War vets Njelele trip slammed

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The weekend trip by hundreds of war veterans to the sacred Njelele shrine in Matobo for cleansing has courted controversy with a section of the community saying “it is taboo to visit the site at this time of the year”.

Already, mystery surrounds the real purpose of the trip in Matabeleland South with leaders of the Zimbabwe National Liberation War Veterans’ Association distancing themselves from the event.

Initial reports suggested the former liberation fighters had gone for a cleansing ceremony after the run-up to the bloody 2008 presidential election run-off but other members of the pilgrimage said they wanted to rid themselves of “evil spirits” dating back to the liberation war.

But historian and cultural expert Phathisa Nyathi on Wednesday said the place is only visited for ritual purposes just before the rainy season.

“The place is usually visited between August and September when rainmakers from all over the country’s provinces come together for rituals. The shrine should not be visited at this time of the year,” he said.

Nyathi said the former freedom fighters should have been properly advised by traditional authorities before visiting the shrine.

“However, it is not within the realms of the living to foretell the kind of punishment the ancestors will give for visiting the shrine during an improper time,” said Nyathi.

He said it was impossible for the traditional leaders at the site to turn back the war veterans “because if the reports we read that they were 700 (are true), then the number was quite imposing”.

“There was no space for negotiations with that kind of number,” said Nyathi. The Zipra Veterans Trust distanced itself from the visit to Njelele with its chairman, Retired Colonel Ray Ncube, saying as far as his organisation was concerned the shrine should not be visited at this time of the year.

Meanwhile, the trust will be sending four of its members to Chibondo Mine in Mount Darwin to check if the Zanu PF- aligned Fallen Heroes Trust has complied with a court order barring it from exhuming bodies of liberation war fighters from the disused mine.

High Court judge Justice Nicholas Mathonsi ordered the immediate stop of the exhumations about three weeks ago after the trust made an application to that effect. The delegation was scheduled to leave for Mt Darwin today.