Epic battle against black mamba

GUTU - Bernard Masikati, 55, met his fate at around 8pm on Wednesday last week when he went into his thatched hut which serves as a bedroom to collect mealie-meal that he wanted to use to prepare his supper.

Unbeknown to him, a black mamba,  one of the most venomous snakes in Africa and one of the deadliest with a capacity to kill a human being inside just 20 minutes, had found its way into his crammed bedroom that had some sacks containing various items, a bed, a kitchen unit and some pots.

The black mamba is also the second longest venomous snake in the world after the King Cobra.

His funeral exploded into conflict as Masikati’s sister Blantina was accused of having bewitched her brother.

A day before Masikati met his fate, the two had exchanged harsh words over a field left behind by their late parents and the sister is said to have ended with the words uchazviona (you aint seen nothing yet)

Blantina refused to speak to The Mirror and also refused to give a grave-side speech after being given an opportunity by the family to do so.

Mourners alleged that she had once been forced out of the area on allegations of witchcraft.

In the wake of the funeral, the whole family blamed her for the death of her brother.

Coincidentally, research on the Internet says black mambas are associated with witchcraft and almost throughout the world and the snake is not called black mamba because it is black in colour but it is so called because the inside of its mouth is black.

Otherwise the common colours for black mambas are olive, grey or brownish.

Inside the hut, Masikati opened the sack to collect the mealie-meal and as he did so, the black mamba struck him near the heel with ferocious force and without warning.

He pulled back and noticed that it was a snake.

Relatives said he tried to kill it but realised that time was not on his side.

He quickly closed the door and rushed to a neighbour’s place as he stayed alone at the homestead.

He was taken to a traditional healer where he was made to vomit and he was later taken to the nearest Chitando Clinic, the next morning.

Eyewitnesses said he was frothing in the mouth a few minutes after the snake bite and was experiencing breathing difficulties just an hour later.

Nurses at the clinic ruled out any chances of him surviving and advised the relatives to take Masikati back home.

The nurses also said that the delay in taking Masikati to the clinic was too long but some medical experts expressed doubt over whether the clinic could have had the anti-serum used to treat patients against black mamba venom.

“Even if the relatives had brought the patient early, I doubt very much that a rural clinic could have had the anti-serum for a black mamba,” said one expert.

Experts also said a black mamba bite needs to be treated within 30 minutes otherwise it becomes fatal.

Back home Masikati was made to sleep in his kitchen and hordes of people who gathered at the home waited for his death and funeral which were arriving fast.

At around 9am, he sighed his last breath but not before warning his would-be mourners that the snake was still in the hut and it was his last wish to have it killed.

A group of about 10 men agreed to carry out the wish and soon they opened the door to the hut and were carefully pulling out the sacks that were inside.

“There was a flashing movement as we went for the last sack. And suddenly the black mamba was towering; its tail touching the ground while the head was high in the roof. There was a stampede for the door and it was the most torrid experience I have ever had,” said one man identified as  Mutume

One of the men who were inside the hut and had a glance of the snake, is said to have been so shocked that he quickly dashed from the hut, briefly sat on a stone outside — motionless and he quietly dashed to his homestead.

However, Masikati’s brother insisted on accomplishing the mission but there was no one who was willing to go near the door.

Mutume, who seemed to be the most courageous of them all suggested that they remove some thatch from the roof of the hut so that someone could climb up on a ladder and monitor the snake’s movements from the created opening.

This was done and one man climbed up the ladder and soon had a bird-eye’s view of the snake.

The mamba had gone under the kitchen unit.

A plan was mooted to open the hut’s door using a long hook, and fortunately, the courageous men managed to pull out the Masikati’s bed before the hook was used to carefully pull out the kitchen unit while the man standing on the ladder continued to monitor the serpent’s movements.

As the kitchen unit was slowly pulled out, the mamba closely followed as it sought a hiding place and when the unit got close to the door, the men just suddenly forced it out and closed the door, leaving the snake behind in an empty room.

