More than 700 war veterans descended on the sacred Njelele Shrine, Matobo district in Matabeleland South on Saturday afternoon for a “cleansing ceremony”.
According to officials at the shrine, the group, which was travelling in a convoy of six buses, 16 commuter omnibuses and more than 30 private cars, caused a stir when they arrived in the normally quiet rural area.
When NewsDay arrived at the shrine yesterday, shrine custodian Solifa Ncube said the former freedom fighters had left on Sunday evening and headed to Chief Malaki Masuku’s homestead.
“There were so many of them,” said Ncube. “We took them to the shrine where we performed cleansing rites.”
A beast was slaughtered for the occasion.
The NewsDay crew was shown the fresh ox-hide which was left on the grounds to dry.
The war veterans reportedly sought to be cleansed following the 2008 bloody presidential election run-off where they led a reign of terror on suspected opposition party supporters and reportedly left at least 200 MDC-T supporters dead.
MDC-T leader Morgan Tsvangirai pulled out of the race citing a state-sponsored onslaught on his supporters.
Chief Masuku confirmed the war veterans had visited the Njelele shrine and his home for cleansing purposes.
He said the group claimed to have come from Harare, Mutare, Kadoma, Kwekwe and Rusape.
“They spent the night here on Friday, singing and chanting slogans. They came again on Sunday night before leaving today (Monday),” he said.
“They even had chiefs in their contingent.”
Chief Masuku said initially the group had problems getting police clearance to enter the shrine but later managed to get it after his intervention.
“Another group will come in August,” he said.
Contacted for comment one of the Zimbabwe National Liberation War Veterans’ Association (ZNLWVA) leaders, Joseph Chinotimba, however, professed ignorance about the cleansing ceremony saying he was out of the country for the past three weeks. “Check with Jabulani Sibanda (chairman ZNLWVA),” he said.
Sibanda was not reachable on his mobile phone throughout the day Monday.