Mash Central Bureau
A mysterious fire has gutted more than 30 homesteads at a settlers’ village, Ledbury Farm in Matepatepa in Bindura.
In the absence of a solid explanation, in the absence of evidence of the source and indeed in the absence of science, the villagers find themselves pointing fingers at each other and obviously, in times like these, accusations of dabbling in witchcraft thrive.
Desperate villagers, there, are now looking for answers everywhere from prophets to the occult and to God, but the answer is just not there.
The village is now agog with speculation that someone is using Sandawana, a goblin believed to bring good fortune to one person at the expense of others.
Although the fire which started on June 27 at Torero compound has subsided after close to a month of burning, women and children are still sleeping in the open fearing that the remaining grass-thatched huts might catch the fire while they sleep.
So desperate are some of the villagers that they have resorted to removing the grass thatch from their huts to protect their property.
When this reporter got there, the situation at the compound was eerie and profound, the charcoal, the shells of the burnt down houses, the smells and everything else pointed to a disaster.
Sitting outside a thatched kitchen, Amai Chipo was quick to point out that it was not her homestead, but she was guarding her friend who was cooking inside, in case of the fire.
“We are friends and when she is done cooking she will come to my kitchen and guard outside while I cook. We are taking turns to guard each other,” she said.
“This has become our way of life now. Even when we are bathing in our grass built bathrooms, we are now guarding each other to avoid casualties.”
Describing the fire, she said it a ‘silent’ fire which starts at the rooftop inside the house and only identified when the house is already engulfed
Village head Mr Antony Chipandire said the immediate need of the affected families are tents so that they have shelter.
“However our major need is for the problem to be solved. We were resettled at this farm in 2001 and we have never witnessed such an incident. This is a mysterious event and we are appealing for help to have the problem solved,” he said.
“I was in Mbire on a work-related trip when I received a call that houses were mysteriously burning down. I cut short my trip and came back home.
“I went to Chief Negomo’s homestead to inform him of the events and he called a spirit medium who said one of the community members used sandawana juju for money making rituals.
“The Chief gave us people to perform traditional rituals at the compound. The following day prophets who were sent by the Chief arrived and said they were afraid to point at the culprits without adequate security.
“A lot of prophets volunteered to assist us. We received prophets who came through the radio and I was made to collect ashes at every burnt down house and put them in a clay pot. That was the longest night of my life.”
Mr Chipandire said after two days, the prophet came back and cleansed the pot saying the problem was solved.
“They raised the cleaned clay pot and started praying until smoke came out of the pot. They smashed the pot and said they had solved the problem. Before they left the compound a grass precast wall caught fire and afterwards another house caught fire,” he said.
“We decided to approach Chief Masembura and he did some rituals. The problem subsided for two day and the fire started again. We went back to the Chief and he summoned spirit mediums who said some people in the community have used juju.
“The spirit medium performed some rituals and for now the fire has subdued for four days now. A lot of rumours are going round in the compound with some saying the first fire victims are the juju culprits, these are just rumours.”
He thanked their legislature Cde Kenneth Musanhi for providing blankets and grain to the affected families.
He said the first victims lost all their property and grain to the fire, before the donation of grain and blankets to the affected families.
If the rumours in the compound are anything to go by, one of the suspects allegedly obtained juju from his father-in-law to grow his flock of ducks.
Others say, an unknown man visited the compound last year demanding a top-up of money to those he had given juju to because he was about to die.
Some are saying hyena ‘laugh” were heard in the compound.
The A1 farm was resettled to 73 plot holders in 2001.
The compound which harbours about 90 households is home to immigrants from Malawi and Mozambique as well as locals who were farm workers prior to the land reform.
The village development committee chairperson Mr Earnest Chasvika said, “We have three compounds at this farm but we haven’t witnessed such an incident. However, this community has people from diverse backgrounds and cultures.
“We are puzzled and living in fear. We don’t know the cause of the fires, initially we thought it was acts of arson but we realised it was a mystery.
“The Environmental Management Agency visited the compound and up now there is no solution in sight.”
We caught up with one of the victims Farai Chigumbura at Foothills clinic who said he was taking his Covid-19 vaccine following a break in the fires.
The father of one said he lost household property, cash and grain in the fire.
“We are sleeping in the open due to fear. We are appealing for tents to shelter children and women since it is cold.
“We are hearing that someone used juju but it is now backfiring. We have our suspects but prophets are coming and never returning to the compound,” he said.
As to the future of this compound, only time will tell.