Mailoni brothers: History of serial killers in Zambia
By Austin Kaluba -
THE long hunt for the Mailoni brothers finally came to an end last week, closing a sinister chapter of the yokels who defied police, prompting authorities to engage the army to shoot the trio.
The trio – Mika, Fabian and Stefan – collectively known as the Mailoni Brothers, officially killed about 12 people since they started their killing spree on April 27, 2007.
How did illiterate villagers elude being captured for so many years? Was it to do with their knowledge of the terrain they operated in? Did they use witchcraft as many superstitious Zambians have concluded?
Whatever the answer is to these questions, the Mailoni brothers will go down in criminal history as dangerous serial killers who had challenged our security personnel to improve their manhunts.
The Mailoni brothers’ killing has also been received with mixed feelings on social networks like Facebook with some concluding that they should have been captured alive to answer murder charges and another group hailing the killing as befitting of such ruthless killers.
Then there is the emotional issue of the trio’s 70-year-old mother Janet who ran away to Kabwe for fear of her life, only surfacing to identify her notorious sons in death.
Any mother would be heartbroken to see three of her children killed at a go even if the world has condemned them as serial killers.
As the grim chapter of the Mailoni brothers closes, it is important to chronicle the history of other notorious criminals who have terrorised different parts of Zambia since independence and the usual laxity of security in bringing them to book.
The hall of infamous misfits includes Roy Mudenda, Adamson Mushala, Never ‘Spoiler’ Kapenda, Uncle Barry, Sipalo, Benson Chilala, Ngangula and Chanda Siliya.
In the early 1970s, Roy Mudenda, an ugly and broad-faced dangerous thug committed various criminal activities in Lusaka engaging in armed robbery, burglary, murder and rape.
On many occasions, he had James Bond-type skirmishes with the police – then called the Zambia Police Force (ZPF) – usually escaping by a whisker before he was finally nabbed, tried and sentenced to death by hanging.
He was hanged at Mukobeko Maximum Prison in Kabwe amidst much media publicity which generated both abhorrence and admiration, especially among youths.
Even more sophisticated and elusive was Adamson Musanda Mushala, a China-trained guerrilla-turned-terrorist who caused terror in North-Western Province.
After finishing his guerrilla training in China, Mushala worked as a wildlife warder, a position he felt was far below his military qualification.
Mushala, who had been sponsored for military training in China with Martin Nondo, the latter who became a notorious car thief, also felt that his contribution to the liberation struggle of Zambia qualified him to a better job. He wanted a plum job like a director in the Wildlife and Fisheries ministry.
However, the UNIP government which had sent Mushala and several other UNIP leaders abroad with a view of overthrowing the colonial government militarily thought otherwise, prompting the freedom fighter to take to the bush with a number of ill-trained self-styled soldiers.
He later became inspired by Jonas Savimbi’s UNITA’s activities in the pre- and post-independence Angola and waged “war” against the government of Kenneth Kaunda in 1975.
Partially sponsored by the apartheid South African government, Mushala caused a long reign of terror and later lost direction of his earlier motive of destabilising government infrastructure when he started burning villages, abducting women and children and “enlisting” child soldiers to join his ranks.
Like in the case of the Mailoni brothers, he was believed to use magic in his operations. This, however, should be taken with a hefty pinch of salt as Mushala knew the terrain he operated in which, coupled with his guerrilla training, made him appear invisible.
Mushala was finally tracked and gunned down on November 26, 1982 by a young Zambian corporal after a tip off from one of his “wives”. Like the Mailoni brothers, his body was displayed in Solwezi for the nation to see.
His number two, Alexander Saimbwende took over the reins and continued with terrorist acts until 1990 when he voluntarily surrendered himself to his namesake Alexander Kamalondo, then a member of the Central Committee for North-Western Province.
Saimbwende was flown to Lusaka where he was pardoned by the then president Dr Kaunda.
In the mid-part of the 1970s, Zambia was again beset by a wave of serial killings in Lusaka that made headlines in the daily newspapers leading to fear, especially among women who were the victims.
