This is a new word for me: tsikamutanda.
A tsikamutanda is a witch hunter in Zimbabwe or, to put it another way, a scam artist preying on the poorly-educated in Zimbabwe. Not everyone in Zimbabwe is taken in by these fraudsters but it’s a battle between those trying to help victims out and those who truly believe they need help to fight off the supernatural. Take this account from Harare 24 three years ago:
[T]his new breed of “society cleansers” is often noted for the youthfulness of its members and the flashy cars and wealth they display.
While many question the authenticity of these tsikamutandas, most people, it seems are more than ready to welcome them in their society and take their pronouncements as gospel.
This is despite repeated warnings from the police that some of these so-called healers take people for a ride and are nothing more than conmen in sheep’s clothing.
That same article goes on to describe a confrontation between villagers waiting for tsikamutandas to cleanse their village of evil and the police who stepped in to prevent it happening.
after the police had moved in, villagers had already gathered, eagerly awaiting the ceremony. Most seemed angry that the police had prevented the tsikamutandas from conducting a session in their village.
Another elderly woman shouted at a police officer who was addressing the highly agitated crowd, […] “There is too much witchcraft here, we are always troubled. When it rains, we become afraid because lightning bolts are being sent to injure people. Our daughters are becoming pregnant outside wedlock and goblins are making our lives unbearable. This law that the police are talking about makes things difficult and witchcraft acts will become even worse. All we want is peace.”
Strangely, there are accounts of people who believe in tsikamutandas and can spot a fake one. From the Zimbabwe Mail earlier this year:
It is alleged that before the healing and cleansing act, Chinyama had charged $300 and a goat for his services and was given a goat, with the balance to be paid after the cleansing act.
He led the brothers to the grave and along the way, one of the brothers noticed that the tsikamutanda had something concealed under his armpit and he tipped his elder brother.
When they got to the grave, he started performing his acts and again got into a trance, jumping all over the grave and said the spirit had shown him that there was something evil buried by the side of the grave.
As he dug, he dropped the unidentified object into the pit he had dug, claiming aftewrwards that he had found the object responsible for the family’s bad omen and sicknesses.
Naturally, this leads to a thorough beating and a confession which isn’t great. On the plus side it might just also increase scepticism for those two brothers, friends, and relatives. It’s a start.
Somebody else who is very sceptical of the witch hunters is the current Zimbabwean energy and power development minister Dzikamai Mavhaire who has just threatened to release the hounds – the hounds being the youth wing of the Zanu PF party – on the tsikamutandas if the police fail to act. A bit like Theresa May threatening to send in the Young Conservatives if the Met don’t act tougher on illegal immigrants.
From News Day:
“The police, you are failing your duty to arrest these tsikamutandas who dupe people out of their money and livestock,” said Mavhaire.
He said police should perform their duties by chasing away the traditional healers.
All very commendable but, as always, there are contrasting opinions from those who embrace the fraudulent activity of the tsikamutandas and those who are its inevitable victims.
However, Mavhaire’s comments ruffled the feathers of some traditional leaders who invite tsikamutandas to their areas or approve the witch hunting antics.
Gashirai Maposa, an elderly villager in Masikana in Marondera, said the tsikamutandas should be banned as they were dividing communities.
“These tsikamutandas came here a few months ago and accused me of being a witch. All my children are now avoiding me and they are no longer coming to visit me as they were told I am the cause of their mishaps in life,” he said.
Other villagers, however, supported the tsikamutandas saying they were ridding villages of witchcraft which was causing deaths.