The Sunday Mail
Emmanuel Kafe and Simbarashe Manhenda
Human body parts, according to sources and a pathologist, can also be harvested during post-mortems.HUMAN body parts, mostly fingers, internal organs and private parts, are being sold by syndicates made up of mortuary attendants and security guards, investigations carried out by The Sunday Mail Society have revealed.
Information gathered revealed that the syndicates are conniving to harvest the body parts from mortuaries without the knowledge of the deceased’s families.
Investigations revealed that the body parts are much sought after and literally cost an arm and leg.
Water used to clean corpses, which is believed to be used in the preparation of juju used in housebreaking, is also in great demand.
As a result of the high demand, the water and body parts are only being sold in foreign currency.
The Sunday Mail Society’s investigations revealed that there is a ready and thriving market for the human body parts and water.
Among those that are acquiring the parts from the morgues are traditional healers, prophets, sex workers, criminals and businesspeople.
Apparently, acquiring human body parts can be as easy as ordering pizza.
A phone call and a little bargaining is all that it takes. After agreeing on a fee, the deal is sealed.
From the interactions with those involved in the illegal and unusual trade, it is clear that the syndicates are making a killing.
After getting a tip-off from a security guard who was once part of the human body parts’ cartel, The Sunday Mail Society crew went underground and pretended to be genuine buyers.
Following the tip-off, we approached one of the security guards manning the premises of a well-established funeral parlour in Harare.
Posing as traditional healers, we enquired from him how we could get certain human body parts.
We also asked about the prices.
The security guard, whom we were later told is paid a “commission” by the mortuary attendants for linking them with buyers, did not even attempt to exercise caution.
Without hesitation, the security guard gladly gave us the mortuary attendant’s contact details, saying his colleague would gladly help us.
After contacting the mortuary attendant, who was expecting our call, a meeting was promptly arranged.
The meeting took place at a local eatery.
From our deliberations with the mortuary attendant, we gathered that human private parts can be sold for as much as US$500.
Internal organs such as the heart were pegged at more than US$1 500.
The mortuary attendant, who remained composed and relaxed as if he was negotiating the sale of a heifer, explained how the body parts are harvested.
“The parts are mostly removed when the bodies are cleaned in preparation for burial,” he explained, adding that harvesting external body parts was often a challenge since relatives usually inspected the bodies of their departed loved ones.
“However, there is no risk in harvesting internal organs such as the heart and lungs since relatives of the deceased rarely inspect those parts of the body. Those ones are easier to get,” said our source.
In addition, he also said bones and teeth could be “easily obtained’”
But despite that, external organs such as the eyes, breasts and private parts were in great demand.
Also in demand is the water left after washing corpses.
Criminals, among them armed robbers and burglars, are believed to use the water as juju or to induce heavy sleep among house occupants.
According to sources, the water is mixed with juju to produce a concoction which criminals believe will protect them during their escapades
A 500ml bottle of the water was being sold for US$200.
It is widely believed that if the water is sprinkled on the door of a targeted house, the victim will fall into a deep slumber, resulting in the robbers ransacking their homes.
Mbuya Alice Nhemachena, a traditional healer, said the water was in great demand.
“The water can be used to make it easier for burglars to steal. Criminal elements can fork out a fortune to get hold of this water. It can also be used to make love potions,” Mbuya Nhemachena said.
Sekuru Friday Chisanyu, another traditional healer, said stealing and selling human body parts is a form witchcraft.
“Some traditional healers tell their clients to bring ‘a warm heart, freshly pulled out of a person’. People who engage such traditional healers want easy money and will end up engaging in ritual murders,” Sekuru Chisanyu said.
“But some people approach us saying they are now being tormented by avenging spirits after buying human body parts,” he said.
So who are the victims in this macabre scam?
According to sources, accident victims are the most common victims of human body parts’ theft.
For accident victims, relatives normally cannot tell whether missing body parts was lost during or after the accident.
Dr Edwin Muguti, a former Deputy Minister of Health and Child Care, said it was possible for one to steal human body parts during a post-mortem.
“It is possible for pathologists, mortuary attendants and security guards to illegally harvest body parts. Such laws as the Human Tissue Act and the Anatomy Act were enacted to deter such practices,” Dr Muguti said.
But Mr Talent Nharara, the operations manager at Foundation Funeral Services, said he was yet to come across such criminal cases.
“I have heard about such things, but I am yet to come across such cases. However, it might be possible for body parts to be harvested during embalming and when the corpse is being washed. The fact that people always talk about this means that such things might be happening,” Mr Nharara said.
The human body is usually washed, embalmed and dressed up in preparation for either burial or cremation.
But according to Mr Nharara, the water used in cleaning corpses is disposed of in a manner which makes it almost impossible for one to collect it for sale.
“The water is disposed of using special drainage pipes. Like I said before, I am yet to come across people who siphon such fluids, but that does not mean that the fluids are not being siphoned off,” added Mr Nharara.
He was, however, not at liberty to reveal exactly how the water is disposed of.
Mr Taka Svosve, Zimbabwe Association of Funeral Assurers’ (Zafa) general manager, said there was much speculation regarding the harvesting of human body parts. “From our investigations, nothing of that sort is happening. Some fraudsters might actually be selling ordinary water, which they claim to have come from mortuaries.”
“Our people are professionals and we make sure that such acts are detected. Just like any other professionals, those that work in morgues adhere to stipulated rules,” Mr Svosve said, adding that there was need for the public to be educated about the role of morticians and undertakers so that society can get to understand how they work.
Zimbabwe Republic Police national spokesperson Assistant Commissioner Paul Nyathi said no such reports hadbeen made to the police.
“I cannot comment on that one at the moment. There is need for investigations and verification,” Ass Comm Nyathi said.
In Zimbabwe and other parts of the world, trading in human body parts is illegal.