“It was furious. It stood on its tail and its head was near the roof, where the bricks and the thatch met. We boiled water and decided that the first attack was to use boiling water on it. We splashed a whole pot of boiling water and its reaction was vicious,” said Mutume

It managed to place its head into the roof where the brickwork met the thatch and taking advantage of the space in between, the snake got its head outside and its chances of escaping had become brighter than ever.

A quick reaction saw the men throwing everything they had on the emerging serpent.

“After being hit by various objects, the snake tried to escape back into the hut and it almost managed as its head got back into the hut while a portion of the body was outside.

“Johannes Mutume hooked the portion that was outside and pulled the snake back while it tried hard to get back inside the hut. As he did so the men again threw everything on the part that was exposed thereby inflicting maximum damage.

“That weakened the snake and the man on the ladder continued to call for more boiling water. When it was very weak we went for the head.

“We managed to kill the snake after almost five hours,” said Mutume.

Myth however, continued to reign at the funeral as the next day, Masikati’s body was found with a chunk of meat cut off from his lower lip, according to relatives.

More problems came when it was proposed that the deceased be buried together with the snake. That almost stopped the burial as the community argued for and against the idea.

Finally it was decided that the snake be burnt and buried in the ground.

Comments (24)

Aaaaa nhayi Mwari hweee !! Ko sei panyika pane zvakadai....ndakonewa hangu !!!!!!

Shepherd Mundondo - 15 December 2014

Ah this is sad. RIP

Marshall - 15 December 2014

Rest in peace Mr Bernard Masikati, chances of survival were slim but a series of unfortunate events sealed your fate. 1) Had Mr Masikati known, he should not have tried to kill the venomous snake himself after it attacked him, my advice to anyone with a snake bite out there, is try not to move too fast or panic because it makes the poison to spread faster. 2) His neighbours (if they had the infomation) would have tied a knot around the affected leg to slow the flow of poison to the rest of his body. 3) The victim should have been rushed to the hospital that night, and not seek a traditional doctor, then go to hospital the next day. 4) I am surprised rural hospitals don't have ant-venom for black mambas, snake that is known to live near villages because its favorite food source: rats, live with villagers.

taps - 15 December 2014

its mugabes fault

Harare - 16 December 2014

Rufu rwakadai rwunorwadza asi hapana zvokuita Mwari vakati ndichauya kuzotora ani nani kumativi mana enyika. zorora murugare mwana wekumusha.

Sheshe Caven - 18 December 2014

uyu nyanduri akaoma....u aint seen nothing yet....hehehe majournalist edu aya

jonso - 19 December 2014

I agree with taps,Masikati should have been rushed to hospitol while they tie thr leg bellow the knee,his life could have been saved,having grown in GUTU myself we witnessed many snake bites,pple who used to treat snake bites have since died.I personally dont think Masikati was bewitched as other villagers perpoted,but it must have been just a believe as there was concidence of misunderstanding and later snake bite,RIP MASIKATI.

TERRA COTTA - 21 December 2014

Well written article. I was not there but I can "visualize" everything that transpired. Good journalism!!!

Chihota - 22 December 2014

One thing and one thing only that pains me most is how the country is said to have empty shelves of anti-venom serums. It reminded me of another incident at Dr Amai's farm in Mazoe where my workmate was bitten by a snake and guys i have never seen what i saw that day. For the next 4/5 hrs the guy vomited more than seven times. He was rushed to Parirenyatwa hospital and was told kuti mushonga wacho hauwanikwe and since the incident happened at Dr Amai's farm, an order for the anti-serum was made from SA which was dispatched within the next three hours, that's how the guy survived. Now my question is, chii chakafungwawo nevakuru vedu venyika when this incident happened? Here i don't mean kurumwa nenyoka,i mean kunotenga mushonga kuSouth Africa uko wekurapa munhu arumwa nenyoka muno muZim. Thats why they go abroad to seek medical attention.Regai vamwe vakataura havo kuti vane mari kufa kwavo kunonetsa. I wasn't surprised hangu early this year pakawanza mvura paya when i was told kunzi mushonga wekurapa vanhu varumwa nenyoka hamuna muZimbabwe vanouwana unodhura and funny enough waiwanikwa paChitungwiza General Hospital, how ironical is that, when people who are at risk are in the rural areas. This story i have told you of Dr Amai's farm is no fabrication, i have first hand information and details, that's how our health system has collapsed in Zim. . . . . . . Dr Amai knows that but they don't say it.

