Tsikamutandas impoverish rural communities

MUTARE - Exorcists or tsikamutandas (witch-hunters) have been sledged as con-artists impoverishing poor communities through their hefty fines.

Masvingo provincial administrator Fungai Mbetsa told a multi-sectoral community-based food and nutrition security meeting here this week that his office has been discouraging traditional leaders from using or approving their conduct.

“Tsikamutanda are not institutionalised. It’s a reaction to a perceived problem. These are con-artists and have their own way of getting money.

“We have been dissuading traditional leaders from being deceived by these people. It’s not right. It’s even illegal,” Mbetsa said.

He said the problem was emanating from locals’ beliefs in witchcraft.

“Witchcraft issues are causing these problems,” Mbetsa said.

He was responding to concerns that witch hunting was now significantly contributing to the impoverishment of rural communities as they are fleeced of their livestock after being accused of witchcraft.

“We are concerned with the loss of livestock by already vulnerable rural communities to tsikamutandas and we would like to implore government to intervene,” a delegate said.

Government has long banned the practice.

In its meeting of November 28 last year, Cabinet reached a decision pronouncing the perennially reported rampant activities of tsikamutandas as criminal, fraudulent and extortionist. Government tasked Rural Development minister, Abednico Ncube, to ensure that the practice was “immediately brought to an end countrywide” with the help of law enforcement agencies and traditional leaders.

Most tsikamutandas — believed to be demanding cash, livestock, maize, wives and children in some cases — were misrepresenting to communities that government had permitted them to “carry out this illegal activity”.

Traditional leaders were also alleged to be assisting dubious traditional healers in return for cash and livestock.

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