The mysterious serial killer was simply dubbed “strangler” and was known to target lone young women whom he courted in exclusive pubs or night clubs before killing them.
The strangler killed his victims by twisting their necks until they died of strangulation, thus the name strangler.
He terrorised mostly the greater City of Lusaka and had at least strangled an estimated 28 women before he was finally cornered after a bungled murder attempt of a woman he left for dead.
The victim apparently regained consciousness and identified the strangler who turned out to be Sipalo, an ex-soldier. He was identified from an identification parade.
However, the exposure seemed not to daunt the ill-tempered strangler who had one more trick up his sleeve because before he could be sent for trial, a lapse in security by the police enabled the killer to find his way up the highest point at the Police Headquarters where he plunged to his death.
The strangler was captured in mid-air by an intrepid Times of Zambia photographer Luke Mwanza who won an award for the picture of the handcuffed killer jumping to his death.
Around the same time when the strangler was making headlines, another criminal, Never ‘Spoiler’ Kapenda continued causing policemen sleepless nights with his spate of crimes.
Kapenda’s turf was mainly Lusaka and the Copperbelt where he committed offences, becoming notorious for audacious escapes. He was finally arrested and given a lengthy prison sentence.
When he came out after many years in prison, Kapenda tried to engage in more criminal activities but was gunned down during an encounter with the police which by then had evolved from the Zambia Police Force to Zambia Police Service (ZPS).
They say sometimes films have a negative influence on real life criminals. One such Zambian criminal was “Uncle Barry” who styled himself along the character Shaft starring Isaac Hayes.
At the time when Zambian youths copied the actions of their heroes, Uncle Barry styled himself along Shaft complete with wearing long leather coats like his fictitious screen hero.
Uncle Barry was a smart criminal who commanded respect among his peers who elevated him to a “Mafia type” status of a Godfather in that he didn’t have an image of a thug.
He was the man at the helm of most of the Copperbelt Province’s horrendous crimes, including armed robbery, before he met his fate when he was gunned down when he attempted to escape from a police van.
He was shot fatally but not before he disembowelled a police officer with a knife. The police officer was admitted to the University Teaching Hospital (UTH) but miraculously recovered.
Long after Zambians breathed a sigh of relief that the country had been ridden of dangerous criminals, stories started appearing in the Press in the late 90’s of some serial killer called Gilbert Benson Chilala who was killing people indiscriminately.
Chilala was finally arrested and sentenced to death although the sentence was later commuted to life imprisonment for good behaviour. The monster is still serving his sentence.
In 2010, Chilala, who claimed to have killed 200 people, asked Zambians to forgive him arguing that he was now a changed man who had accepted Christ as his personal saviour.
The convict, who is now 55 years old, killed, among others, the former National Assembly deputy speaker Leonard Kombe and his wife Elizabeth in Lusaka East.
Some time in the late 90’s, another notorious criminal called Chanda Siliya surfaced on the Copperbelt causing a lot of terror.
After playing cat-and-mouse with the police, he was gunned down by the anti-robbery squad.
In 2008 while the Mailoni brothers started causing havoc in Luano Valley, Munyumbwe residents were also living in fear because of a serial killer called Ngangula, a.k.a Fanwell Kalivungwe.
It was reported that Ngangula, a ruthless murderer had killed several people in the area and like the Mailoni brothers seemed invincible.
However, the myth of his invincibility was challenged when an incensed instant justice mob beat him to death ending his shortlived spate of terror.
Ngangula was so notorious that even in death, people feared having anything to do with him, refusing to bury him in Gwembe where he had been terrorising residents.
The Gwembe District Council allegedly declined to offer space at Gwembe Cemetery.
Ngangula’s grandfather Dominic Siakaputa, who had appealed to the Government to assist the family buy a coffin, said the family was making arrangements to bury the body in Monze.
As the Mailoni brothers are being buried together with their secret motives for the killings since they were not tried, maybe it is high time the Zambia Police Service established a department to deal with serial killers and other notorious criminals who cause mass terror.
Somewhere a would-be serial killer is being nursed by an unsuspecting mother and the cycle of a manhunt would start all over again when he starts harassing members of society.