Team Mujuru - 22 December 2014

what a good detailed report. We wish all the journalist write their reports like that. Keep it up.

gees - 24 December 2014

Our health system has deteriorated for sure. When we used to go into the field in the mid 80s we used to order antisnake serum from the pharmacies to take with us. Incidentally it was advised to take it if going to Mazowe Mt Darwin area.

mkanya - 26 December 2014

you are surprised ruaral hosptal dont have snake anti vernom , well try the district hospitals first then the provincial hospital and i bet you my last dollar you wont find anythinghe antidote is only available at pari hospital. may be it makes sense to these ministers

gamatox - 27 December 2014

Anti snake venom is available at most government hospitals. The patient should have had an ambulance called and refered to the hospital.

Truth - 27 December 2014

This is Death due to the deadly combination of Ignorance,Neglect and Poverty....Very common in Africa. By the way...First line therapy for any snake bite is not Antivenom.Giving antivenom at Clinic level is more dangerous than the snake bite itself.Black mambas are indegenous to Africa, especially Sub saharan africa,which is not throughout the world..The most venomous snake in Africa is the Boomslang,but bites are rare. Clinics should be able to give important basic care..ie..iv line and fluids and refer to a bigger hospital eg Gutu Mission Most snake victims require life support therapy available at most hospitals,till venom wears off,or is destroyed by the body Making someone who is in Medical Shock(as this poor man) to vomit is very Dangerous. Its remarkable the man survived for more than 12hrs despite the neglect.This is scene from the 18th century Finally its never too late to treat a snake......having treated many.

Lizwe - 27 December 2014

Well narrated Journo, Dr Amai chiitai kuti mushonga wenyoka uwanikwe kwese kwese

Eman - 29 December 2014

what a well written article

Chief - 29 December 2014

R.I.P Masikati. well written story, thanks. Vakomana kana musina chokwadi do not give people wrong advice. kana munhu arumwa nenyoka the poison circulates in the body through the blood system, saka kana masunga kuti poison isafamba zvotoreva kuti ropa harichafambi on that part of the body which means mutezo iwoyo unenge watofa saka unotozodamburwa. Saka according to your theory kana munhu akarumwa musoro nenyoka munoita sei? kikikkikikiki

Asambeni Demio - 2 January 2015

this time in the rain season, all snake hide out holes are covered with water and they come out. they also come out to hunt frogs. please be on the look out. at home keep cats for this purpose. do not blame the sister. this is just mere coincidence.

chiruzevha - 2 January 2015

First he was sent to a traditional healer, after that he was sent to hospital after more than 24 hours? Yho people have guts!!!

Phaphamani - 2 January 2015

My understanding anti venom is very dear. So am not surprised there is a dearth in Zim.

marikos - 3 January 2015

I seriously doubt whether it was a Mamba bite. The unfortunate Masikati would not have lasted more than 30 minutes if it were a Mamba. More likely a Cobra, He could have been trated if he got to hospital as Cobra venom takes a day or more to kill someone

Johnny K - 5 January 2015

My own brother was bitten by a black mamba whilst working in a grocery shop in Chipinge in 1976. He vomited several times and we took him to a clinic. He survived but his left leg had terrible marks. The shop was 5 km away from our home. 3 days after the bite there was a black mamba at our foul run at home. It bit some chickens and we killed it. It was over 2 metres long. Then after these incidents, a certain woman, mukadzi waChinukuza, came to our home and confessed that she had sent the snake to bite our brother. When he failed to die she sent it again at our home to finish him off. Fortunately we killed it. The reason she came to us was, as she said, that she faced night-mares from God. And she had to confess in order to survive. So, for sure there are witches in Zimbabwe.....

Mashonaland Dickmarsh - 7 January 2015

what a sad incident.but i doubt if it was a mamba.it could be a cobra.in shona there is a difference between mungu/bungu,and rovambira/nyamubobo.

lelez - 12 January 2015

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