KELVIN KACHINGWE, Lusaka
A 36-year-old albino man of Mandevu in Lusaka has died after his right forearm was cut off and his body was found yesterday in Lusaka’s Zani Muone West area in what police sources, friends and family suspect was for ritual purposes.
Jeffrey Sikanyai’s body was found around 06:00 hours by some residents of Zani Muone West, just a few metres away from the road leading to the Kingdom Hall, with his forearm missing.
“The murder looks like it’s for ritual purposes. That is what our initial investigations indicate. It’s like they used an axe to cut off his right forearm,” said a police officer who declined to be named as he is not authorised to speak.
“It is the residents who reported the case around 06:00 hours. But it looks like he was killed sometime after 20:00 hours [on Tuesday]. Some of the residents say they saw him in a sitting position just beside the road around 20:00 hours, but they thought he was just drunk.
“From where his body was found, and where he stays in Mandevu, there is a distance. But he is reported to be well-known at Mandevu junction where he hangs around. It looks like it is these same cases of rituals.”
In East Africa where albinism is prevalent, people born without pigment in their skin are thought to possess special powers with the myth being that their body parts bring good luck to others.
A 2009 report by the International Federation of Red Cross and the Red Crescent Societies indicated that a complete set of body parts from an albino, including “all four limbs, genitals, ears, tongue and nose,” can bring in up to US$75,000 on the black market.
The United Nations Human Rights Council in their 2013 report says, for years, superstitions have incited ritual attacks against albinos, with witch doctors using their body parts in potions to bring good fortune to those who are willing to pay for it.
“Some even believe that the witchcraft ritual is more powerful if the victim screams during the amputation, so body parts are often cut from live victims, especially children,” the report says.
In Zambia, cases of albinos being killed are rare although a little over six months ago, a 37-year-old albino woman of Lundazi was murdered by four suspected ritual killers who cut off her right hand and plucked out her teeth.
The death of Sikanyai, whose body was taken to the University Teaching Hospital (UTH) mortuary around 10:00 hours, has shocked his close friends and family.
“We were with him at home yesterday [Tuesday] and he only left around 16:00 hours. He normally hangs around the bus stop. He doesn’t go far, not even in town. He doesn’t even sleep out, even if he goes out drinking with his friends, he always comes home to sleep in his room. If he doesn’t eat his food at night, he will eat early in the morning,” his cousin Edgar Munemu explained to the Daily Mail at the family home in Mandevu where mourners are gathered.
“He is well-known in the area, and the woman who stays near where the body was found is the one who informed us in the morning. We brought the body home and took pictures here. It looks like they used an axe. It also looks like there was a distance from where he was axed and where he died. We don’t know what happened, but his left hand was found holding on to the axed hand.”
Another cousin Florence Kanyayi, who attended school with Sikanyai at Lotus Primary School in Lusaka’s Kamwala, said they were shocked by the death as he was very friendly.
“We wouldn’t say he had any enemies. He was friendly with most people. Also, his movements and whereabouts were predictable. He would wake up around 05:00 hours to go to the bus stop at Mandevu police post,” said Kanyayi, who was in the presence of Sikanyai’s only brother Talent, also an albino.
“He came yesterday with a ‘swine’, which was torn. He even asked the mother to mend it because he said he wanted to wear it on Christmas.”
KELVIN KACHINGWE, Lusaka