Buried in the proverbial bowels of Luano Valley, a prairie-like area south of Mkushi is a group of three blood-thirsty brothers whose bow and arrow has probably killed more people than some of the most hellacious fighter jets will ever do.
At a distance, the story of the killings may be seen as an exaggerated myth but when one venture into the valley and listens to the emotional narration from some of the victims’ relatives, heavy air of death blows and with it comes a realisation that the whole matter is, in fact, a downplayed reality.
Mika, Fabian and Stefan, collectively known as the Mailoni Brothers, have killed about 12 people since they defected from civilisation on April 27, 2007. Locals, though, put the figure of the victims at 15, and they are still counting!
Unlike Adamson Mushala, who was killed in 1982 after carrying out terrorist activities for eight years in North-Western Province, the Mailoni Brothers have no known ideology. They simply kill and dump.
Questions beg: Who are the Mailoni Brothers? Are they really born of a woman? What is the motive of the arbitrary killings? What is being done to stop the ruthless murders by these brothers carving themselves the unenviable name of guerilla?
The Mailonis are Lala by tribe and are of the Mbulo clan, their cousin Agresson Fokolona said, fighting back tears at the memory of the killings.
Fokolona is a head teacher at Chimika Middle Basic School in the heart of the brutal murders. His is a life somewhat already given up; living by the day and by the grace of God. He is a constant target of killing by his nonconformist cousins. He has committed no sin apart from the fact that he is teaching.
The Mailonis’ mother is Janet aged about 70 and exiled in an unknown location in Kabwe. Their father died a few years before they turned to the bush in 2007.
The first child, Nelson, was born in the mid 1960s and his mental faculties are in doubt. The second is Friday, himself a “repented” killer born late in the 1960s. Then come the three dissidents – Mika (1970), Fabian (1975) and Stefan (1981). The other, who was killed in retaliatory gunfire, is Nicious (1978).
There are two sisters – Cecilia and another – whose name Fokolona could not immediately remember. Fabian was married but the wife with whom he has two children left him and fled to the highland in Chief Kanyesha’s area where she has remarried.
None of the siblings have undergone formal education in school apart from Stefan, a Grade 9 dropout. Josephat Musonda, who grew up with them in Fulawo Village in Chief Chembe, knows them quite well and aptly defines them in one word – evil.
Musonda traces their violent acts way before they became murderous, saying they had an affinity for fighting.
“Faby (Fabian) loved fighting. Wherever he was drinking beer, he would be kicking beer which did not belong to him. One day, he picked a quarrel with his mother, whom he beat up badly. He then asked his brothers to have sex with his wife or he would kill them. Because they did not want to be killed, you can guess what they did,” narrated Musonda.
Fabian earned himself the soubriquet Tunda because he would take 30 minutes passing urine!
BUNGLED UP JUJU
“Tunda was running a small business and so he went to a witch doctor to seek advice on how to become rich. The witch doctor, a Chipasha, gave him some medicine and told him to have sex with his mother, who should in turn pour a concoction of medicine on his head. After that, he told Tunda to go back to him with one white chicken,” Musonda said, dispelling fears that he would be the Mailonis’ victim.
Musonda described Chipasha as a frame of a tall and dark man pimpled all over his face and whose eyes could roll up and down and sideways.
But when Tunda wanted to execute his plan, his mother, to his chagrin, refused to have sex with him and he beat her up, prompting neighbours to come to the rescue of the woman as his brothers were watching haplessly.
He went back to the witch doctor with five chickens – one white and four black – which was against the instruction. As a result, the parcel is said to have turned into a bow of fire before he could reach the witch doctor’s residence.
Hypnotised by the charms, he abandoned his mission, knowing too well it had been badly bungled up. At this point, he surrendered and fate directed himself back to the village where he continued whipping his mother.
Headman Royd Mondoloka mobilised some men in the village to rescue the old woman and have the notorious brothers arrested for assault. That triggered it all and things have never been the same.
“Then all hell broke loose,” Musonda said: “They killed the headman on the same day – April 27, 2007 – stabbing him all over and celebrating. They celebrated, saying ‘we have killed the devil. He has given us food.”
But the headman’s son, Royd Mondoloka Junior, heard about his father’s killing and gathered courage to confront the five brothers, shooting Nicious to death and wounding group commander Tunda. It is at this moment that Tunda told his brothers – Friday, Mika and Stefan – to flee the village, which they did.
“That’s how they ran into the bush and they have never come back up to now. From that time, they have never killed anyone publicly,” said Musonda, who encountered them in 2010 just before they killed their ninth victim – flying doctor Masumba – on May 9.
“Tunda later killed his in-laws just after they had buried one of their victims. His father-in-law was regretting the killing saying ‘if I met them (Mailoni Brothers), I would plead with them to stop killing innocent people.’ These guys appeared immediately and Tunda killed the father-in-law while Stefan killed the mother-in-law,” Musonda said.
While in the bush, the brothers had to perform certain rituals to ensure their black magic retained potency but the oldest of the four – Friday – was a bit conservative, unwilling to tow the line. His day was coming.
