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Mugabe’s burial enigma is emblematic of a cult of necromancy that is at the root of Africa’s socio-economic under-development

By Dave Chikosi

I had never met him in person, but I recognized the voice at the other end of the line.
“Is that the new Black Airport Manager?”
“Yes it is.”

“This is the Minister of Transport. I want every Air Zimbabwe manager and employee to be present at the dedication tomorrow!”

Bishop Dave Chikosi
Bishop Dave Chikosi

Well, I was not in charge of Air Zimbabwe, but I was not about to correct Dr Herbert Ushewokunze on an error many people often make about airport managers. The Minister, bless his darling departed soul, was not exactly known for his mild temperament. So I let it slide.

But it later turned out that him and I had something in common – something that he would often reference, even as we later became better acquainted. He liked the fact that I was the first Black Airport Manager at Bulawayo Airport (now Joshua Mqabuko Nkomo International Airport), and that he was the first Black doctor in Bulawayo to run a private nursing home named Marondera Clinic. He was a proud and unapologetic pan Africanist.

In his medical practice the good doctor combined modern medicine with traditional. He was a dedicated traditionalist and an avid spiritualist. The dedication ceremony he was reminding me of was for one of two Viscount 800 aircraft recently purchased by government-run Air Zimbabwe to replace the old Air Rhodesia aircraft. This was in the early 1980s.

I duly summoned as many “DCA” (Department of Civil Aviation) staff and employee as could leave their posts unmanned, to come and be a part of the occasion. And right there airside on the Airport we witnessed the maverick Minister pour out  the tarmac a libation of beer in thanksgiving to departed ancestors for help in acquiring the new piece of expensive equipment as well as petition them for its safe sky travel.

This would have been funny if it wasn’t so spiritually dangerous. I shook my head in disbelief.

Fast forward to Mugabe’s death in 2019 and the superstition surrounding his burial. A prominent traditional spiritualist by the name of Benjamin Burombo Jnr bizarrely suggested that the former President’s body be dried off and his teeth and toenails pulled out, ostensibly to prevent spiritually unscrupulous politicians from using the body for magical and ritual purposes.

And on that same superstitious vein, Mugabe’s own family refused to let his casket out of their sight, lest some ruling party Nicodemus come by night to steal the corpse for the same aforementioned purpose. We were told by a family spokesman that Mugabe’s deathbed instruction was that his wife Grace was to “never leave the casket bearing his remains for the duration of the funeral proceedings whilst in Zimbabwe up until his mortal remains have been interred.”

Ladies and gentlemen, this is the cult of superstition that has been at the helm of the Zimbabwean government for the past 39 years. You doubt it? Then let me remind you of the “Dhiziri paChinhoyi” (“Diesel at Chinhoyi”) saga, in which a wily and foxy spirit medium named Rotina Mavhunga led a whole coterie of senior cops and Cabinet ministers to a mountain in the City of Chinhoyi. She claimed that ancestral spirits had responded to the nation’s cry for fuel and  had thus mandated her to produce purified diesel out of a rock.

Who can forget the remarkable image of Defense Minister Sydney Sekeremayi seated on the ground barefoot and clapping hands in reverence, as if to say (in the words of the modern prophetic movement), “Go deeper papa! I receive”?

Granted, some of these superstitious stunts are but harmless quirks. But necromancy or the practice of communicating with the dead, is no joking matter. It is rife in Afrika, but it is retrogressive, dangerous and deleterious of the socioeconomic potential of the Motherland. Let me show you how.

When a person dies they don’t float around in the air homeless. They go to either heaven or hell, as the story (NOT parable) of the Rich Man and Lazarus in the Bible illustrates. And so when folk claim they are communicating with dead ancestors, it’s nothing but a demonic ruse to make them believe they are in touch with their departed loved ones. It is “no wonder, for Satan himself masquerades as an angel of light” (2 Cor 11:14).

He (satan) is no friend of Zimbabwe. He comes “to kill, steal and destroy” (John 10:10), and he has been doing just that. Our trouble is that we were expecting him to show up in Harare’s First Street with horns, red tights and a pitchfork. If he had done that the mobs would have mauled him to death. But he is far too smart for that.

So he and his minions come masquerading and manifesting as benevolent spirits of dead ancestors. Tragically Zimbabwe’s political leadership welcome these “ancestral spirits” with open arms. And the country moved from breadbasket to basket case. As one church youth put it: the devil is a really bad devil!

Stevie Wonder is an African American music icon. He told us in one of his songs that, “When you believe in things you don’t understand/Then you suffer/Superstition ain’t the way.”  We are suffering in Zimbabwe partly because our political leaders believe superstitious codswallop and flapdoodle.

Many of them go to church by day and visit sangomas or spirit mediums by night. They drive around with fetishes and lucky charms in their pockets and around their necks, believing that these talismans can influence fate in their favor.

Woe unto the pastors of the churches where these poor captive souls attend! Why are you not telling them the whole Truth? Why have done such a shoddy discipleship job with these men and women?

They are religiously syncretizing right under your pious noses and you pretend to see no evil, hear no evil? Why do they come to your churches and remain unsaved and hell bound? What gospel is this that has no potency to deliver? Now look at how all that religious syncretism that you have not addressed has come back to bite us as a nation in our collective butt.

You happy now?