Clashes Loom As Traditional Healers Dismiss 'Prophets'

There are fears that conflict between traditional healers and self-proclaimed prophets in some parts of southern Zimbabwe could soon erupt into clashes.

Tempers are beginning to flare against the "prophets", who have been propagating a campaign against traditional healers in the region, accusing them of practising witchcraft.

The "prophets", who operate under names such as Wafawafa, (the dead are dead) and Silwane (roaring lions), descended on the entire Matabeleland Province some months ago, claiming they had been sent by God to "cleanse the region".

They are reportedly engaged in fortune-telling and other healing processes, which have seen scores of villagers trickling to them to consult about their future. Some of them, according to the villagers, claim they can cure AIDS and other related sexual diseases.

But it is the exorbitant fees that they charge for their services that have raised alarm among community members, who now view them as "nothing but fraudsters, who are milking us dry."

Villagers who spoke to AANA last week said they were forced to fork out substantial amounts of cash after their fortunes were told, or after they got "healing" from different diseases.

"This is very unfortunate. They claim they can heal, but not even a single person suffering from any kind of disease has recuperated after getting 'treatment' from them. It is very unfortunate that such a thing is happening here," said Melody Mafu, a villager.

According to the Zimbabwe National African Traditional Healers Association (ZINATHA), these culprits are "false prophets trying to beat the country's harsh economy by engaging in unorthodox practices".

Gordon Chavunduka, the association's President, said the move by the so-called prophets could culminate in violence, as tempers within the traditional community had surged beyond boiling point.

"What these people are doing is illegal and very much against heavenly conduct. They are not trained, and all they are trying to do is to tactfully drive traditionalists out of business," Chavunduka told AANA.

"They realise that with the presence of traditionalists, they do not have any chance of brisk business, and that is why they have decided to disarm n'ngas and sangomas first," charged Chavunduka.

He warned the public to be wary of these "counterfeit prophets as plainly stated in the holy book".

"All they are bent on is to rob the public and get away with it. But on the part of ZINATHA, we want to say that they will never succeed in their warfare against our members, and we wonder what they would do if we took revenge against them," he said.

Under the country's laws, it is an offence to accuse someone of practising witchcraft.

Chavunduka accused the police of failing to stamp out "this madness" to protect the public.

Somandla Malunga, a spokesman for the "prophets" in Matabeleland, told AANA that his group would not leave the place until their mission was fully accomplished.

"We were sent by God to cleanse the province and our targets, basically have been witch doctors and other traditional healers, because they are the ones who are perpetrating the ungodly practise (witchcraft)," he said.

The Zimbabwe Council of Churches (ZCC) has disassociated itself from these "prophets".