By Tinashe Farawo and Kingstone Mapupu
Tightly-knit syndicates allegedly involving traditional leaders and businesspeople were behind massive livestock looting in rural areas by the “witch-hunters” commonly referred to as “tsikamutanda”, it has emerged.
A fortnight ago, Government announced that the witch-hunters are not licensed to conduct “exorcisms” that have seen many villagers losing livestock and other valuables.
Some chiefs and headmen had been granting the characters permission into their jurisdictions and it is now believed this was part of a scam to con their subjects.
Chiefs Council of Zimbabwe president Chief Fortune Charumbira said that some realm leaders are being investigated by the council.
“We have condemned such activities and are aware that some traditional leaders and other officials are involved in this scam.
“Soon after the victims gave these people their livestock, police and veterinary officers would be ready to clear the livestock and a mini-auction would be conducted.”
Chief Charumbira said traditional leaders should confine their mandate to civil matters, warning against continued involvement in criminality.
“As traditional leaders, we do not preside over criminal matters; we only deal with civil matters. We condemn some of our village heads who are inviting these people into their jurisdictions. This is criminal, and they must be arrested. We have already told all our traditional leaders not to entertain such people in their jurisdictions.”
Zimbabwe National Traditional Healers Association leader Mr Friday Chisanyu chipped in:
“It has turned out that some traditional leaders were conniving with these witch-hunters who in turn would share the loot after selling livestock to ready buyers whom we suspect are part of these illegal activities.
“If you buy cattle in the rural areas, it takes quite some time for police to process the paperwork. But this was done expeditiously when it came to these tsikamutandas, and the cattle and goats would quickly be taken to the market for sale.
“Government has done well by acting on these criminals, they are safeguarding the interests of the poor. If you check, most people who lost their livestock were weak in their communities. And why is it that most of these tsikamutandas are very young? We haven’t seen or heard of one who is more than 50 years old.”
In Mvuma, a suspected tsikamutanda reportedly lost US$34 000 at a lodge he had booked into, while a 77-year-old man in Norton was humiliated after he failed to surrender a beast to a witch hunter who had accused him of being a wizard.
Chief police spokesperson Senior Assistant Charity Charamba said that anti-theft police have been dispatched to the country’s rural areas to conduct investigations and curb the vice. The Sunday Mail