SCORES of inhabitants of Chinyenyetu village in Gokwe stood transfixed, mesmerised and in awe of it all.
Aaron Ufumeli/Moses Matenga
The tsikamutanda, that feared witch-hunter, waved his big magic stick while splashing white powder on an artifacts that seemed to be breathing. They all believed it was a goblin.
Along with his two teammates, the 34-year-old tsikamutanda, born Munyaradzi Daitai, has been in this village for six days claiming to be exorcising evil spirits that villagers believe have brought them bad fortunes.
He glances at the crowd as he holds the “breathing” goblin extracted from Mbuya Evangelista’s homestead.
The villagers give a huge collective sigh. Muffled whispers spread among the onlookers with accusations of the old woman being a witch being the common voice.
Although there are mixed feelings over the veracity of tsikamutanda among the villagers, for Headman Shereni, judging from what he had heard from his subject, there was nothing fake about the witch-hunters’ and he eagerly awaiting his turn.
Chief photographer Aaron Ufumeli last Thursday came face to face with Daitai and his team on his visit to Shereni village. For the six days he had been in the area, there had been tension and unlimited drama as dozens of people sought the services of this ‘powerful’ witch sniffer to end their many problems.
Daitai has built a makeshift shrine with old pieces of tent and sack tacked to poles.
Red, yellow, black and white clothes are distinctly hung around the shrine walls.
Bottles of water, “containing spiritual powers” are strategically placed at every corner of the shrine while a big wooden staff, the major tool of his trade, stands majestically at the entrance to the shrine.
The shrine has become popular among the villagers for different reasons.
While others go to consult, others, like this writer, take time to enjoy themselves with free drama; after all, there is not much work to do given the grim dry spell in the area.
“We are here to look for all the evil things that people have in their homes, whether or not they affect them,” the witch-hunter says in an interview.
On his second day in the village, Daitai announced his arrival by “exposing” an elderly man who was literally raping village women using “mubobobo”.
Mubobobo is that “Bluetooth” sex black magic which enables a man to have sex with any woman without their consent or knowledge, save for having eerie sexual feelings and showing signs of having had sex after the act.
The old man, believed to be in his late 70s was allegedly using his “magic” brazenly in that village and is said to have bragged that he wanted them (women) big.
“We have unearthed several things in the days we have been here. We dealt with the case of mubobobo and we captured goblins and other things,” Daitai said.
Evangelista Bheji, an elderly woman, arrived at the shrine in the evening.
After a few minutes, Bheji emerged from the makeshift shrine with a staff in hand; this time accompanied by one of Daitai’s assistants Felix Pisirayi and headed for Bheji homestead with an excitable crowd following singing and chanting led by one of Daitai’s assistants.
Bheji is the first wife to their late husband together with Shumirayi who was at the homestead when the team arrived.
Shumirayi was having problems since 2008 and was now having difficulties walking.
Pisirayi and Shumirayi entered the small hut, thought to be the bedroom and after as few minutes, the two emerged with an assortment of clothes held by the staff.
Pisirayi started sprinkling water and maize meal onto the clothes before he fell to the ground crawling as he squeezed an unidentified object that appeared elusive, trying to run away.
This unidentified object, according to Shumirayi was the root of their problems.
“All my sons have been working for many years but they have nothing to show for it. I hope the removal of the object will see good things happening to my children and the family,” said a visibly shaken Shumirayi who said she was having all sorts of problems in life dating back to 2008.
However, the exorcising session does not come cheap for the Bheji family. They have to pay the witch-hunter a bull that they have to deliver soon.
Daitai said that the people in the areas they visited paid him according to the nature of the job he would have performed and the seriousness of the problems to the family.
He accepts everything from plates, chicken, cattle and anything depending on the seriousness of the problem.
“Payment depends on how serious the problem is. If it has caused serious problems, it is difficult to deal with so it means the people involved will pay big.
“We accept anything from plates, chicken and cattle depending on the magnitude of the problem,” Daitai said.
While many doubt the authenticity of their practice, local traditional leader Wilson Shereni said judging from the reports from his subjects, the tsikamutanda appeared genuine.
“I am yet to get in there (shrine) but from what I hear from my people who have gone there, it doesn’t appear fake to me,” Shereni said.
Gokwe Nembudziya MP Justice Mayor Wadyajena endorsed the witch hunters.
He said: “This is what the chief has ordered and we abide by that since he is the custodian of our tradition.
“The area is well known for that. It’s quite normal to people that grew up in Nembudziya.”