ROTINA Mavhunga, the diesel n’anga, is out of jail and, quite predictably, she is playing hide-and-seek.
Had she been playing hide-and-seek by herself and her spirits, no-one could have given a damn, or even noticed it, but she has decided to take a chief with her, Chief Bepura, and his wife into the wilderness.
And it is not only Chief Bepura and wife who have been swallowed into the spiritual world of Rotina, for Douglas Chifamba has since abandoned home — and family — to be partner to Rotina.
So has Rotina’s younger sister, Shyness, who left home and marriage to be an aide, and brother Moses, who is also an aide.
Trying to get into Rotina’s realm — real or imagined — proved one of a Herculean task last week. In actual fact, her territory is impenetrable. On first contact the aides assured us that such a visit needed to be announced to the spiritual elders, “that the Government has sent messengers”, which was to be done overnight, so that we would then meet Rotina, in spirit and flesh, the following morning.
But a hint that such a meeting was improbable came that evening, with a call from Rotina (yes, she does have a cellular phone, a modern spirit medium she is), questioning the motive behind our seeking an audience with her.
When it was explained that the visit was to seek her side of the stories, not just story, for no one has ever bothered to speak to her since she hit the headlines on the national stage, she painfully said she went on to be jailed at the instigation of newspapers.
“What crime have I committed? I have done nothing wrong so I am not in a position to talk to you,” she argued.
Besides assurances that there was nothing criminal she had done, but only the desire to understand all the issues that have surrounded her since discovering diesel oozing from a rock formation, she hesitantly said she would phone again to confirm the meeting. The call never came.
A bit of background information might help. Rotina broke onto the scene around 2006 when she was widely rumoured to have changed into a man, overnight. The story was that she had divorced and had since gotten women married to “him” and (s)he was moving around wearing trousers.
In a sense, spiritually she had mutated. The spirit possessing her was of a man — and that man had been married during his time on this earth. So the spirit had requested that his wives, whose spirits had emerged to other women (the women must have been residing in Zvimba then), come and stay with “him”. And that is how the rumour mill got into overdrive, that Rotina had changed into a man.
But the story that shot her to national fame — and jail — was the diesel story — that the then scarce commodity was oozing in its purified state, from a rock formation somewhere near Chinhoyi. Mind you, this was at the height of fuel shortages in the country and all the State machinery went into a frenzy. Tests were done and re-done — and it was confirmed that it was, indeed, diesel.
Ministers, no need to mention them by name now, swallowed the diesel prank, hook, line and sinker. If she derived satisfaction from fooling the ministers, that satisfaction must have fooled her a bit more, for she went on to demand that the President walk barefooted to the diesel point, for the purified petroleum to ooze in thousands of litres to quench the country’s fuel thirst. That is when the interrogations began — and, mysteriously enough the diesel dried up.
What followed were months before the Chinhoyi courts and a two-year jail sentence.
But before that spell in jail she claims to have donated some gold to the Government, through some high-ranking officials, gold which was collected by helicopter from her village. The gold, she claimed, she found in a purified state. That gold ruse must have had a bearing on senior Government officials believing in the diesel story; that if she had given them purified gold, why not purified diesel? Even before she went behind bars, Rotina had managed another masterstroke, she had convinced Chief Bepura to move in with her, not in a sexual sense, in the spiritual sense. Chief Bepura, in 2008, had abandoned home and family, to move in with his spiritual mentor. The jail term did hinder that relationship.
So, early this year when she walked out of the cells a clean woman, she was back with the chief again. Interestingly, the chief and his wife have moved from their family homestead in Bepura Village to stay with Rotina in the labyrinth of caves that run parallel to Dora River, just outside Raffingora. And Douglas Chifamba has since moved out of his matrimonial home to be husband to Rotina. Actually Rotina addresses herself as Mai Chifamba.
But in typical Rotina fashion, she had to leave home for the forests, in some style — she sought and did not get a peace order against her brothers. According to Learnmore, one of the several affected brothers, Rotina had, as usual, gotten a number of people around her and this was making the Mavhunga family ungovernable. After all, Rotina’s father is married to three wives, which makes it an already crowded family compound.
“There were times when we wanted to discuss our family issues and our sister had this troop of ‘foreigners’ around her and we felt we could not discuss any family secrets around such people. We asked her to separate family issues from her spiritual ones, which caused a furore, resulting in her seeking a peace order from police. She was advised that such matters were best dealt with at a family level,” narrated Learnmore.
So in the present time, when the appointed morning came and there was no call, the logical thing was to go back to Dora River and hope for an interview.
Whereas Douglas, the husband, had received us, before putting us through a somewhat thorough interrogation the previous day, on this morning it was brother
Moses to receive us — and inform us that Rotina, in the company of her husband and the rest of the entourage to include Chief Bepura, had gone on a visit somewhere.
We promised to wait for her return, in any case she was the reason we had travelled almost 200 kilometres out of Harare to meet and chat with. It was during this wait, close to six hours, that we chatted on the cellular phone with Rotina from wherever she was. First she advised us that she was not going to be through soon with whatever she was doing, so the best was to come back the next Monday (which is tomorrow) and then we talk.
But she could not give any concrete assurances that coming back after a week would yield any interview. We advised her that we would rather wait for her. Within minutes she phoned back, and advised us to go and see her Apostolic Faith Mission pastor in Chinhoyi, before we could talk to her. We politely told her it was not the pastor that we were interested in, but her.
She hung up, only to phone again some 10 minutes later, and again advised us that she was consulting her lawyers in Harare, over the phone, and would get back to us. And, indeed, she got back and said the lawyer was not available which had left her with no option but to drive to Harare and look for him... if only we could wait for that.
Perseverance and patience do wear thin and by mid-day, after having arrived around 6am, we decided we had done enough and left. But before we left, we managed to get a glimpse of the “reception” area of Rotina’s shrine.
Upon entering, one comes across a mud-and-thatch hut, which must, in common practice, act as the consulting room. A few metres in, there is one house of stone being built, Great Zimbabwe style, and another which has since been finished and is in use.
Any questions towards Moses as to the uses of these huts drew blanks, as he said he could not speak to us unless we had been cleared by sister Rotina.
What is puzzling, though, is that the sole hut is not enough for the number of people said to be staying with Rotina, part of her entourage. Besides the chief and wife, there is Douglas the husband, Shyness the sister, Moses the brother, another woman who was cleaning pots and plates, Kunguma the pick-up driver.
Apparently the Mazda B1800 pick-up truck that Chief Bepura was given by Government in 2008 as part of packages given to chiefs is the one that is now the official vehicle for Rotina and company. And it is the inclusion of Chief Bepura in her entourage that has riled subjects of the chieftaincy. Besides abandoning his matrimonial home and family, the chief has not been using the farm, at Strong Farm, that he was given by the Government as part of the land reform programme, as he is busy accompanying Rotina on her duties.
One villager who requested not to be named for fear of reprisal, said: “We are afraid that we are going to lose out on Government programmes like rural electrification as the chief has since abandoned his home and neighbouring Chief Chipuriro’s home in Museka has since been electrified because he stays there. But with our chief staying in the forests and caves with Rotina, we are sure going to miss out on that.”