Back in the village, in the land of milk, honey and dust or Guruve, belief in witchcraft is as old as the mountains and the ancient rivers, if not as old as life itself. Unlike the characteristic witches of
Europe, in the village witches are rarely strangers.
They are part of the community. Villagers often live side-by-side with people believed to be dabbling in witchcraft and make no public protest for fear of being victimised. The subject of witchcraft is very controversial, since envy is the common motive ascribed to it.
So is unprovoked malice and so is the desire to have a relish from human flesh. Throughout Zimbabwe it is believed that there are hundreds — if not thousands — of active witches, although the Witchcraft Suppression Act makes it almost impossible to impute one a witch.
It, however, recognises witches. In the village, it is regarded as truth that there are witches, that you cannot ordinarily see them when they move at night, that they can join you while you partake in your supper and that they can kill a person anytime they wish.
The typical act of witchcraft is actually cannibalism or more accurately necrophagy in that they kill people, including their own children and relatives, rob graves of human flesh and so forth and so forth. Witches are known to ride on the back of hyenas naked.
They are also known to change into owls, hyenas, crocodiles and snakes as disguise. They are also known to sex up people without their consent or knowledge.
That is witches and wizards for you.
Wizards are also known to possess sex goblins (mubobobo), magical powers that enable them to have sex with people without their consent or knowledge.
Far away from the land of milk, honey and dust or Guruve if you like, the following anecdote will help prove active witchcraft in Zimbabwe.
The date is July 11 2012. A molten lava dawn is a prelude to a breathless morning as darkness recedes to give way to yet another day in Njelele Village in Gokwe.
Driven by the ancient rhythm of life to survive, women wake up to perform a multifarious array of domestic chores but as the sun rises imperceptibly, word starts spreading that something amiss did happen the previous night. The bizarre and the unthinkable had happened.
Woman after woman, schoolgirls included, have woken up to find someone has stripped them of their panties and taken them away. The village panics.
The voices are more cruel than the wind that sweeps across the village and the message is clear. Something, something, or someone! Someone stripped them of their undergarments while they slept. Not their husbands!
By mid-morning the figure of stripped women reporting to the village head had risen to 26.
More questions than answers arise. The 26 women went to sleep with their panties on — then woke up to find themselves naked. How did he or she do it? What does he or she want to do with them? Where did he put them? What, when, where, why, how?
This happened about a moon ago and is not a figment of this poor villager’s mind. It happened.
The panties were later found in a heap in a bush near the village. Out of them, 17 women later positively identified their underwear in the presence of the police.
The others could not be identified for different reasons and this villager thinks some had been “struck by lighting” (village lingua franca for being torn), so it would be an embarassment to reclaim them.
Some burnt the recovered panties while others said they would perform some rituals before disposing of them. The final twist was yet to come.
A man came forward and claimed a his goblin was behind the stealing of the women’s undergarments.
Lameck Ncube, who falls under Chief Njelele’s area in Gokwe, admitted as much at a cleansing ceremony conducted by a traditional healer from Hwange and a prophet. Is this not something that even a Hollywood writer couldn’t script? Apparently the goblin had been terrorising women since 2004.
At the cleansing ceremony, one after the other village women came forward and told their harrowing stories of encounters with the goblin. Ncube then stepped forward and said that the goblin was his and it had gone “hostile and weird” and now was going around sleeping with women. In the village it is generally understood that that when one gets a goblin it comes with a disclaimer.
It either likes sex, suckling blood, likes killing or has some weird deviant thing it is into. Generally, when it is fed in those things, the person who owns it prospers.
Poor Ncube said he had acquired the goblin to bring himself some luck but when this didn’t happen he tried to get rid of it with the help of traditional healers. That is when it started becoming a problem.
The Gokwe spectacle is one of the most recent cases in which witchcraft is actively involved in a manner that defies modern thinking.
The village soothsayer, the ageless autochthon of wisdom and knowledge, warned women’s organisations that wanted to visit Gokwe in sympathy with the women to brace for another pants-nicking. There are many people who quickly dismiss witchcraft as non-existent but the fact of the matter is that many people are running scared of witchcraft. On many occasions Zimbabweans are consciously or subconsciously, whether educated or not, doing things that counter witchcraft.
For instance, at the burial of every deceased in Zimbabwe it is the norm to visit the grave in the morning.
Immediately after burial, daughters or classificatory daughters-in-law sweep the grave of all footprints so that the following morning, close relatives visit the grave to see if witches did not tamper with the grave.
This ritual is a clear admission that we believe in witchcraft. The belief in witchcraft is the one that has given credence to the mushrooming of prophets and traditional healers, who purportedly have counter mechanisms.
In many cases people flock to prophets and healers and witch hunters because of their express fear of witchcraft.
In the end people have been taken advantage of and have lost their valuable property and cash to prophets and healers.
In the Gokwe scenario, which woman would not approach a prophet or traditional healer after waking up without a pant she was wearing when going to sleep?
One can only imagine if it happened in one suburb in Harare? So in the myth and mystery of witchcraft, it does not matter who you are and where you are, one day you can be a victim. This is no laughing matter, for, in the village, the sun is the biggest of all torches.
It is not about you being clever or silly, it is about you being a victim of circumstances, about you being found at the wrong place by the envious, the greed and the supernatural. Despite its known proclivity for tricks, the hair has not mastered the art of climbing up a tree and hence, no one has mastered the art of averting witchcraft.
Food for thought!