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A mountain that swallows people

Opinion & Analysis
Mount Nyangani is one mountain that is feared by most people that live in the Eastern Highlands where a number of people have disappeared without trace.

Mount Nyangani is one mountain that is feared by most people that live in the Eastern Highlands where a number of people have disappeared without trace.

Saturday Dialogue with Ropafadzo Mapimhidze

They say it is a sacred highland.

Mt Nyangani is known, just like other places around the world, like the Bermuda Triangle and the Devil’s Triangle of Japan, that have formed part of “pop” paranormal or ghost-like studies for decades. However, mountains generally seem to play a greater role as sites for mysterious disappearances than any other sites.

Two girls who were hardly teenagers, daughters of a former government official Tichaendepi Masaya disappeared on Mt Nyangani in 1981. Despite the massive searches using helicopters, they have not been found.

Vanishing on this mountain is neither a myth nor a legend. It is real. There is a long-held belief by the Manyika people living around that area that says a vindictive spiritual presence on the mountain is responsible for the disappearences.

They say had the parents sought ancestral spiritual help from the elders, the children, who are said to be in a state of suspension “chimidza”, would have been returned.

Hardly five years later, an eight-year-old tourist called Robert Ackhurst (8), vanished in that mountain. He too has since not been located.

Barely two weeks ago, a local tourist of Asian descent disappeared on this mountain where he had gone hiking with friends and family. Zayd Dada aged 31, was in the company of his wife and another couple when they climbed halfway up the mountain. The couple and his wife gave up while Zayd proceeded alone.

He was nowhere to be found. What exactly is the story behind these disappearances?

Between 1984 and 1985 I had the opportunity of discussing the mysteries surrounding Mount Nyangani, when I was an information officer for Mutare district.

Everyone I spoke to said Mt Nyangani had to be approached with great caution. Mountain climbers were urged to seek permission from elders living around the area before venturing into the deep thickets. That mountain can change into all sorts of weather from bright and sunny, to a foggy, cloudy and dewy terrain in a day.

I recall refusing to accompany a journalist, the late Simomo Mubi and a news crew, up there and chose to remain at the foot of the mountain.

A senior government official in the early 1980s said he once got “lost” for nearly four days when he was a young man. But when he was eventually found, it was as if he had been missing for just a few hours.

He said he was not hungry nor did he show any signs of fatigue or dehydration.

Traditional leaders in that area apparently played a major role in his reappearance because some cultural rites had been performed to appease the spirits surrounding this mystical mountain.

It is also believed that this mountain could have swallowed many fighters during the war of the liberation.

All these cases seemed to point to the fact that these people would have wandered off in different directions and got captured by the invisible inhabitants of this mountain.

It has hence become very difficult to talk about Mount Nyangani without mentioning the mysteries and magic surrounding this vast natural wonder.

Mt Nyangani is no doubt infamous for common and unexplained human disappearances.

The mountain is the highest in Zimbabwe standing at 2 592 metres (8 504 feet).

Locals say when you come across a strange colourful snake, a smouldering clay pot with no fire in sight or a brick of gold, it’s best to pretend you have not seen anything and move on.

This is also clearly stated in a book by Cliff Mcillwaine, the grandson of Sir Robert Mcilwaine who was a highly respected High Court Judge in the then Rhodesia titled The Legend of Mt Nyangani which is based on the mysterious disappearances on the mountain.

Psychic research has in recent years become accepted even by police detectives as an option in solving such mysteries world-wide.

However, a reader using the name Musuri, who commented on the story about the latest disappearance on The Standard website, came up with a good suggestions which authorities should consider.

He said: “There is need to establish a procedure where, all tourists are taken on a guided trail by local climbers that know the terrain very well and all tourists and guides are mandated to wear reflective jackets locally available.

“Climbers or their guides must have simple tools such as a whistle/bell — yes you heard me right — to raise alarm if need be. “Try to set up a well-known common trail to make search and rescue operations easier by limiting them to a smaller geographic area.

Such a trail can be paved by local granite along the way, even if we paved only 10 metres a year, eventually we will get to the top. If we had started in 1980, we would have done 330 metres(1100 feet) by now. And this does not require any financial investment at all.

Each visitor can be encouraged to collect a single boulder and place it on the trail on each visit. This idea sounds ridiculous and crazy, well find out a little about the Great Wall of China,” Musuri said.