Police thwart Tsikamutandas
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As such, over the centuries, society has come to accept the existence of people who are gifted with the powers to cleanse or rid their community of evil and evildoers. This has often led them to following, at times blindly, the instructions and dictates of these people.
Whereas in the past such cleansing ceremonies or "operations" as it were , were conducted by well-established and wizened healers, nowadays , a new breed of "witch hunters", for lack of a better word has emerged.
Often referred to as Tsikamutanda, Maguranyanga, Gaurani and other names, this new breed of "society cleansers" is often noted for the youthfulness of its members and the flashy cars and wealth they display.
While many question the authenticity of these tsikamutandas, most people, it seems are more than ready to welcome them in their society and take their pronouncements as gospel.
This is despite repeated warnings from the police that some of these so-called healers take people for a ride and are nothing more than conmen in sheep's clothing.
The Weekender recently witnessed a somewhat heated and emotional debate that erupted in Bonda after police had foiled a planned cleansing ceremony by some tsikamutandas who had been moving around the surrounding villages "weeding out evil".
Although none of the tsikamutandas were present, after the police had moved in, villagers had already gathered, eagerly awaiting the ceremony. Most seemed angry that the police had prevented the tsikamutandas from conducting a session in their village.
"We have a lot of problems in our village caused by witches and wizards. People are being terrorised by goblins, mubobobo and our animals are disappearing. Right now it's raining and lightning bolts are causing havoc. Mheni dziri kungodonhedzwa. We want these tsikamutandas to come and cleanse our area; we don't mind if the police are also present because noone is forced to come here, everyone comes of his own free will. We want our area to be cleansed," lamented a villager who only identified himself as Peter.
Another elderly woman shouted at a police officer who was addressing the highly agitated crowd, "Mishonga yawandisa pano, tiri kugara tichitambudzika. Mvura ikatinhira hana dzinorova nekuti mheni dziri kutumirwa kunokuvadza vamwe. Vanasikana varikungomitiswa vorega kuroorwa uye zvikwambo zvatitambudza, mutemo wataurwa ngemapurisa waomesa zvinhu ngekuti zvemishonga zvichawanda.Tingoda rugare pano" (There is too much witchcraft here, we are always troubled. When it rains, we become afraid because lightning bolts are being sent to injure people. Our daughters are becoming pregnant outside wedlock and goblins are making our lives unbearable. This law that the police are talking about makes things difficult and witchcraft acts will become even worse. All we want is peace).
A threatening note could be easily discerned in the villagers' shouts and calls for the police to let the tsikamutandas come and "cleanse" their village raising fears that some unfortunate villagers were targeted in the call for the witch-hunt.
Although some people now treat it as a joke, it is often the elderly and the very rich who are labeled as witches and wizards in society. It seems the older or more prosperous a person is, the more he or she is likely to be accused of practising witchcraft.
Headman Watson Musuwo of Dowera Village dismissed such fears of stigmatisation of the supposed evil-doers who would have been exposed.
"As the headman, my duty is to call people so the tsikamutandas can explain to them how they are going to conduct their work. After that people come of their own will, noone is forced. The consultation is done privately in a house or shelter and it is only when something evil is discovered that it is shown to all and the culprit is made to pay.
"After that, life goes on as normal. We do not discriminate against the culprit. Hatizomusheedzi kuti muroyi nekuti huroyi hwacho hunenge hwabviswa," he said.
The fact that the tsikamutandas demand payment for the cleansing did not seem to bother most of the villagers who said this was normal.
"It's only those found with objects used for witchcraft purposes that are made to pay a beast or two for the destruction of the objects and their cleansing,' argued the crowd.
Addressing the crowd, Assistant Inspector Matare from Mutasa Police Station said such cleansing ceremonies were illegal.
"We have decided to raise an awareness campaign on this issue of cleansing by the tsikamutandas. There are some people from the community who feel that these people are extorting their cattle after 'predictions' that they have some evil possessions. This is what raised the alarm and made us come today to prevent such cases. Some of you are demanding that the session take place but some feel like they are being forced to comply.
"The tsikamutandas are said to have been collecting cattle as 'cleansing price' from the people. These beasts are being conveyed from area to area during late hours of the day without clearance by the police or elders of the village thus increasing risks and opportunities of stock theft. As police, we will never condone or allow this in our area of jurisdiction," he said.
A villager who requested anonymity blasted the so-called cleansings.
"These people are nothing more than pure conmen. I think they use chivhuno (magic) to make people follow them blindly. How can such young people be great healers, vakazvidzidzira kupi? In fact, I heard they form syndicates and go to South Africa to look for charms then come back home and pretend they are great healers. You should see them on Saturdays when they gather at Temaruru, braaing and drinking. Usually they will be around 25 with all sorts of flashy cars. The group that was supposed to come here uses a white BMW with a red stripe and a Jaguar," he said.
Another villager, Hebert Sanyangove said he lost $200 to the tsikamutandas and revealed that he was not there for the cleansing, but to collect his money which he had given them as payment for a beast he was still to receive since November last year.
"When they conducted their cleansing in my village they asked willing villagers to buy some of the beasts they had been given as payment and I gave them $200. They, however, disappeared very early the following morning without giving me the beast and I have been tracking their movements since. I came here today when I heard they would be conducting a session here and I have since reported the matter to the police. All I want is my money back," he said.
Judging from the loud grumblings and mumbles from the villagers as they finally dispersed around 12pm, after waiting for 4 hours, it seems it will take a lot effort to convince people that some tsikamutandas are only con artists after their hard-earned wealth.
As it stands, it seems there is a battle between the traditional belief in witchcraft and healers and the modern law which does not recognize fully such beliefs. Whilst there may be many genuine healers and "cleansers" out there, society should also accept that some unscrupulous con artists have seen an opportunity to reap where they did not sow.
It therefore needs the concerted effort of all stakeholders involved, the village leaders, police, villagers, Zinatha and others to come up with a lasting solution to this raging debate that is threatening to disrupt the harmonious relations between the police and the community.
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