MUTARE – Residents of Mutare’s Dangamvura high-density suburb were last Thursday left shell-shocked after a pack of “mysterious mongooses” were exposed after dropping from a ceiling at a house in the Area 14 section of the neighbourhood.
The discovery of the animals was quickly linked to witchcraft as neighbours queried the co-habitation of the mongooses (jerenyenje) with humans. Hundreds of people thronged House No. 310 to catch a glimpse of the mongooses that were exposed after part of the roof they were staying in caved in.
News of the discovery of the mongooses went viral and the case got more complicated after some plates were allegedly found in the ceiling and those who witnessed the drama quickly concluded that someone was feeding the animals.
When The Weekender visited the scene, residents were battling to kill the mongooses. At one point people ran for dear life after some of the animals fought back. Residents managed to kill two of the mongooses while the others sought refuge in the ceiling.
The owner of the house is no longer staying there after relocating to Harare some years back. The house is being leased to tenants. As the community tried to come to terms with the scary discovery, a lot of theories and explanations were proffered.
One of the tenants said she discovered the mongooses long back and held the owner of the house responsible for their existence. However, some said the tenants should explain the existence of the wild animals as they were the ones staying at the house.
Some also said it was normal to find wild animals in the ceiling, while traditional healers said the discovery of the wild animals was a classical case of witchcraft.
“I have been staying here for about two years and at times I saw these animals. The owner of the house who now stays in Harare must tell us what is happening. Zvinhu zvavo izvi. Isu hatina zvatinoziva,” said one of the tenants.
However, neighbours quickly rubbished her version, saying the owner of the house was gone for years now and the tenants must come out clean. They said the tenants must explain why the plates were found in the ceiling and why they kept quiet for so long after discovering that they co-existed with wild animals.
“That explanation does not hold water. They are the ones living at the house and they must have alerted neighbours after discovering the animals. What is surprising is that these people now appear to be scared, but they co-existed with these mongooses for years.
“If the mongooses had not dropped from the ceiling, were they going to tell anyone? I don’t want to mention names here, but you must know that one of the tenants who is into public transport business does not have a clean past. Those who know what I am saying will confirm it.
“The owner of the house does not stay there. By the look of things those animals are being fed daily, and how can the owner feed them while in Harare? The plates that were found in the ceiling say it all. Those plates cannot go up there by accident.
“Children cannot play around and place them there because it is beyond their reach. The person who placed the plates there was so determined because you need a ladder to climb up,” said a neighbour who requested anonymity.
Word doing the rounds is that after the two of the mongooses were killed, one of the tenants put them in a plastic bag and volunteered to throw them away against everyone’s suggestion to burn them just outside the gate.
Zimbabwe National Traditional Healers’ Association interim president Mr George Kandiero said domesticating the dangerous animals was unheard off and could be part of witchcraft at its best.
“That’s unheard of. That is witchcraft. It’s either the animals were there to protect the house and other belongings while feeding on human blood or they are actually protecting their owner. That’s scary. It is quite unfortunate that people tend to use innocent animals such as owls, tortoises, hyenas and antbears as instruments of wizardry and witchcraft.
“These are dangerous animals and can never live with humans, but when they find permanent shelter in the ceiling, it seems there is communication,” said Kandiero.
Those privy to the goings-on at the house revealed on Tuesday that the tenants have since been chucked out of the house.
“As we speak, the house is empty. The tenants have been evicted because the owner got incensed as to why they would leave wild animals to stay in her house. She told them in no uncertain terms that she does not tolerate anything linked to witchcraft and that they should pack and go.”
A research on the internet showed that mongooses mostly feed on insects, crabs, earthworms, lizards, snakes, birds and rodents. However, they also eat eggs. The Indian gray mongoose and others are well known for their ability to fight and kill venomous snakes, particularly cobras.
“They are adept at such tasks due to their agility, thick coats, and acetylcholine receptors, which render them resistant or immune to snake venom. However, they typically avoid the cobra and have no particular affinity for consuming its meat.
Some species can learn simple tricks. They can be domesticated and are kept as pets to control vermin.
However, they can be more destructive than desired; when imported into the West Indies, they destroyed most of the small, ground-based fauna. For this reason, it is illegal to import most species of mongooses into the United States, Australia, and other countries.
Mongooses are a common spectacle at roadside shows in Pakistan. Snake charmers keep mongooses for mock fights with snakes. Manica Post