A deep-rooted belief in witchcraft by many Zimbabweans continues to cause untold suffering to the innocent, with grievous assault and even murder unleashed against those irrationally thought to be witches.
Recently, newly resettled farmers in Chief Dununu*s area in Banket ganged up against 62 year old Mr Simplicio Kurwakumire, accused him of witchcraft and badly assaulted him simply because he was a better farmer than they were.
They assaulted their neighbour with booted feet and clenched fists.
Why did they descend upon Kurwakumire?
“I had gone to convey my condolences to my neighbours who had lost their 13 year-old daughter and that is when I was accused by the father of having caused her death.
“The father of the dead girl went to see the chief the following day and that allegedly gave him permission to punish me,” he said.
The father allegedly came in the company of about a dozen other men and surrounded his home and demanded that he come out but he did not.
The group allegedly then forcibly took Mr Kurwakumire*s wife and went to consult a witchdoctor where she was accused of being the witch that had killed the child.
Mr Kurwakumire sent his son to report the matter to Banket police who have since arrested six people in connection with this incident.
“I was accused of using dead people as zombies to work on my farm,” said Kurwakumire who has realised an exceptionally good harvest this year.
“I worked very hard on this farm with my wife and now I am being accused of causing the death of this child who they said would wake from the grave and work on my farm.
“They accused me of practicing sorcery because this year I have a better harvest than most of them and now they want to evict me from my plot. They are saying I am a cannibal and that I kill people who I use as zombies to work in my field,” said a visibly shaken Kurwakumire.
Accusing people of witchcraft is outlawed in Zimbabwe but cases involving people pointing fingers at each other continue unabated with some witch hunters causing havoc in some rural areas.
Businesses are since time immemorial believed to have prospered after allegedly shedding blood particularly that of young children. And innocent babies have been murdered as a result.
There were stories in the olden days when black bus operators were said to have sacrificed their own children for business prosperity.
It is believed that passengers would sometimes hear voices of children wailing as the engine raved before departure, although no direct witness to such an event has ever made a report.
“You could hear a voice saying makandiurayireiko, makandiurayireiko (why did you kill me),” said Mr John Marufu of Buhera.
These are the deeply ingrained beliefs that have caused untold sufferings for some families as they are accused of causing harm to others whenever they turn their fortunes to success.
This would mean that any bad luck or death of a member of the extended family, would result in blame being shifted onto the successful person.
This belief is sadly perpetuated by traditional healers who give death prescriptions, which have resulted in some people appearing before the courts of law for murder.
Recently, a Mberengwa woman who was allegedly being chased by an unidentified man dropped her eight-month-old baby only to come back later to find a beheaded body with its genitals removed.
Political power is another issue that drives certain individuals to traditional healers for prescriptions to success.
President Mugabe has indicated in recent interviews that some members of his party were seeking help from these traditional healers and it is everyone*s wonder what solutions they are getting from these sorcerers.
Some person recently called The Herald saying he had seen a very prominent politician cross-legged at a n*angas shrine in Mashonaland Central much to everyone*s surprise.
Last December, Harare residents were left dumbfounded following discovery of a polythene bag containing human organs in the Avenues Area. More body parts presumably from the same person were later picked up in the area.
Professor Gordon Chavunduka, a sociologist and the Zimbabwe Traditional Healers Association (ZINATHA) president admitted that witchcraft and wizardry exist but said his members operated within the confines of the law.
“It is evil and illegal to advise anyone to take another person*s life in the hope of bettering another. I want to urge these people to seek help from registered traditional healers. Unregistered traditional healers are the ones who prescribe human organs,” said the former University of Zimbabwe Vice Chancellor.
“Killing someone in the hope of using his or her body parts to further business interests will not work. Hard work is the only solution to success,” he said.
Professor Chavunduka also urged the Government to amend the Witchcraft Suppression Act, which he said was a colonial law that did not recognise the existence of witchcraft.
“It is true that a long time ago people used to seek the assistance of traditional healers to acquire goblins that fed on human blood to survive. But I believe most business people do not practice that any more,” said Zinatha administrative manager Mr George Kandiero.
“Most Zimbabweans believe in witchcraft and our members can help in identifying witches. However some healers dupe their clients and pinpoint someone who in most cases will not be present. Our telephones are always inundated with calls from people seeking witch-hunting assistance,” said Mr Kandiero.
Mr Kandiero said the result of witchcraft comes in the form of avenging spirits that could terrorise a clan for generations. This spirit, he said, could wipe out an entire clan.
A University of Zimbabwe sociologist said cases of witchcraft were also closely linked to the country*s economic environment.
“In December 2003 a headless body was found outside a Highfield house in what was suspected to be a ritual murder.
Following decentralisation of the transport sector in the early 90*s there was an upsurge in child kidnappings by people who had been advised to get human organs in exchange for minibuses.
Whilst Mr Kurwakumire could have worked for his success, his colleagues actually believe he used other means to realise such a harvest.
“I am now living in fear because I am being forced to leave the plot. This is home now and I have absolutely no alternative in terms of accommodation,” he said.
According to the Witchcraft Suppression Act, it is unlawful to accuse anyone of practicing witchcraft or of being a wizard as it cannot be scientifically proven.
However, Professor Chavunduka said recently in an interview with a local daily that by denying the existence of witches, society had lost the opportunity to remove evil spirits from communities.
The same sentiments were also echoed by the Dean of the Anglican Cathedral Reverend Josphat Muzambi who said the church believed that witchcraft exists but it cannot be empirically demonstrated.
Reverend Muzambi added that evil spirits manifested in many ways and witchcraft was just one of them since its origins are biblical.
In his book “Confessions of a Wizard”, Masotsha Mike Hove, critically examines African beliefs based on personal experiences. He contends that witchcraft has always been a part of our culture and has in a way led to the breakdown of the immediate family.
“I had a team of witches or wizards, familiars and zombies which unseen sat next to me in class and noted everything we were taught. They did my homework while I played, or slept and when we had to write examinations, the familiars poured into my head all the information I needed to pass top of the class,” reads a paragraph in the book.
The book, which unequivocally acknowledges the existence of witchcraft, is an exposition of the black Zimbabwean belief systems.
An interview with a cross section of Zimbabweans revealed that a good number still lived in constant fear of witches.
“I once heard of a woman, who was caught naked besides a grave eating a human head and was arrested by the police,” said a Highfield woman.
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