Missing Zimbabwean confirmed dead after terrorist attack on Palma, says family

JOHANNESBURG, South Africa – A Zimbabwean who went missing during a terrorist onslaught on the northern Mozambican town of Palma on March 24 is dead, his family said on Monday.

Nyasha Mugwagwa, 38, was working as a catering manager for Remote Site Solutions, one of the contracted companies at the multibillion-dollar gas projects being built by France’s Total and other energy companies.

Shutting down a missing person appeal on social media, the family said it had been established that Mugwagwa died on March 28.

“It is with deep sorrow that we announce the passing of Nyasha,” the family said in a statement. “This occurred on March 28 in Palma during an attack on the town by insurgents.”

The family statement did not state how they had received confirmation of the former Cresta Hotels employee’s death, although they previously told ZimLive that they were in contact with Zimbabwe’s embassy in Maputo.

Mugwagwa was married to a Mozambican national and the couple, who had set up home in the port city of Beira, had a one-year-old daughter.

Zimbabwean survivors from Palma say more Zimbabweans died during the siege lasting several days. The terrorists targeted areas where foreign workers and contractors were residing.

Survivors reported that the heavily armed Islamists went door-to-door, looting and killing occupants. Many were beheaded and their bodies left lying in the streets. Hundreds were airlifted and others escaped by boat as fighting raged.

The Mozambican army regained control after several days of fighting – but not before the terrorists had killed dozens and looted shops.

Zimbabwean Brian Madzvimbo spent two days in the bush after his vehicle was ambushed while working for KEA Projects. His vehicle was found abandoned with a body next to it, and colleagues feared he was dead.

Speaking to ZimLive from Manica after finally being rescued on April 4, Madzvimbo said he “saw at least 200 bodies, at least 50 with heads severed.”

His account could not be verified, the Mozambican government – eager to project normalcy in Palma – has so far not said how many people died.

Madzvimbo, originally from Murehwa, said many Zimbabweans working on the gas projects had changed their names by acquiring fake Mozambican identity documents. His was Ibrahim, he said.

“There was Max, a mechanic. They beheaded him for being a rasta,” he said. “From KEA where I worked, two people are still missing. One of them is Tennyson, but I’m sure that’s not his real name. Then there are two Zimbabwean sisters I know from church, Monica and Mariana from CMSG Catering. They can’t be found. I also know brothers Tony and Alan, who are still missing.

“Most of those that died couldn’t or didn’t run for it. They thought the accommodation that their companies were renting was safe, but the insurgents breached the security and searched every room.”

Zimbabwe and other regional countries have discussed a troop deployment to deal with the insurgency, which threatens foreign investments worth over US$20 billion and thousands of jobs in northern Mozambique.

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