SITUATED at the heart of Parktown suburb in the capital Harare, is an unusual replica of the mighty Victoria Falls.
So many unusual things happen at this small “Mosi-oa-Tunya.”
It’s a assemblage of different religions converging at the weird shrine for all sorts of rituals including deliverance from tormenting spirits. At one end of the shrine is an apostolic sect leader surrounded by a group of women – young and old – who are seeking spiritual help for various problems.
A stone’s throw away is a half-naked dreadlocked elderly woman clad in pink apparel conducting some kind of exorcism on an individual. A lot of weird things happen during the day and at night.
Some of those seeking help to save their troubled marriages are ordered to source dog faeces for ‘central lock’ rituals. In all this drama, there is an interesting group of three girls in their early twenties who use African tradition religion to solve life problems.
One of the self-proclaimed healers is 20-year old Tendai Ngara who left her parents’ home in Chiredzi over a year ago.
“I discovered that I had a gift in Grade Five but my Christian parents wouldn’t have any of it. I was forced to drop out of class because what was happening to me spiritually wouldn’t allow me to continue with my education,” she said.
“I was told in a dream to stay at the Parktown waterfall.”
Tendai left Chiredzi in 2017 and lied to her parents that she was working as housemaid in Victoria Falls.
“There are scary stories about this place but I am brave as I sleep in the open,” she added.
She is being nurtured into a full time traditional healer by older mentors. Her other colleagues – Bridget Matthew and Caroline Mukumba from Chiredzi also are undergoing the initiation process into bona fide healers. Bridget has a had a rough patch as she was married at 15 years. She divorced and two years later entered into second marriage at 17 years.
“After my third marriage collapsed, I sought spiritual help and it came to light that I had a gift to solve spiritual problems. My parents didn’t take it and they chased me away from home,” she said.
“I then came to this Waterfalls shrine and I have been receiving spiritual help from senior traditionalists.”
The mentor of these young girls who preferred to be identified as Blacky said he has been in the business for six years. Like the young girls he is mentoring, his three marriages also collapsed.
“I used to work in one of the security arms but I resigned after I realised that I had to serve this purpose. I would sometimes fall into a trance and prophecy to my mates and my superiors. Then one Tuesday morning in 2006, I had to pack my belongings. I resigned and went home to Mount Darwin. When I got there, in a trance, I exposed some of my family members’ evil doings,” narrated Blacky.
Religion experts have always accused prophets and traditional healers of milking desperate people of their hard earned cash.
Dr John Ringson, a researcher at the University of Johannesburg said there is need for people to draw the line between religion and constitutional provisions.
“In this regard, despite most of these congregants moving out of their homes willingly but it should be considered that it is the tensions and lack of peace in these homes that forces them. It is everyone’s right to worship under a religion of their choice,” he said.
“While it is not safe for them to stay in such places (shrines), constitutionally they are entitled to their choices meaning it’s a violation to force them to go back to their homes.”
A Harare based sociologist Methuseli Ngwenya said religion induces fear in some people.
“It sometimes brings up superstition beliefs which make people believe that gods interfere with the living world. With current economic and social problems, religion has thrived to push humanity to the extremes although the issue of people abandoning their homes to live at shrines is not a new issue; it goes way back into time.”
Ngwenya said it was now commonplace that some people were consulting all sorts of powers to save their marriages.
“There are some processes that were meant to teach about marriage but a lot has been distorted. This is why weird rituals are being conducted,” he said.