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Saturday, August 8, 2009

Police Watch as Witch Hunters Wreak Havoc

I have for many years said that Zimbabwe is a relatively unsophisticated society where witch craft, superstition and the paranormal are normal day to day occurrences - this is another example!

Saturday, 08 August 2009 16:35
POLICE can not stop witch-hunters known as Tsikamutanda from conducting controversial cleansing ceremonies in rural communities.

Police spokesperson superintendent Andrew Phiri said police would only intervene if there were complaints.

However, these complaints usually come after the Tsikamutanda have held ceremonies which more often than not, leave rural communities deeply divided and villagers deprived of their cattle, goats and sheep.

“We cannot act when there is no formal complainant from the villagers, our hands are tied,” said Phiri.
“However, we urge those who don’t feel comfortable with these witch-hunters to report to the police,” he said.

As the police spokesperson made the comments, there was mounting evidence that the self-styled prophets were not just freely conducting witch-hunting ceremonies with impunity, but were also indulging in criminal activities in broad daylight.

At Murehwa magistrates’ court last month, Thomas Mutasa (25), a well known Tsikamutanda who was operating from Chikwaka in Goromonzi, was charged with rape, allegedly committed while he was “casting away evil spirits”.

Prosecutors said the self-styled prophet told a 19 year old woman that she was possessed with evil spirits before he allegedly raped her.

After committing the crime, Mutasa allegedly rubbed his victim’s private parts with a concoction of water, salt and charcoal to “cleanse” her.

Mutasa denied the charges when he appeared before a Murewa magistrate.

But his case tallied with the modus operandi of tsikamutandas who are wreaking havoc in many rural communities.

The court heard that Mutasa who was performing his cleansing ceremony at Zavere Village in Chikwaka in May camped at the victim’s homestead.

In another case before the same court, Mutasa and another self styled traditional healer, Tendai Mudimu are facing two charges of extortion.

The duo allegedly forced a 72-year-old woman to surrender a blanket and a shirt, which belonged to her husband during a cleansing ceremony.

They told Evelyn Chitimbe to go and collect a blanket and her husband’s clothes. When she brought the clothes, Chitembe was ordered to shout in front of the crowd saying: “Kana uri chikwambo ibva pano,” (if you are a goblin go away)

The elderly woman then made a report to the police leading to Mutasa and Mudimu’s arrest.
As the saga unravels in the courts, more tsikamutandas are roaming freely and causing terror in the province.

Headmen and the villagers, who usually get rewarded by the self styled prophets, continue to invite them for witch-hunts.

Besides causing physical and mental suffering to villagers they accuse of bewitching others, the tsikamutandas are profiteering by cheating villagers in their so-called exorcising ceremonies. The villagers have to part with a small fortune for any exorcism undertaken at their homestead.

Most families who usually do not have cash are forced to give away their livestock.

When a village invites these witch hunters, it also has to pay for their upkeep. Besides extorting cash and livestock from the various villagers, the Tsikamutandas leave families divided after naming alleged witches.

“There is no peace in this area since a lot of people especially family members are now accusing each other of witchcraft,” said Munyaradzi Chisvo of Chikwaka village.

“In some cases children end up beating their parents.”

At one homestead a witch hunter known as Sekuru Guranyanga allegedly threatened a man he accused of keeping goblins at his homestead, after the man refused to part with his cattle.

“One morning we saw a goblin wearing tennis shoes.” said one family member. “It was a very short girl, we were so afraid that we had to comply with whatever Sekuru Guranyanga told us to do.”

They were ordered to part with two cows.

Although it not could not be established if Sekuru Guranyanga carried out genuine witch hunting sessions, some villagers are happy that he is in the area.

“Many people were dying in my family, after Sekuru Guranyanga came he removed a tokoloshe which he said belonged to my father,” said Duncan Mago.

“I am not working and this was caused by my father. After this cleansing I hope I am going to find a job very soon.”

The Traditional Medicines Practitioners’ Council is on record urging villagers to ask for registration licences from both faith and traditional healers to avoid being conned.

The council said most of the tsikamutandas were bogus.


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