FROM a distance, Grey Mpinganjira (32) is an unobtrusive man — seemingly intoxicated with the highly potent illicit traditional brew known as kachasu and with no extra-terrestrial powers whatsoever that can cause harm to anyone.
BY XOLISANI NCUBE
He looks at ease and somewhat a man at peace with his soul, but not until he lifts the lid on his troubled life that has witnessed and participated in the death of three family members — thanks to the “kingdom of darkness” of which he is a self-proclaimed partaker.
His life is like a chilling script that can rival one from an old horror movie.
For his entire life, Mpinganjira has lived with a black mamba, even sharing his bed with it.
He claims that it is a divination tool inherited from his late mother, Dorothy Bintu.
According to him, he is a Malawian traditional healer endowed with spiritual powers to solve a raft of calamities from ailments to bad omens cast upon other people.
Mpinganjira says he uses his 1,5-metre-long snake to solve a wide range of problems afflicting those who come to him seeking help at his Chihota shrine in Seke, Chitungwiza.
His is a story of bloodshed, authority and family dejection that has seen him losing two marriages and cutting off ties with his father.
As he opens up on his chilling experiences of living and dining with the slimy reptile for the past 32 years, a slight frown on his face speaks of a deeply troubled man.
“I no longer need the snake. It is troubling me. This is not to say I no longer want to be a traditional healer, no! But I just can’t continue spilling human blood so that I fulfil its demands,” Mpinganjira tells NewsDay, stroking his beard.
“Initially, we had four snakes, which my mother used during her healing sessions, but I have since returned the other three to Malawi, our home of origin. I am planning to take this one back again,” he says while seated inside his shrine “decorated” by bones, hides and muti (traditional medicines and concoctions).
“These snakes were kept by our mother and since I was helping her in healing sessions, our uncles gave them to me when my mother died.”
Although the snake was not around when the news crew visited his shrine recently, Mpinganjira says it is now giving him a torrid time as it now wants human blood for its survival.
So far, under his care, it has killed three family members whose graves are just a stone’s throw away from his small unguarded, yet “highly-prized” shrine.
The killings have, however, not made Mpinganjira repent as he argues it is part of the price to pay.
To him, it is collateral damage, but he just wants “a divorce” from the snake so that he can continue with his normal life as a traditional healer.
“It feeds on other snakes, but every year, we have to look for blood to nourish it. We sacrifice a relative annually, yet now I have no one to offer. My relatives are up in arms with me and I can’t continue with this,” he says.
He adds that in September last year, he tried to abandon the serpent in Epworth, but his journey was interrupted by alert police officers manning a roadblock along Chiremba Road, who conducted a search and found the reptile stashed in a laptop bag.
Mpinganjira recalls how he was arrested and his snake “partner” handed over to the Zimbabwe Parks and Wildlife Management Authority.
He describes the episode as “nothing other than a little inconvenience”, as he was convinced that he would be re-united with his mate.
He says something had gone wrong for the police officers to see the snake, as on most occasions, it was elusive to everybody else.
“It is because I did not involve it (the snake) in the decision to dump it somewhere, hence the mishap. Since then, it has been difficult to live with it,” he claims.
Using a rod, he points at a small clay pot covered with a black garment and on top, there are darts. This is where the snake sleeps, he says.
In his shrine, it is an abomination to engage in sexual intercourse or any romantic acts and for this reason, not even his sexual partners are allowed inside the round hut.
As he performs his rituals, he faces a cross placed on a white garment and says it represents the death of Jesus Christ.
“We believe in God. And in whatever we do, we are guided by the spirits that come from God,” he asserts.
In front of the cross are two small clay pots with photographs of clients he has helped in the past with an assortment of muti.
Besides the public embarrassment and shame of being exposed that he lives with a snake, Mpinganjira says he feels isolated as he has lost two marriages due to his “horror life”.
He no longer sleeps at his house. Instead, he co-habits with a woman from the nearby village as he fears for the worst — in case the serpent runs amok.
As if that is not enough, he does not see eye-to-eye with his father due to their clashing belief systems.
“I can’t visit my father back home in Malawi because he is a Christian and I am not. I don’t know why he and my mother separated, but I think it’s because of this (occult) life. I just want to ditch this snake and continue helping people as a traditional healer,” he insists.
Mpinganjira probably sees those who do not understand his occultic realm as “a little misinformed”.
He certainly does not lose sleep about it at all.
“I have no ambitions of joining any Christian church, not at all,” he says with emphasis.