They would fast for a week, but Friday loved his food. He would sneak out of the cordon and have a meal either in form of wild fruits or nshima from sympathetic villagers in the neighbourhood of the forest.
Incensed by the brother’s actions, Tunda sentenced Friday to death. He captured him and stabbed him repeatedly, not to kill him at this point, but to inflict excruciating pain. That was round one, at dusk. Round two involved Stefan and Mika hanging Friday to a cross so that Tunda could kill him at dawn the following day at about 04:00 hours.
But before the hour could come, and as bloodletting Tunda was sharpening his arrows and sword, Stefan and Mika could not fathom the death of their brother. They decided, against their norm, to free Friday without the knowledge of the commander. That is how Friday left the bush to rejoin his mother at the village in 2008.
Tunda does not know how Friday escaped because Stefan and Mika have kept it as a guarded secret.
To date, he is living with his mother and Nelson in Kamakuti area on the outskirts of Kabwe, apparently under ‘house arrest’ by the security wings, residents of Chembe said.
The motive of killing is unknown. In 2010, they killed a 79-year-old woman, a Mrs Sauzande, ripping her head in the most brutal manner thinkable.
“These are bad people,” Musonda said: “They killed my uncle [Chris Chitambe] in July this year. He was Chief Chembe’s advisor.”
Their latest victim, at least before going to press, was Delicious Mwape, a middle-aged man [41 years] who had gone to while away time with security officers at Chimika Health Centre. The Mailonis were within an ear-shot and overhead all that was discussed.
As Mwape left for home, they attacked him 500m from the security point and killed him, stabbing him 30 times, according to Fokolona.
Musonda prescribes charms to capture the brothers, who are now aiming at acquiring a gun to embark on mass killings. Apart from that, Musonda offered his services, saying he can smoke them out since he knows the terrain and has suspicion where they could be hiding. All he needs is a pistol, which he can use to immobilise them.
“If I were to go there, I would capture them within three weeks,” Musonda said, emphasising that he is able to read their mind with reasonable accuracy.
“We will not stop killing because we know that we will also be killed one day,” Fabian, the commander of the group, told a close relative, himself a target of killing.
But how have these dissenters, top on the security wings “wanted list”, been this elusive?
“They are being aided by members of the local community,” Katiti ward councillor Benford Mwalala believes, further buttressing Chief Kanyesha’s thoughts.
“If that were not the case, how would they be feeding in the bush?” Mwalala asked. “When they were almost captured a few weeks ago, a lot of things were found, such as mealie-meal, cooking utensils, buckets and even mosquito nets,” he said.
The presence of the killer brothers in Luano Valley has had a telling effect both in education and agriculture. More than half of the pupils in most schools do not attend class. The worst hit school is Chimika, which has not yet reopened, partly due to the ill-omened brothers. Head teacher Fokolona, who has been at Chimika for 16 years, said at the close of last term, the average attendance was 106 from 335 pupils, an indication that two in every three pupils were not attending class.
He mans the school with only one teacher – Sylvester Kasonso – as the other has fled the school after he was, according to Fokolona, beaten up by security personnel for unknown reasons.
Fokolona, too, lives in fear. That is why his family is in Kapiri Mposhi.
“Otherwise we are in trouble. The situation is bad, very bad. They can follow you when you are teaching and kill you,” he said.
Not only is the situation bad, the school structure, is too. It’s nothing to write home about.
But Fokolona must live with the fear because the Mkushi district education board secretary wants him to stay despite repeated requests for a transfer.
The issue of security staff beating up people keeps popping up every time an interview is conducted. Although there was no immediate independent verification, some people claimed soldiers had turned themselves into marriage counsellors as they chip in where they suspect there are issues of gender-based violence.
Agriculture, too, has been badly affected as the locals cannot cultivate for fear of being killed. The yield has dropped by more than 80 percent in the valley, leaving the people at the mercy of hunger. Relief food was due to be airlifted to the area last week to feed those brave enough to live in the valley.
Majority have deserted the area in preference to the highland where safety is, to a large extent, guaranteed.
This place is badly underdeveloped and locals are quite backward. The only vehicle they see is that of a Roman Catholic father or member of Parliament Sydney Chisanga, but only twice in a good year! There is only one road, nay, path that leads to the valley, 170kms from Mkushi town. Driving to the valley takes no fewer than five hours on a 4×4.
The driver, too, must be experienced and highly competent because the terrain is rocky and the car can easily roll over. When you are a visitor driving to Chembe, death bells are tolling either from the anonymous direction of the Mailoni Brothers or your vehicle flipping.
Thankfully, however, there is assurance from soldiers on the ground that they will capture the Mailonis, who, judging by the photograph, are no refined murderers despite being on the run for five years, killing an average of three per year.
The rest is a matter of conjecture, but one thing for sure is that more than 12 people have been buried in this somewhat obscure valley seemingly spreading westwards to the horizon from the foot of Muchinga escarpment.
The underground world of the Mailoni Brothers is not myth, it is reality.