A self-proclaimed spirit medium yesterday caused a stir at the fallen “Mbuya Nehanda Tree” at the intersection of Sam Nujoma Street and Josiah Tongogara Avenue in Harare, ordering people not to tamper with the remains of the tree which was accidentally felled by a truck on Wednesday afternoon.
Memory Chari, a member of the Zimbabwe National Traditional Healers’ Association (Zinatha), drew a crowd of pedestrians and motorists who gathered around her, watching her as she wailed, in an apparent trance and gave orders against tampering with the tree.
Several onlookers, however, questioned her authenticity given the manner in which she appeared “too modernised” for a spirit medium. She wore make-up and shouting manicure — the kind of looks generally described as untraditional. She would intermittently drink bottled water drenching herself with some as she wept amid giving the “sacred” orders over the tree.
“Don’t touch that tree and don’t remove anything from it. This is not a laughing matter; don’t do anything to this tree.
“Don’t even attempt to use this for firewood. I tell you this is not a laughing matter,” said Chari.
The legendary tree is believed to be the one on which Mbuya Nehanda was hanged in 1898.
Social commentators and many others interpreted the fall of the tree as signifying the beginning of a new era in Zimbabwean politics while others said it was a bad omen.
Mbuya Nehanda is widely believed to be the greatest spirit medium of Zimbabwe having led the First Chimurenga and ordered the killing of Native Commissioner Henry Pollard in 1897 — a deed she paid for with her life.