‘Mermaid’ scare in Seke as cases of drowning increase

Despite being a vital source of water for Seke communal lands, some 40km South East of Harare, the Hunyani River has become a death trap for many.

Water Resources Minister Sam Sipepa Nkomo
Water Resources Minister Sam Sipepa Nkomo

Local communities superstitiously believe a mermaid is behind several mysterious deaths. Jane Mushangwe recounted her belief to The Zimbabwean after losing her daughter, Cecilia Munemo. There have been several other cases of drowning in the same area.

On the day Munemo went missing, she and four of her relatives were coming from fetching firewood at the adjacent Dunstein farm when they found the river flooded. Munemo and Mtizwa, a good samaritarian, insisted on crossing the river, but they were swept away. Munemo’s younger brother watched helplessly as both women disappeared.

The tales of mermaids causing people to disappear are scaring people. Recently, Water Resources Development and Management Minister Samuel Sipepa Nkomo were quoted as saying that mermaids were stalling government efforts to install pipes at dams in Gokwe and Mutare.

Generally the existence of mermaids has been treated as myth but for the Seke community, the stories have left them with more questions than answers.

“This has become a nightmare for this family, at first it was Jennifer (sister in law) who disappeared (in 1969 and was never found), this time my son. We do not know who is going to be next and what the mermaids want from us,” said Egfa Chigazira who is related to Mtizwa.

A mermaid is a mythological universal aquatic creature with a female human head, arms, torso and the tail of a fish. The male version is known as merman. However it is not really clear what a mermaid is. Christians associate mermaids with demons.

“Water spirits are anti-Christ demons who use multitude ways to destroy God’s children,” notes Pastor Gift Mwanza. “They may use a person as a traditional healer, spirit medium, false prophet or Satanist and can be very alluring, which is why we encourage people to be on guard against the devil and his cunning tricks.”

Jestina Bvure (40), a spirit medium from Kondo village in Seke, claimed she became a healer after being taken by a mermaid when she was seven years. Her stay underwater lasted for a day and she claimed she was returned after her family had performed some rituals at Zowa River in Zvimba.

Bvure described mermaids as ‘ancestral spirits who have good intentions of healing communities’ and only become vile when their expectations are not met.

Chief Seke, who believes in water spirits, said government should consult traditional leaders to come up with legislation that will enforce the observance of traditional practices.

“We as the traditional leadership know which part of which river is a home for these spirits, we know when they are angry, what needs to be done to correct the situation and we know where to go,” he claimed.

Chikurubi Support Unit Spokesperson Inspector Charles Jack said his divers had encountered many intriguing objects in the water though none of them had reported seeing mermaids in their operations.

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