via Vapostori shock: Gory births, secret burials 12 August 2014 by Robert Tapfumaneyi
EMMANUEL Takaroti is still bitter over the death of his wife and baby at a secret shrine in Domboshava, about 40km north of Harare.
Takaroti was a member of the Vapostori VeNguwo Tsvuku, a radical Christian sect that rejects Western medicine. When it was time for his pregnant wife to deliver, he took her to the shrine, named Chitsidzo (a vow or promise in Shona). It was at this shrine that church midwives were to help her deliver.
“When I visited the clinic the following morning, I was told that my wife had passed on after delivering, with the child following a few minutes after,” he says. “The child was buried during the same evening and I never got the chance to see it.”
Takaroti says when he investigated the circumstances of his wife’s death, he was told by some women who were “hospitalised” at the shrine that she died because the midwife had failed to stop the bleeding.
“I was also told that my wife died because she had sinned against God, that her death was punishment from God. From that day, I have never attended the church’s services again,” he says.
Members shun treatment in hospitals and clinics, often setting themselves in confrontation with government authorities who are often caught in a balancing act between freedom of religion and the need to protect children.
The Vapostori are well known for using what they call “holy water” for treatment of even the worst of physical injuries. They also reject immunization for their children, exposing young ones to diseases such as measles.
But it is the secretive shrine in Domboshawa and the dark medical practices there that have set tongues wagging in this small farming community.
A visit by NewZimbabwe.com to the makeshift Chitsidzo “clinic” revealed horrific scenes. This reporter saw scores of pregnant women who had been “admitted” at the clinic to deliver babies under very unhygienic conditions.
A cameraman with the news crew who attempted to take some photographs was barred from doing so. In fact, this news crew was physically escorted from the shrine to their waiting car at Domboshava Business Centre.
But individuals who spoke to NewZimbabwe.com described gory scenes of what is happening at the shrine. They said the burial of babies during the night was a common occurence, a claim we could not independently verify.
Muringai says he at one point implored local politicians to raze down the shrine because the sect members were involved in activities that bordered on the criminal.
But he says the politicians appeared disinterested because the sect, which is said to command about a million members in Zimbabwe, is a key voting constituency during election times.
“As traditional leaders, we have tried to engage them but without success. Children are dying daily all in the name of religion and faith, kana chivanhu hachiurayise vana vacho, chinochengetedza (even our traditions are not harmful to children, they actually protect them from harm,” he says.
The Vapostori sects, which have splintered into various smaller groups over the years, are united in their rejection of Western medicine and its attendant institutions such as formal schools.
The World Health Organisation says 13 percent of pregnant women in Zimbabwe deliver using traditional methods attended to by experienced midwives, with many giving birth at home under the guidance of family members who might be unaware of correct maternal health procedures.