Two women charged under witchcraft laws after being found dressed only in skin tights outside a house in Budiriro last week have denied they are witches in their first interview from prison.
Chakaja, a divorced mother of two, tearfully told the Sunday Mail: “I want to state clearly to the people of Zimbabwe that they can judge us if they want, but the truth is that we strongly suspect that someone who is very close to us is behind all these strange occurrences.
“We are asking for help from the men and women of God, the likes of Prophet Makandiwa and Angel, if they can help us in exorcising these evil spirits which are haunting us, making us the laughing stock of the nation.”
The women were ordered to undergo psychiatric tests by a magistrate last week after appearing in court charged with “engaging in practices commonly associated with witchcraft”. They are due back in court on September 24.
The bizarre story unfolded early Thursday last week when the two women were discovered outside the home of a self-styled prophet in Budiriro after apparently crash-landing in their winnowing baskets – the transport of choice in African witchcraft folklore.
One of the women had an owl perched on her shoulder, and both had winnowing baskets which contained baboon hands, dried hyena skins and beads.
The women told police investigators they were from Nembudziya in Gokwe – some 400km away, and they were as puzzled as the rest of the nation how they ended up in Harare. Their last memory was of themselves going to sleep after sharing dinner the previous night.
Moyo said: “We met by fate after being brought together by the death of my husband two months ago.”
Chakaja, a former inter-city trader originally from Hwedza, had followed through Moyo’s advice to come to the “white gold” town of Gokwe to try her luck in the cotton trade.
Chakaja remembers having weird dreams in recent months which she now fears were her subconscious initiation into witchcraft. Moyo said she also had similar dreams, and both women say one of Moyo’s relatives – named in court only as Chiedza – almost always featured in those dreams.
In an interview from Chikurubi Maximum Prison where the two women are held, Chakaja told the Mail: “I would often wake up from nightmares which I assumed would remain just that.
“I would find myself among gothic characters, some clad in weird clothes, with some virtually naked engaged in lurid, orgy-like ceremonies.”
The two women both confirm they had dinner with their children in Gokwe on Wednesday night, before they proceeded to their respective homes. They both say they went to bed at around 8PM.
Chakaja said: “I usually sleep totally naked, but on this particular night I wore a blouse and skin tights. To my surprise, when I re-awakened from my hypnotic slumber in Budiriro, my tights were the only thing I was wearing.”
The divorced mum-of-two says she was brought back to reality by the pecking of the owl on her skin, and was surprised to find hundreds of people around her, goading and accusing her of being a witch.
While belief in the supernatural is common in Zimbabwe, some find it hard to believe anyone can fly 400km in a basket. On social networks, many Zimbabweans have been coming up with conspiracy theories.
One said: “These women could have been drugged and transported to Harare during the night, a journey that might take six to seven hours, and dumped outside the prophet’s house.
“The prophet might be staging this show to prove to his followers that he has power to catch witches, to give himself fame.
“While I believe that witchcraft exists, the idea that witches can fly using baskets is not credible because it defies the law of gravity. How can a basket fly? How is it powered, not to mention that the witches would need knowledge of reaching an atmospheric height and join a jet stream that would pass in the direction of their destination?
“These women should have had blood and urine tests to determine that was in their bodies.”
While others were trying to make sense of it all, others could not resist seeing the humorous side.
Said one Zimbabwean on Facebook: “I’m moving to Budiriro.This must be the only place on earth with a no-fly zone for witches.”
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