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Njelele ritual lands war vets in trouble


Matobo villagers on Sunday confronted Chief Malaki Masuku following reports that a group of about 600 former Zanla combatants invaded the sacred Njelele Shrine, performed illegal cleansing ceremonies and later dumped human remains at the site.

A NewsDay crew attended the meeting held at Chief Masuku’s home in Natisa, Matobo.

According to the villagers, the incident occurred last month.

The villagers wanted to know whether the traditional leader had authorised the former freedom fighters to enter the shrine, which is traditionally reserved for rain-making ceremonies.

They accused the ex-combatants of defiling the shrine and contributing to the erratic rainfall received in the region.

Masuku said the matter was now being handled by Matabeleland South governor Angeline Masuku and Vice-President John Nkomo, both of whom could not be reached for comment yesterday.The chief told his subjects the ex-Zanla members implicated in the invasion of the shrine had denied charges of dumping human remains at the site.

“They have been questioned about the issues and they are denying ever leaving bones here,” Masuku said.

“I am equally not happy about what these people did in this area and I will be meeting the governor over this matter until it is resolved,” he said.

Villagers said over 600 suspected ex-Zanla combatants descended on Njelele where they allegedly conducted a ceremony to “appease the spirits of their colleagues who were killed during the war at Chimoio in Mozambique (in 1977)”.

The group allegedly arrived in a convoy of 16 buses and more than six cars.

Earlier on, the group had reportedly visited Mozambique, exhumed the remains of their colleagues and took stones from the graves and dumped them at the Njelele Shrine.

“What was done by these people is very bad. We also have relatives who died in places such as Zambia. We have never gone to exhume and take their remains to Njelele. We have never seen such a thing before,” said a villager who declined to be named.

“We are sad that people can come here and dump human remains at the shrine.

“This is why we are now experiencing erratic rainfall in the area. These people were cursing us,” said another villager.

Last year, a group of about 500 suspected ex-Zanla fighters allegedly invaded the shrine, but national war veterans’ leaders Jabulani Sibanda and Joseph Chinotimba denied claims the war veterans were involved.

Last month, another group of 50 suspected ex-Zanla combatants stormed Matobo Hills and allegedly threatened to exhume the remains of Cecil John Rhodes, claiming their continued presence was an insult to the country’s political independence.

The group, according to sources, was allegedly being led by former Zanu PF Bulawayo provincial executive member Monica Mguni-Sikhosana.

But ex-Zanla combatants in Harare denied involvement of their members, and threatened to close down NewsDay if the newspaper did not disclose its informants.

Harare provincial chairman of the Zimbabwe National Liberation War Veterans’ Association Charles Mpofu had threatened to close the paper in five days if it did not disclose its sources.

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