It is well past midnight and something unusual is happening in the normally sleepy and quiet environs of the Nharira Hills just outside Norton.
The sounds of traditional drums can be heard from a distance as ululation pierces the area, disturbing the peace of both the people living here and the wild animals that are kept at a nearby wildlife sanctuary.
The noise is coming from the late Sekuru Mushore’s shrine located in the Nharira Hills where a traditional cleansing ceremony is being held.
The site is used for traditional rituals such as annual rain-making and appeasement of ancestral spirits.
The spirit medium’s “baton” has been passed on to Israel “Pasi” Kawanzaruwa, the eldest of the late spirit medium’s 30 children, albeit on a temporary basis.
Since his death, the spirit medium’s household has been gripped by anxiety as both his family and subjects await the “anointing” of a successor.
“No one knows who will be possessed with my father’s spirit. We are all waiting for the signal and anyone from among the hundreds of people from the Moyo totem can be chosen. The successor will not only come from his immediate family members but from the whole clan,” explained Kawanzaruwa, who is also the area’s headman.
Since the beginning of the year, Kawanzaruwa has led his subjects in a number of cleansing ceremonies, among them one conducted at Pfobvo Hills, where a Kuwadzana man who was conducting prayer sessions plunged to his death a few months ago.
The hills, located in headman Kawanzaruwa’s jurisdiction, are believed to be sacred.
Another cleansing ceremony was recently held at Lake Chivero, where 11 children drowned in a boat accident last year.
Kawanzaruwa asserted that the hills surrounding Lake Chivero, just like the Pfobvo Hills, are sacred.
“I am not a spirit medium. My duty is to safeguard our cultural beliefs and at the same time help conserve our national heritage,” added Kawanzaruwa, who is a successful farmer.
He said his father taught him how to conduct such traditional rituals as cleansing and rain-making ceremonies.
“So far, I think we are doing well. My father taught me how to conduct all the traditional rituals and if one looks at it closely, there is no difference between the way we conducted ourselves during my father’s presence and now,” he added.
However, not all is smooth-sailing for Kawanzaruwa and his subjects.
Sekuru Mushore’s siblings are currently embroiled in a bitter wrangle with some Chinese nationals who were given rights to open a quarry at a granite bolder located just outside Dzivaresekwa Extension.
“That hill is sacred. It has, since time immemorial, been used for traditional rituals by our ancestors. Furthermore, some of our ancestors are buried in caves located on that hill. The Chinese now want to open a quarry mine and disturb our ancestors’ peace. I am calling upon the Government to declare this place a national monument,” said Kawanzaruwa.
“I know that in their countries, these foreign nationals respect places they believe are sacred. They must also do the same with our culture and respect such sacred places as this hill.”
The hill, according to Kawanzaruwa, is called Ziware raMuchembere (the old woman’s hill) and he claimed that the country’s most prominent female spirit mediums
like Mbuya Nehanda and Marumbi once conducted traditional rituals at the granite outcrop.
A chieftainship wrangle with Chief Zvimba is also simmering, prompting Kawanzaruwa to say that if the wrangle is not settled once and for all, it will cause a “civil war” between the two chiefdoms.
“Chiefs from Mhondoro want to use political influence to take over my territory. Instead of using the traditional boundaries, they are resorting to political boundaries, encroaching into my territory in the process. I will fight for my ancestors’ land,” a livid Kawanzaruwa told the The Sunday Mail In-Depth.
A round-table meeting called by the provincial administrator to try and resolve the dispute ended in a stalemate.
Chiefs Nyamangara, Dununu and the late Chimbamauro, whom Kawanzaruwa alleges are encroaching into his territory, failed to agree on the ownership of the area.
Sekuru Mushore rose to prominence in 1995 when he invaded Nharira Hills on a Norton farm, claiming that his clan lived on the hills since time immemorial.
A five-year-old dispute over the farm ensued, resulting in the spirit medium being evicted on several occasions.
Nharira Hills has since been seen by many as “the cradle” of the land redistribution exercise.
The first war veterans to occupy land during the fast-track programme are believed to have visited Nharira Hills where they consulted the spirit medium before embarking on the historic exercise.
Wearing only animal skins, the spirit medium shunned modern transport and only ate traditional food and fruit.
He had 10 wives who bore him 30 children. Sekuru Mushore believed that he was possessed by a great spirit that has been living in the sacred Nharira Hills for centuries.