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Mugabe: 'Diesel mystic's beauty blinded ministers'

DIESEL MYSTIC: Rotina Mavhunga holds pipe with 'diesel' oozing out. Behind her are containers owned by the state-run Central Mechanical Equipment Department which passed 'Mavhunga's diesel' as 'pure'

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By Lebo Nkatazo

SEVERAL senior Zimbabwe government officials investigating claims by a ‘diesel mystic’ that she had discovered diesel oozing from a rock were blinded by her beauty and endorsed her phoney story, President Robert Mugabe said Thursday.

Senior police officers snubbed an order to arrest the self-styled spirit medium, Rotina Mavhunga, convinced that she had supernatural powers and was “untouchable”, Mugabe said at the commissioning of a bio-diesel plant at Mount Hampden.

Mugabe’s extra-ordinary remarks revealed for the first time how he personally chaired meetings to discuss claims by the 35-year-old woman that she could produce pure diesel out of rocks, and how his government met her demands for two head of cattle and three buffaloes after falling for her outlandish story.

Mugabe also revealed how Mavhunga took large sums of money (Z$5 billion), a car and a piece of land from the nation's highest ranking politicians, promising in return to use spells to produce diesel fuel from Maningwa Hills in the bush outside the provincial town of Chinhoyi, 70 miles northwest of Harare.

The bizarre story has betrayed the panic gripping the Zimbabwe government as the country battles an unprecedented economic crisis emphasised by chronic nationwide fuel shortages.

The ‘spirit medium’, also known as Nomatter Tagarira, convinced Zimbabwe government officials that she had been possessed by ancestral spirits who were keen to aid the nation’s battle with the fuel shortages.

Her story has been exposed as a hoax and she is now awaiting trial, charged with fraud after spending months on the run. In reality, Mavhunga bought diesel from neighbouring Zambia and piped it into the rocks.

"We are not going to be too hard on her. We just want the truth and to know who put her up to such things," Mugabe said, betraying no obvious embarrassment over the saga that has gripped a nation for months.

Mugabe said after hearing the claims of diesel oozing from rocks, he had set up a taskforce, packed with government officials to investigate. The taskforce included State Security Minister Didymus Mutasa, Defence Minister Sydney Sekeramayi and Home Affairs Minister Kembo Mohadi.

Mugabe said: “Word had gone round all over that for real, it was happening and we had experts who came to us as government and asked why we were not taking an interest. ‘There is diesel!’

“Where does it come from? Mountain? We said aah, let’s send some people. Three ministers and their teams then went. Haa, they didn’t come back with a clear assessment. ‘Aah, we only saw the pipe out of which oozed petrol’. Others came back and said they had not seen enough to make up their minds. In the end they said there was diesel. ‘Aah, the diesel comes from a rock!’

“When you had seen that, why did you not pull out the pipe to see if there was diesel where it came from? Then they said the diesel is all over, it is there for sure.

"How does she behave when she is possessed by the spirits? ‘She said aah, it’s a minor revelation, but there is more to come’. Some said she was beautiful. We said oh dear, this is no longer about diesel. Ah, then how are we to know about the diesel?”

Disappointed, Mugabe chaired a cabinet meeting at which he designated three ministers to leave no stone unturned and report back with the truth of what was going on in Chinhoyi. The team comprised the Minister of Energy and Power Development, Retired Lieutenant-General Mike Nyambuya, Science and Technology Minister Olivia Muchena, and the Minister of Mines Amos Midzi.

“…we organised to give another group an order that ‘you must go onto the mountain and pluck out that pipe and see’.

“Nyambuya go, minister of what? Oil. You from Mines, after all oil is mined, Midzi. The Minister of Technology there (points at Muchena), who has just spoken here. You are three, if you come back without a full assessment; it’s at your own peril.

“Those are the ones who went and climbed on the rock. They didn’t waste time asking questions. They went straight to the top and plucked out the pipe. They discovered that, oh dear, there is nothing it’s totally dry. So where was the diesel? We had been lied to. They then returned with a report and I said find her, she must tell us where she got this trickery from.”

Mugabe said when he ordered Mavhunga’s arrest, some senior police officers were too scared to carry out the order, fearing she may use her supernatural powers on them.

“Police officers were crazy with this woman, convinced that if you just touch her, you will see fire. They said she is not one to play with, but we said find her and arrest her,” Mugabe said in comments published by a state-run daily newspaper.

After months on the run, Mavhunga -- shielded from the police by Tobaiwa Mudede, the country’s Registrar General, according to police documents -- was finally lured into a trap by Police Commissioner Augustine Chihuri who sold her a dummy that he wanted to consult her over some personal problem.

She walked into the trap and was arrested at police headquarters in Harare. Her charges relate to wasting state resources.

Mugabe said: “Today, what is she saying? She says: ‘Ah, ee, there is no diesel. In truth, this is what happened: I found a container of diesel, and word spread that there was diesel, there was diesel. We then took advantage and spread the confirmation that there was indeed diesel, and that’s when we planted the pipe on the rock.’”

Mavhunga, educated up to Grade 3, will appear for a routine bail hearing in Chinhoyi on Monday.


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