
She cites inconsistencies on the death dates and suspects the delay in telling her about Fortune’s death was a “well-calculated move” to conceal the alleged murder.
“A message about Fortune’s death came from Abigail Muparutsa on November 2, 2008. I was informed that Fortune had passed away the previous day on November 1, 2008 in the UK. I was shocked because I was never advised of my brother being ill or sick. At one moment when I bombarded Abigail with several questions about the death she never gave clear answers and failed to explain the real cause of my brother’s death. Her answers kept changing from time to time.
“There was also a lot of variations in the death-dates of Tendai. I learnt from my other sister Susan Muparutsa that Mrs Mtetwa our first born sister residing in Marondera was informed on October 29, 2008 that Tendai passed away the previous day October 28, 2008. The dates kept coming differently from one source Abigail, even to our only brother Munyaradzi and Gloria in South Africa they were told two different death-dates.
“Why and how so if there was no foul play? We all agreed that the remains of our brother to come back home for burial in November 2008. Later on, plans failed due to several statements that kept on changing all the time from Abigail again. At first she told us that her son Tonderai was through with all the required documentation for the body to be repatriated. She later changed saying all the paper work was now being done by Christine Mukute’s cousin and he was facing hardships putting everything together,” she wrote in the affidavit.
“After a while, she lied again saying they were running short of 1 500 pounds to fly the body home. She gave an ultimatum that if we don’t send 1 500 pounds by 11/11/2008 she was going to cremate Fortune’s body.”
Hariet accuses Abigail of being an “infernal liar” who caused unnecessary delays in the burial arrangements for the late singer.
“These were lies since Fortune was now a British citizen by marriage and was liable to free medical and health facilities. When we agreed to send her 1 500 pounds from here with assistance from Foreign Affairs and the Reserve Bank, she then changed saying everything was under control.”
She lists further delays and believes these were not accidental.
Hariet said she was reluctant to accept the body without having checked it thoroughly and expressed her displeasure when they were told not to open the coffin by staff from a local funeral parlour.
“What if it was someone else or something else? What was the purpose of the passport photo, which happens to be one of the parlour’s requirements? We sincerely told Tapiwa (of Fidelity Funeral) that we would not accept the sealed coffin from the UK and bury without seeing what was inside.
“At first, he highlighted that Abigail (had) called her and advised her not to open and see our dearest brother lest we asked too many questions,” she said.
She alleged that Tapiwa tried to instill fear in them by asking: “Are you brave enough not to be haunted for the rest of your lives?”
Just like Abigail, Hariet said Tapiwa kept dilly-dallying, denying them the chance to view the body.
“Her (Tapiwa) statements varied exceedingly and her lies were pathetic, meaningless so much that we were left with no option but to go to the police.
“So we approached Superintendent Sibanda for help, who in turn contacted the Ministry of Health to intervene. Finally on 25 July 2009 we got permission to open the coffin but upon hearing all this Tapiwa still wanted to make it hard for us saying the coffin was only to be opened on the day of burial,” Hariet alleged.
She alleged that when they eventually opened the coffin at Wilkins Hospital, they discovered bruises on the body.
“He was stabbed on his neck and . . . his left eye was not totally closed. His left ear and the whole area was badly bruised too, and his head was artificially too big for comfort. Part of the hair, its shape was unfamiliar thing with what we know of our brother. The hair part was artificially pitch-black . . . ”
Hariet also queried the conduct of the undertaker whom she only identified as Shonhiwa for allegedly rushing the proceedings at the funeral parlour.
“He refused us so many things about our dearest brother but only learnt that he covered our late brother’s body with a plastic sheet which was meant to be used for laying the body whilst cleaning and clothing it. Shonhiwa was acting as if he was Fortune’s father even up to now I have questions that have no answers. Why was he acting like that? That was my first time seeing an undertaker having full control of a client’s funeral,” she said.
“Even when I insisted on calling the police, Shonhiwa objected to it saying we would only have done it later after church service. He said ‘why would you want to delay everything? Mukazvitsvaga munozviona asi hazvichabatsiri uye hamuchamutsi Fortune. Saka zviri nani munomuzorodza,’” she alleged.
“He rushed everything until we reached Mutare where we buried him on 26 July 2009.”
She complains about the absence of video records of the preparation of the body in Britain and cites inconsistencies in the paperwork.
“Gloria Joylyn in a bid to stop us from making a police report she disappeared with all the copies of the deceased’s relevant papers from the UK. These papers have addresses and phone numbers of the three suspects in the UK. Gloria also texted a message on Susan’s cell to the effect of restricting a police report suggesting that she was willing to sit down and talk first before engaging the police. Since last year she has sent SMSs saying she knows the truth — what Truth?”
Hariet says she strongly feels all the papers from UK should be checked and investigated.
“Firstly the embalming was done before death N.B embalment (sic) was on 19 November and his death was on 25 November 2008 — How so?
“There were no hospital cards for the deceased that would clearly define where he got treatment, who attended him and something explaining the few stitches on both his neck and tummy, and both sides of his neck seemed slit and sewn together later.
Harriet claims that Abigail turned down the offer for financial assistance, but later went on to claim that the delay in bringing the body was due to financial constraints.
“The whole scenario was and is still frightening especially when you imagine all the steps and the fact that since last year Abigail kept insisting and emphasising persistently that his body and death certificates were not to be seen why? Why did Abigail, Tonderai and Christine keep the deceased ‘s body for nine months? What caused the delay?
“Money is out of question since people from this side had offered cash through the Reserve Bank and that Fortune himself owned properties both in Zimbabwe and the UK. After all he had signed up several contacts with a variety of American artists including Akon and it is believed someone out there is collecting and already enjoying his royalties from all those contracts.
“Lastly but not least we also received some flowers from Tapiwa of Fidelity Funeral Parlour saying again Abigail had sent him money to buy them. This surprised us as the suspect Abigail was not communicating with us her relatives. It appears Tapiwa is Abigail’s point of contact, and I strongly suspect was paid to destroy all the evidence. “In considering all the above, I strongly suspect foul play in the death of my brother Fortune Muparutsa,” she alleged.
Hariet also called for the investigation of CJ Rilley, the parlour in the UK where Fortune’s body laid in a morgue unclaimed.
“How and why did they publicise all the information about a dead body that was in their premises? What do ethics of a funeral parlour say if it was not for someone paying them to do that? All the suspects in the UK thought by pushing C.J Rilley to disclose all the nonsense people here at home would get frustrated, disgraced and lose hope in demanding Fortune’s body,” she alleged.
In another twist, Hariet alleges that Abigail ‘grabbed all the Title Deeds of Fortune’s properties both in Zimbabwe and in the UK.
“Transportation of Fortune’s body from (the) UK has to be seriously and thoroughly checked and investigated too. Firstly the coffin and the small blue suite-case came amongst goods, even when we went through to identify Fortune’s body we were alarmed to see the coffin at the goods side. Why didn’t the coffin come through the usual and rightful channel of coffins with bodies coming from overseas?
“With Fortune’s remains the way he came through Harare International Airport was completely different. I guess the flight crew and ground crew at Harare International Airport have their good reasons. . .