Risking lives for nonexistent red mercury

SO, after more than a week of speculation and all sorts of theories over the cause of the “mysterious” blast that rocked Chitungwiza’s Zengeza 2 high-density suburb, police have finally revealed the source of the explosion — that it was “an explosive” — a bomb, a landmine or some such explosive.

Report by Tangai Chipangura Deputy Editor

The police issued an official statement on Tuesday to the effect that people could be going around stealing and selling bombs! The belief, said national police spokesperson Charity Charamba, was that inside these bombs was some substance called red mercury which fetched millions of dollars on the black market.

As the “red mercury” story filtered Zimbabwe’s underworld, “enterprising” and unscrupulous fortune-seekers have been on the prowl, buying and selling explosives — even attempting to extract the “red mercury”, ending up dead or injured in the process.

Police say it is fortune-seeking adventures such as these that were most likely the cause of the death of five people at a n’anga’s house in Zengeza last week.

An explosion ripped through at least three houses tearing to pieces and burning beyond recognition the 24-year-old traditional healer Speakmore Mandere, businessman Clever Kamudzeya (an ex-police officer), a seven-month-old baby who had been left sleeping by its mother in a separate room and another man whom police have not yet officially identified.

NewsDay, however, has it on good authority that the “unidentified” fifth victim was a barman at a renowned upmarket hotel in Harare by the name of Stix Chitanha. Our sources said Chitanha, who had been missing from his St Mary’s home for six days, was identified by his wife and brother last Sunday and his remains were buried at his rural home in Hurungwe on Monday.

Before the police gave their official position on the cause of the blast, all sorts of superstitious theories flew around, most of them bordering on absurdity, unkind humour, some of them even outright silly. They included stories that black magic lightning was being manufactured when something terribly went wrong resulting in the lightning striking its source.

Other explanations were that the businessman was trying to get rid of a wealth-making goblin that had become a pest.
Others claimed that a money-making concoction was being prepared in a clay pot and the businessman was straddling the cauldron containing red-hot stones when the muti suddenly became too powerful and exploded.

This version was meant to explain how the businessman was torn apart at the waist area and also how the clay pot miraculously survived the blast.

The rational explanation of a possible bomb blast was unpopular with people who readily embraced the mysterious witchcraft-related causes — including the famous sandawana theory where a rat-like rodent was supposed to have caused the explosion of the magnitude that destroyed up to 12 houses.

The reality, however, according to police investigations, is that there are people going around selling bombs in search of instant riches. Some of the theories in this school of thought are that there are soldiers and or policemen that are stealing explosives, including landmines, grenades, mortar bombs etc from military armouries and reselling them to red mercury merchants.

What this means is that such kinds of explosives may now be found in residential areas awaiting extraction of the red mercury or onward transmission to buyers. Some of these bombs may be so unstable they could detonate anytime and yet they are probably being transported on populated streets and vehicles, even in our kombis where a dealer could be sitting like an innocent passenger, yet they are carrying a bag containing a landmine on their lap!

But for all this, research shows that the so-called red mercury may not actually exist and could be a mere urban myth. The cherry-coloured substance believed to be found inside explosives may be valueless although those that seek to trade in it put a price on it of up to $1,8 million per kg.

A British court trying three men accused of trying to extract red mercury for sale in 2006 cleared them after the court failed to establish whether or not the so-called red mercury actually existed.

According to BBC reports on the case, the most bizarre aspect of the trial of Abdurahman Kanyare and his two co-defendants was the fact that no-one in the court could be certain whether the terrifying substance on which the entire prosecution case was based actually existed.

The prosecutor, Mark Ellison, admitted the police had no idea if there even was such a thing as red mercury — supposedly the main ingredient for a “dirty bomb” which could have devastated London.

It emerged during the trial at the Old Bailey that red mercury was something of an urban myth, a substance which was either radioactive or toxic or neither, depending on who you spoke to.

According to the reputable Guardian newspaper, however, red mercury is nothing but a mythical name of a nonexistent substance used by conmen to dupe people.

“The only thing we can be sure of is that it’s a ripping yarn,” a report in the paper’s 2004 article said.

