Villagers in Makoni, Manicaland Province, are living in fear of losing their cash and cattle after a group of self-styled traditional healers called Dombodvuku invaded the area in a witchhunt to allegedly cleanse the area of bad omens and goblins.

In exchange for this ‘cleansing’ exercise the Dombodvuku traditional healers are demanding cattle, goats and money from the poverty-stricken villagers. Every villager is being forced to attend and pay for the ceremonies.

Villagers are being asked to pay with a cow or goat depending on the spirits removed. Headman Boat Murahwa (68) said the n’anga’s were not invited into the area but have caused lots of harm with many families in a war of words.

“They came here and forced everyone to their sect even members of Apostolic sects who do not tolerate their practice. Anyone who objected was threatened that bad omens would befall them and a peg was sunk at his or her home.”

The n’anga’s are said to have amassed a lot of wealth and bought flashy cars since they came into the area. Sekuru Abel Nyabadza (70) bemoaned the lack of government intervention saying villagers were being exploited, “These people [traditional healers] came with nothing. But now they have a fleet of cars. They are taking our cattle and selling them at cheap prices. The government should intervene.”

One of the traditional healers only identified as Sekuru Shoriwa said, “We were called by the spirits of the land to cleanse the area. We do not seek any permission except informing the chief of our intentions.”

However members of the community accuse the traditional healers of making a living through unorthodox means. “These are hooligans doing anything to bring bread and butter on their tables; It’s shocking that they are all in their early thirties and I don’t understand how someone that young could be a spirit medium” queried one villager.

Manicaland provincial information officer, Josphat Manzini, said they are still looking into the matter and that “it’s a cultural issue” with “a lot is at stake.” “I cannot comment at the moment as we are still carrying out investigations,” he added.

Catholic Father Fedelis Makoni of St Killian’s Mission (a boarding school in the Manicaland Province) was reported as saying, “They should respect other people’s way of life. We worship a living God and there is no way they should drag everyone to their cleansing ceremonies. A decade ago Gaurani [a traditional healer] came and did the same exploiting the poor people in the pretence of removing bad omen.”

Efforts to get a comment from the Zimbabwe National Traditional Healers Association were fruitless.