My hands are clean

SHE kept the decomposing bodies of her husband and son in separate huts at her homestead in Mhondoro for almost three months, but she insists her family was just exercising its right to freedom of belief.

Judith Maruza, of Melusi Village under Chief Mashayamombe, came under fire after videos and pictures of the remains, which were in various stages of decomposition, went viral on social media a couple of weeks ago. The remains of the bodies have since been buried.

However, reports are that the body of the husband, Muzozo Phiri, who died on July 7, was at an advanced stage of decomposition. Skeletal remains of Phiri’s son, James, that had been kept in one of the huts for three months were also discovered by curious villagers.

The matter came to light after fellow villagers barged into the huts following the unbearable stench which was coming from Muzozo’s hut. As such, villagers are now accusing Judith Maruza of witchcraft and are demanding that she and her family be banished from the area.

However, Maruza, who is a member of the Johane Masowe yeChishanu sect, denies witchcraft saying she was following a prophecy which had been made by her son.

“It is my late son James who said if he or his father die, we should not mourn or bury them as he was going to rise and resurrect his father too,” Maruza told The Sunday Mail last week.

“James told us that a number of prophets had told him that he had strong healing powers but had to die first for the prophecy to be fulfilled. As something which he strongly believed, we were powerless to disobey his demands so we just left him in his room after he died.

“We did the same with his father, not because I am a witch but because I was following a prophecy.”

Maruza says she had to move in with her seven daughters and grandchildren in the remaining hut after her husband died.

She adds that not only was she misled by her son not to bury the dead but she was also told to force her family to fast until the “day of resurrection.”

“James said we had to fast, and since he died we have been doing so, only surviving on porridge here and there.

“It was really difficult for the children as you can see they have lost weight.

“It was hard living with the dead, the stench and the mere fact of knowing that there are dead people in there. I’m glad that it is over now because it was a difficult period.”

Maruza’s other son Tichaona said there was nothing wrong with their church but admitted that the family was now paying the price for James’ extreme beliefs.

“I wish I had known then that this is what James was planning. He chased me away from home saying I should never set foot at the compound again as I was disturbing his prayers,” he said.

“So for the sake of peace I moved away and only came back after the discovery of the remains. I was still staying in this village but I never knew this is what was happening here. But we are talking with the leaders and we will accept any punishment.”

Some of the villagers said the community was now living in fear while others demanded that the family be banished.

“They never leave their compound and of late they had been conducting their church services as a family at their homestead,” said one of the villagers who identified himself as Bhamu.

“They are really strange people, but I would not say she is a witch, it is the dead son who was a problem.

“He called himself a high prophet and everything he said there was final, so the family was just following on a prophecy.”

Chief Mashayamombe expressed shock at the incident but said the family now needs counselling and help as they were living in extreme poverty.

“What happened really shocked us because in our culture its taboo to live with the dead,” he said.

“But we do not want to be hard on them because in my assessment they are people who were misled by their late son. We are still looking at how best we can resolve the issue but in the meantime they need counselling and assistance because they are living in abject poverty.

“Some are saying we should do rituals to cleanse the area, some are suggesting prayers and some are demanding that they be expelled but we have not reached any decision yet.”

Headman Mark Murombedzi echoed Chief Mashayamombe’s observations as he is of the view that the family must be helped instead of being ridiculed.

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