The American Central Intelligence Agency also says red mercury does not exist. Recently, the red mercury mania reappeared in Saudi Arabia, an article for the BBC says, adding: “Saudi police say they are investigating a hoax that has seen people rushing to buy old-fashioned Singer sewing machines for up to $50 000, when their original price was not more than $100.

Zimbabweans appear to be a gullible lot that has taken as true rumours that items such as old cast iron pots and pressing irons made thousands of dollars on the black market.

There was a rush for these items between 2009 and 2010 when urban dwellers swarmed the rural areas collecting old pots and pressing irons for amounts that left the rural folk dumbfounded, but at the end of the day having the last laugh.




  3. Miracle money, cast iron, rare earth mineral. We Zimbos we seem to forget so fast what happened to Makandiwa airtime juice cards he was selling….

  4. Lovemore Chikanya

    Impoverishment and ignorance causes us to venture into nonexistant el dorado or utopia. God have mercy on us. God made man to live by working. Then we try to make shortcuts. Let us learn from ants as the Palmist prewarns. They toil for their surival. We will ever be victims of the First Cause if we are stony hearted. Working brings enjoyment, blessings and ultimately life.

  5. if u r sayin it was a bomb, y is it that th clay pot survived the explosion tht affected homes several feet away???????

    1. finally a factual official report. welldone machinda for the investigations. clearly whatever survived the blast survived only by chance .

  6. ZRP is jst an organization created to serve Zanu interest,thus wat their syllabus is full of,no weapon handling technic ,human rights only Zanu constitution of impunity and one party state.No wonder why they called for that shameful pres conference to tel al who care to listen that shallow line ful of assumptions of grenades ,red mercury which they dont have any knowledge of,i wonder if that Charamba did chemistry at school except ZPF manufesto.To hell with ZRP’school of thot,concerning Zengeza fiasco

    1. george bachinche

      The story is about the blast in Chitungwiza. ZRP is a police force, dealing with all kinds of crimes as defined by the law of the land i.e. as shrined in the constitution. Its common for the polices anywhere in the world to speculate, and even sometime get it wrong. You seem to be one of those idiot who think every event has an immediate asnwer. How many unsolved crimes are there in the world, even in the industrialisec coutries where there is both skill and technology.

      I suppose you are not educated enough to understand this!

  7. Did the police and the bomb disposal unit of the army find any tangible evidence suggesting that it was a bomb?And why are you of all publications you the Newsday disparaging other people by calling them superstitious for believing that the explosion had something to do with black magic when you have not provided evidence to the contrary and when only two weeks ago you were telling people that gold had rained in Darwin and that some people had received gold, diamonds, had their crippled limbs straightened and those who had missing teeth grown new teeth ?Your article shows that either you are hypocritical, use double standards or your journalism is worse than gutter journalism.You should be consistent and don’t present your fiction as news.As far as the Zengeza explosion is concerned, I think it is better for all of us to say we really don’t know and each of us to be free to say what he or she thinks happened.Be advised and check the consistence of your reports.

  8. I actually dont get this. The police have issued a speculative statement. There is nowhere were we are advised that the forensic investigation yielded such and such a result. The statement by the the police is to the effect that ” people could be stealing stealing and selling bombs” does this statement represent excatly what happened in Chitungwiza. I find this report to be shallow & hogwash. The pertinent question is what are the results of the investigation, lets leave speculation to be speculation. It may very well be a bomb but surely there should be evidence to that.

  9. I do agree with Clever, everbody else including the police, do not have a clue of what actually exploded and killed these people.
    Until and unless the experts do find and bring up real evidence , every one of us is just guessing.The theory of a goblin resisting being sent to the gallows by a nganga may make sense because of the fact that. no trace of a bomb has been found.

  10. May the lord have mercy on those people.

  11. a bomb is something which can detonate current upon impact, even the the avenging goblin can satisfy this.

  12. Fantastic job here. I seriously enjoyed what you needed to say. Keep heading because you absolutely bring a new voice to this subject. Not a lot of people would say what youve said and also still make it interesting. Properly, no less than Im interested. Cant wait to observe much more associated with this from you.

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