News / Africa

Tales of Witchcraft Abound in Zimbabwe

Many blame their personal troubles on supernatural influences

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In Zimbabwe, witchcraft is still common in rural areas.  Hardly a week passes without a local report or newspaper story on the practice.  For example, police recently cornered a man at the Mbare Mbare bus terminal, after they discovered a live cobra snake in his luggage.  He told officers the reptile was one of his witching tools.

About two weeks later, some women were discovered wandering naked in the early hours of the morning near Highfield. After being confronted by locals, they claimed they’d “flown” from a rural location during one of several night time escapades. But they said something went wrong and the spell wore off, before they could return to their original location.

Four years ago, the government proclaimed that supernatural powers do exist. But it says it still prohibits the use of magic if it harms someone.

Many Zimbabweans, especially those who grow up in rural areas, find it difficult to dismiss the existence of witchcraft.  Tendai Manyimo,30,  lives in Chitandara. He explained that his wife is a vendor and that her face became contorted after she was bewitched by rival vendors. He claims she’d been running a successful sugar sale venture:

“When she came to barter with rural folk the trouble started. One of our neighbors requested [sugar] on credit and she refused.  Before the end of the day she was bleeding from the nose, mouth and ears,”  he says.
Manyimo said a faith healer cured her.

David Nyemba, 77, from Mazhambe village believes he was bewitched by his aunt while he was employed as a driver in the city three years ago. He says a turning point came in his life when he quit his job in order to return to village life:

 “I was the darling of the company management ,” he says,  “and I did not realize I could have some hidden enemies.”

“My aunt pretended to like me and gave me money to spend. My instinct told me to refuse, but I went against my better judgment and spent it. I was demoted and harassed constantly by my superiors [which] never used to happen.  I got the answers after visiting a traditional healer.”

Margaret Mashayamombe,83, is a traditional healer in Mutenda village, Chihota.  She says witchcraft is used in families for revenge and spite.

Mashayamombe also says the frequency of recent reports on witchcraft indicates forces of good are triumphing over evil.  She says Zimbabweans should respect traditions by performing rituals favored by their forefathers.

“Life was okay,” she asserts, “until some over-ambitious individuals went outside the country to get advice from traditional healers there on how to get rich quickly. That is where the problem began, because they came back with remedies that are harmful [to] others. All this is now being exposed due to the powers of the spirits of our forefathers.”

Sarudzai Nyota, 33,  a member of the apostolic faith sect, says she believes the country would be better off without elevating the supernatural.  Sarudzai says people should turn to God and seek salvation through Jesus Christ, as a way of overcoming being susceptible to witchcraft.

[Nyota says] The Christian church believes there’s only a “good” spirit, meaning what is called the Holy Spirit, whereas witchcraft has origins in Satanism.

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