The Sunday Mail
Rolling and verdant countryside, rich in fruit and home to the country’s largest tea company – and the nerve centre of traditional healing and witchcraft.
Welcome to Chipinge, the eastern district whose natural beauty is also the place that some of Zimbabwe’s most powerful sangomas operate from.
The dark arts meet some of God’s finest creative work.
Merely telling a person, during a dispute, that: “I am going to Chipinge” elicits attention and co-operation from many a timid soul.
This is where Sekuru Charles Makwiyana Ndunge is headquartered.
In traditional healing circles, Sekuru Ndunge is what Soul Jah Love says he is to ZimDancehall music nationally, “Chibaba-ba-ba chacho, Chimdara”.
Sekuru Ndunge’s hilltop homestead caters for hordes of people seeking his services. Hence the presence of a restaurant of sorts, a bar and even a guest house. Business is booming here.
And some people from as far afield as Europe and from all walks of life make the journey here to enlist Sekuru Ndunge’s expertise to make their bank balances grow, win over the loves of their lives, secure that dream job, cure terminal illnesses or curse their enemies. Before we talk about what this man does today, it would be of interest to consider his background. Sekuru Ndunge is a former national cycling champion who became a pastor who became a powerful sangoma. Quite a journey, by whatever measure.
Outside Sekuru Ndunge’s yard, on the day we arrive, is a veritable fleet of Chevrolets, Bentleys, Mercs, BMWs and other vehicles. These are not the cars of clients. These are the sangoma’s own cars, bought from the proceeds of his rip-roaring trade. Not that the clients’ parking area is any less impressive. The same top-of-the-range collection of vehicles is on full display, and their licence plates tell of desperate and eager clients from South Africa, Botswana, Mozambique and Namibia. Ushers take us straight to Sekuru Ndunge’s “surgery”, bypassing a full waiting room where we are told there are people who have been sitting there for a week awaiting their turn with the man. Sekuru Ndunge is attending to someone, and he is none-too-pleased to have us walk in like this.
“Why do you burst into my surgery like you are entering your own homes?” he thunders, before unleashing a verbal shellacking for our non-compliance with protocol.
After repeated apologies, the man – who started this trade in 1948 – calms down.
“I know you have come from Harare, but I want to know your motive or the motive of the one who has sent you.”
Do his great powers not tell him what our mission is? While we start mumbling incoherent answers, Sekuru Ndunge asks us to excuse him so that he can attend to the recognisable businesspeople and top politicians who have come to consult him. Yes, top politicians! After an hour or so, he calls us in and starts by treating us to another awe-inducing tirade that includes a few choice words about the nether regions of the male anatomy. Then he starts telling us his story.
“You see, despite all the hullabaloo of prophets and n’angas treating the deadly HIV and Aids pandemic, I don’t think anyone can as yet lay claim to that, unless you can find those who have been truly cured of the disease and get them to testify about the persons who would have treated them.”
He says hospitals and traditional healers must work in tandem to combat HIV and Aids.
Then he tells us about his fallout with members of the Zimbabwe National Traditional Healers’ Association and Zimbabwe National Practitioners’ Association. “You see, their double standards were the main reason we are no longer operating hand-in-glove. They were saying ‘pasi ne uroyi’ as their slogan. I, in haste, stood up and said to them ‘pamberi ne huroyi’.
“Why I said so, was that even for the country’s Independence to be achieved, a lot of bloodshed, backbiting and betrayal was involved, which itself is, an outright act of witchcraft and sorcery.”
He says for one to fight witchcraft and evil, one must first master these dark crafts. Sangomas, he asserts, are not acting in good faith by opposing that which they practise nocturnally.
Then he gets more occult. Sekuru Ndunge says given a choice between mastering the benign arts and fine-tuning the dark arts, he will pick the latter. He then takes a dig at celebrity preacher-healers.
“Theirs is neither a gift from God nor a supernatural talent, but it simply is something which has been acquired from earthly sources by the respective individuals,” he says.
“When the so-called prophets perform miracles by producing three-day born babies (sic), they are hailed, but when traditional healers do alike, they are denigrated as doers of witchcraft. Where have you seen a foetus developing in three days?” he asks with an arched brow.
He says many people have become Christians by day and followers of traditional healing by night. And hospitals, for Sekuru Ndunge, are mass killing zones in disguise.
“Hence the need to operate in partnership as there are some diseases which require sangoma expertise but, funny enough, hospitals would not want to concede failure, and the same goes for traditional healers, where some illnesses need the expertise of medical school graduates.”
For instance, he says, he does not know of a traditional healer who can mend broken bones.
He saves the best for last, those who seek unorthodox means to get rich.
“Yes, many people come to us in search of easy ways to get riches,” he says.
“But what I want to stress out is that those riches are unsustainable and hereditary, just like thin air, they soon vanish when the person who would have taken that unorthodox oath perishes.” He says that is why businesses and riches built via the dark arts do not last.
I know this will not go down well with my editor at The Sunday Mail, but I had to ask Sekuru Ndunge about my career prospects at Zimbabwe’s largest newspaper.
Let’s leave the answer to that one within the confines of doctor-patient confidentiality!