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Sangoma despised outside her circles, revered by those who know her

by Staff reporter
01 Mar 2018 at 14:47hrs | Views
INVESTIGATED by child rights organisations for allegedly recruiting underage girls for exploitation as sex slaves - traditional healer Sophie Masikuka, 57, popularly known as Mbuya Sauti - is despised outside her circles but revered by those who know her.

Her recent marriage to 29-year-old Wellington Mabhiza triggered a social media condemnation frenzy that further alienated her from the broader eastern border city's population.

This was more so derided as a charade as news filtered around that the "wedding ceremony" involving nocturnal rive rituals but missing both known religious and legal solemnisation as well as happening as it did before the man even paid lobola.

The couple later claimed they are yet to wed but this was just a ceremony to present their future intentions to the spirits of whom they are mediums.

"It's like the fact that at a funeral no matter how expensive the casket is, you will still need a reed mat in fulfilment of our traditional practices. So people may not understand what we did but this is the procedure for traditional healers like ourselves.

"Our relationship needs to be approved by our mermaid spirits before we settle down. If our spirits reject it, no one will feel taken advantage of because we would not have been intimate with each other," Mbuya Sauti explained.

While this part of her life has been exposed to the public for an intense three weeks now, she is still largely an enigma - information about her is still largely based on exaggerated excesses about how she feasts on the exploitation of child sex slaves.

Child rights organisations around the province are convinced she is a criminal who needs to be locked up.

"We were interested in verifying allegations that were being raised by children we were working with but nothing fruitful came out of it. She had some sort of immunity that we never understood," one official said in an interview recently.

It is as if she has the law enforcement in a spell - either out of fear or because of her charms.

But there is another side to the controversial figure. One that she hardly explains to anyone and one that has had her largely misunderstood outside her environs.

Making a living as a traditional healer and herbalist in and behind the Sakubva main bus terminus, she is one of the most popular individuals in Sakubva's Chineta suburb where she owns two houses.

She is probably the most trusted individual around. And perhaps most loved.

While there may be debate around her marriage, opinion is unanimous around her welfare and philanthropic activities.

Any child who arrives in the city alone and on a bus is often thrown into her care until guardians are found.

"Recently, there is a young boy who arrived on a bus from Honde Valley. The little boy said he just jumped onto the bus because he wanted to know what it felt like being on a bus and he was brought to me for care. While I had to do everything to look for his parents who came after some days and I handed them their child," Mbuya Sauti recounts.

This is just one of many such tales.

Children who were orphaned and abandoned in Sakubva or who would run away from their rural homes to the city fleeing abuse would often find themselves under her care.

Children have emerged from under her who have been both good and delinquent. But focus has largely been placed to her only taking in girls, something she disputes.

"I have cared for over 3 000 children since they have started coming to my doorstep. I don't turn anyone away. Where would they go? I have only had a few girls but it's been mostly boys. Girls are a problem," Mbuya Sauti explains.

But she loves them all the same. Currently, her ‘‘youngest child'' is a six-year-old girl doing Grade One at Chisamba Primary School.

"I raised this child's mother, who was also an orphan. Unfortunately, she was impregnated with the man declining responsibility.

"She later met a man who wanted to marry her but didn't want her child. She just dumped her child at the bus terminus and went away. Her friend took the child to me for care," she says, revealing how the child's mother later died following an accident.

"I went to see her after the accident and told her that I had taken her child and she would get her back as soon as she was discharged from hospital but she did not make it."

What pained her most though was that the young lady - and at heart her daughter - got a pauper's burial because she was never informed of her death in time.

"When I went to see her, the nurses were so hostile towards me and I thought I needed to stay away from her so that she could at least get some proper medical care because I didn't want their opinion about me to affect her," she explained.

She denies that she ever fixed boyfriends to any of her "daughters".

"Do you think I'll be normal to raise this child from infancy then look for men to abuse her for money?" she queried.

Mbuya Sauti said she knew many organisations have been investigating her activities but have failed to find fault with her.

"About 10 years ago, the department of Social Welfare raided my home and took all the children and sent them back to their districts and reunited some of them with their families but others were just placed in institutions.

"Right now, some of them have turned 18 and cannot stay in the institutions and have been released and some have come back here because this is the place they consider home."

This group includes a young man called Innocent.

"I was being taken care of by Zaoga after we were removed from Gogo's care by the department of Social Welfare and the police but since I'm an adult now, they couldn't continue to care for me," Innocent, who doesn't know any of his relatives, said.

For him, and hundreds more, Mbuya Sauti is a saint - though an unlikely philanthropist, she has helped many children find hope after rejection.

"What I've realised is that all the children who have come to me for shelter and food are children who are coming from broken homes.

"Step-parents have largely been terrible with children from the stories children I've cared for tell me," she says.

The HIV and Aids epidemic, which left a trail of orphans, has been a major contributor to the crisis of children spewing onto the streets and ending up at her door-step.

"HIV and Aids destroyed homes and children were left without anyone to care for them. It was terrible at the turn of the millennium."

Her claims to sainthood are, however, spoiled by her failure to fully care for the children by getting every child who came to her to school, giving them room to wander the streets by day.

She, however, said even though she has had to care for two generations of children, she would not accept to care for children that the girls she raised would have given birth to while they did as they pleased.

"That would be to promote prostitution. If they need help, I'll give them a room where they would stay with their child and I wouldn't assume the responsibility to take care of the child in their absence."

Another of her problem is the fact that she has been welcoming commercial sex workers to rent rooms at her houses, giving them the stigma of being brothels.

"Unlike other people, I do not discriminate who rents at my properties. I accept traditional leaders and commercial sex workers. I have no problem with other human beings trying to find shelter.

"This way, you can then help them change if you think they are lost instead of shutting them out."

Mbuya Sauti says she has helped many commercial sex workers leave the profession and find homes.

"Some women I've accommodated have managed to start a decent life and found marriage."
Source - dailynews