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Witch hunts: court hears of 'breathing' bloody horns, beads
24/09/2012 00:00:00
by Staff Reporter
 
 
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FOUR men have been charged with extortion after going through a village conducting “witch hunts” and “cleansing ceremonies”.

Prosecutors say the foursome – commonly known as tsikamutanda – forced villagers in Mwenezi, Masvingo Province, to pay them with cattle and cash after conducting “cleansing” ceremonies.

In reality, the men were con artists who preyed on the villagers’ superstitious instincts by planting blood-smeared animal horns draped in beads in homes before fishing out those objects with make-believe trickery.

When police arrested Benjamin Chigwedere, 28, Kelvin Moyo, 31, Edwin Nyashanu, 28, and Simon Phiri, 21, they recovered a bag full of small horns from various animals.

The horns were dripping with animal blood and wrapped in red, black and white cloth with colourful beads and animal fur.
 
Last Thursday, the quartet appeared before Masvingo magistrate Enias Magate charged with extorting two unemployed widows.

Sifelani Mkandla, prosecuting, told how the four moved around Tavamo village under Chief Neshuro in Mwenezi “removing’’ horns from villagers’ homesteads and coercing them to pay with cattle and cash.

Villagers who refused to pay were told they would die or will suffer untold misfortune.
 
The witch hunters, with the cooperation of the village head, gathered villagers and spoke to them individually.

Widow Tambudzai Gumbo, 67, was told that she was being haunted by the spirit of her late husband. The four men said a cleansing ceremony at her home was necessary to rid her of the spirit.

The four arrived at her home and immediately entered one of the bedrooms while everyone else waited outside. They emerged with a blood-dripping animal horn covered in black chicken feathers.

The horn appeared to be “breathing” and the men went on to burn it, Mkandla told the court.
 
Chigwedere, Moyo, Nyashanu and Phiri then demanded payment for “the work they had done” in the form of a cow.
 
When Gumbo declined to pay, she was told that she would die. She handed over one beast in fear.

Mkandla said the four then targeted another widow, Makandipei Sibanda, 72, who was told she had evil spirits that were bringing bad luck in her life and family.



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The men demanded US$250 or a cow for the “cleansing” ceremony.
 
Sibanda told the four men she had no money, and was unwilling to part with one of her cows.
 
“They told her she either paid up or two of her children would die,” Mkandla said.

Nyashanu, the court heard, then went into one of the bedrooms and emerged with a blood-dripping horn covered in beads – but different from the one retrieved from Gumbo’s home.

She paid with a cow.

The two women later filed police reports. Investigators swooped on the village and seized the men at a home where they were camped, recovering the horns which are due to be produced in court as exhibits.

The four were freed on $100 bail and remanded to October 4.


 
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