By Dumisani Nsingo and Lynnia Ndlovu
A cold-hearted teacher based at Madume Secondary School in Matangombe Village in Gwanda District allegedly went berserk, axed his wife and callously butchered two children under his guardianship before attempting to commit suicide by axing himself with the same axe.
The incident occurred on Friday at around 3am. Matabeleland South police spokesman Inspector Philisani Ndebele confirmed the incident yesterday.
Insp Ndebele said Rueben Maphosa (53) reportedly woke up at around 3am, axed his wife, Jennifer Maphosa (52) at Mafuko Primary School and later proceeded to the room where the two children aged four and 12 were sleeping and struck them with the axe killing one on the spot while another died on the way to Gwanda Provincial Hospital.
Maphosa and his wife resided at Mafuko primary teachers’ cottages where the wife was employed as a teacher and lived with the two deceased children who were also pupils at the same school. The youngest child who was doing Grade Zero was Mrs Maphosa’s granddaughter whose parent is from her previous relationship while the other one who was in Grade Six was her niece.
“We confirm to have received a murder case on 22 July at around 3am where Reuben Maphosa had a misunderstanding with his wife Jennifer, axed her on the head and two juveniles. The wife managed to escape the violent scene with minor injuries and is admitted to Manama Hospital.
“One of the toddlers died on the spot and another on her way to Gwanda Provincial Hospital where she was being taken for treatment. He then axed himself and is in a critical condition at the United Bulawayo Hospitals. The two deceased children are at Gwanda Provincial Hospital mortuary awaiting post-mortem,” said Insp Ndebele.
He urged members of the public to find other means of solving problems instead of resorting to violence.
“I urge members of the public to seek counselling from elders or even police if they are having misunderstandings and not indulge in violence which will cause unnecessary deaths, more so involving innocent souls. People should value life,” Insp Ndebele said.
When the Sunday News crew visited Matangombe Village yesterday, a sombre atmosphere engulfed the area as most of the villagers were still to come to terms with the horrendous incident. However, some villagers had contrasting views on how the incident transpired. According to villagers, Maphosa allegedly started an unspecified domestic dispute with his wife at their house.
“The two are understood to have been involved in an altercation and in a fit of rage the husband is said to have picked an axe and struck the children while in their sleep,” said one of the villagers, Mr Simon Nyathi who resides near the school.
It is said after committing the heinous act, Maphosa turned the axe to his wife, striking her on the head but during the ensuing assault he was overpowered. The wife is said to have reiterated and struck her husband with the axe and then bolted out to report the horrendous incident to her sister-in-law who resides close to the school.
“The sister-in-law rushed to the school cottages and found Maphosa seated on the bed bleeding profusely from the injuries he had sustained from the assault while the bodies of the two children were on the floor. One of the children doing Grade Zero was already dead while the other doing Grade Six was still breathing,” said Mr Nyathi.
A member of the Maphosa family who spoke on condition of anonymity said the family was in shock and was failing to come to grips with their son’s actions.
“What I can say is that both families are hurt by what Reuben did. It left us speechless. We are waiting for the post-mortem of the two young children then we prepare for burial services. We suspect that Reuben is no longer mentally stable.
If he is normal then he is possessed by evil spirits because what he did doesn’t make sense. We have known the couple to be happily married for many years and for it to end just like this defies all the logic especially considering their ages,” said a relative fighting back tears. Sunday News