POLICE have warned self-proclaimed witch-hunters in Seke communal lands who are forcing villagers to part with their livestock as payment, after accusing them of being witches and wizards.
BY PHYLLIS MBANJE
In the past two weeks, villagers in Mhundwa village in Seke have lost at least 20 cattle, several goats, chickens, sheep and maize meal to the tricksters, who have virtually camped in the village targeting mostly elderly people.
National police spokesperson, Assistant Commissioner Charity Charamba on Friday strongly condemned the practice of witch-hunting.
She said police would soon move in and contain the situation, which has seen desperate villagers parting with their hard-won wealth and livestock.
“Those practices are not permissible according to the law and we remain vigilant in dealing with such elements in our society,” she said.
Charamba said she had already instructed the acting officer commanding Mashonaland East province, Assistant Police Commissioner Erasmus Mukodzi, to deal with the matter.
“I’m confident that the issue will be resolved very quickly,” she said.
The five witch-hunters temporarily ceased their operations during the Heroes holidays after the story broke in The Standard last Sunday.
One of the villagers said: “When the story came out on [last] Sunday, the witch-hunters announced that they were temporarily shutting down their activities. They were afraid of being raided by the police.”
They however, resumed their activities on Wednesday and more villagers were fined cattle for “possessing” goblins or dabbling in witchcraft.
Some angry villagers last week accused some police officers at Dema Police Station of being in cahoots with the fraudsters and getting part of the proceeds.
“This is why this has taken so long, some officers are benefitting,” said one of the villagers. “This matter was first reported at Dema Police Station and then at Makoni but nothing was done. People want their cattle back.”
The witch-hunters are also determined to “cleanse” the headman’s homestead, who they are accusing of keeping the body of a dead child in his refrigerator.
Speaking to The Standard, headman Fabius Kandeke said he was worried following reports that the witch-hunters were planning to invade his homestead.
“Rumours have been flying around that the witch-hunters are planning to come to my home and conduct a cleansing ceremony,” he said.
Kandeke also confirmed that the witch-hunters intended to show everyone the purported body of the dead child.
The witch-hunters came to the village three weeks ago upon the invitation of a family that was locked in a dispute with another family over the “mysterious” death of a family member.
The villagers said although the witch-hunters failed to resolve the matter, they decided to stay on and set up base in the area.
Villagers would then go for consultation on various issues.
However, it was during such consultations that the witch-hunters started “sniffing” out village “witches”. Unfortunate elderly villagers would then be “dragged” to their homes for “cleansing ceremonies” where purported goblins would be “taken out and shown to” the members of the public. At some homes, they dug up horns, beads and other weird things which they claimed were used in witchcraft.
WITCH-HUNTERS ARE TRICKSTERS — VILLAGERS
Mhundwa villagers in Seke dismissed the witch-hunters whom they described as tricksters.
“We now know how they trick people. One of them digs a hole and after a while he shouts that he has found something. His team members immediately jump on top of him. In the commotion that follows the evidence is planted into the ground,” said one villager, who added that many people were too scared to look closely.