HARARE – Two brothers from a Bulawayo crime family are being buried on Sunday after they were tortured across several days, killed and their bodies dumped on a farm in South Africa.
Sydney and Addmore Gwatsvaira’s decomposed bodies were found on a farm in Mpumalanga Province on July 10 after they were reported missing on June 26.
The brothers grew up on Kay Avenue in West Somerton in Bulawayo.
South African police are reportedly holding a suspect after the Gwatsvaira brothers’ vehicle was recovered being smuggled into Mozambique.
Brigadier Leonard Hlathi, the spokesman for Mpumalanga police, said the bodies were recovered in farmland next to a highway between Bronkhorstspruit and Delmas.
“I can confirm that there are two Zimbabweans who were found dead in an area between Bronkhorstspruit and Delmas. Their bodies had bruises, an indication that they could have been assaulted. Our investigations revealed that they were murdered in Johannesburg and the suspects then dumped their bodies in Mpumalanga,” he said.
In interviews with ZimLive, friends said the two brothers ran an elaborate internet-based vehicle theft ring.
One said: “They used to respond to internet adverts by individuals selling cars. They would express interest and then offer to pay through bank transfer.
“The seller would then receive an SMS confirmation of a payment purportedly from their bank, but in reality no such payment would have been made.
“After signing an agreement of sale, the sellers would discover after three days when such payments usually clear if made from a different bank that they had been duped.”
The two brothers, with an expansive criminal history in Zimbabwe, Botswana and South Africa, allegedly pulled the trick on a man advertising a Land Rover Discovery. Once they had the vehicle, the brothers allegedly shipped it to Zambia.
“It is said that the same seller placed another internet advert to lure the brothers. When they went to meet what they thought would be their next victim, they were trapped,” another friend said.
Ransom demands were made to their girlfriends and family, and huge amounts of money were allegedly paid. Their captors also demanded their vehicle back – but the car was already in Zambia with new number plates, sources said.
“Their contact in Zambia picked the phone a few times and said there was no way the vehicle could be shipped back without risking arrest. After a couple of days, he stopped picking their calls and maybe that’s what sealed their fate,” a friend said.
A post-mortem report concluded that the brothers, who were found with their hands and legs tied, were tortured across several days but both died from gunshot wounds.
Sydney was once arrested in 2003 and charged with vehicle theft in Harare. He was also a suspect in a bank robbery in Botswana.
Another of the Gwatsvaira brothers, Shelton, was arrested in 2013 and accused of masterminding a major vehicle theft ring in Bulawayo.
The brothers had invested some of their money in trucks which they were renting out to cross-border transporters.