Science versus the supernatural

08 Sep, 2019 - 00:09 0 Views

The Sunday Mail

Stranger than Fiction
Tendai Chara

HAVE you ever heard of strange snakes and mysterious creatures that cause water pumps in dams and wells to malfunction?

Or of mermaids that are said to cause electrical faults? As fictional as this might sound, stories of how science has clashed with the supernatural have been told since time immemorial.

And some, if not most of these mysterious cases, remain largely unreported for one reason or the other. Nevertheless, the subject still stirs up intense debates.

There seems to be a balance between members of society who believe that the supernatural can indeed interfere with scientific works and those that dismiss such thoughts as hogwash. In Zimbabwe, there are three intriguing cases in which the supernatural is said to have clashed with scientific works. In these “battle of wits,” it seems the supernatural always triumphed over science. Legend has it that Nyaminyami, the river god, lived in Zambezi River.

Back in the early 1950s when Lake Kariba was being constructed, it is believed that Nyaminyami was not happy with the construction of the dam wall. As a result, Nyaminyami is said to have caused a lot of mysterious things to happen at the dam construction site.

At one point, unexplained waves, which traditionalists believe was caused by the angry water spirit, engulfed the Zambezi River, resulting in the death of 80 construction workers. And temperatures soared to record highs as a heatwave swept across the Zambezi basin. Spiritual leaders were summoned for traditional rituals to appease Nyaminyami. Those that believe in the supernatural argue that the construction of the Kariba Dam wall would not have been completed had the authorities refused to conduct the traditional rituals.

On the other hand, scientists attributed the occurences to nature. In recent times, strange things were allegedly witnessed at Gwehava Dam, a major source of water for Gokwe Centre. It is widely believed that at one time, a mermaid and a huge snake caused the dam’s pumps to malfunction.

It is said after the engineers had set up the pipes and installed the pumps, the system would just not function despite all their efforts, leaving the engineers with several unanswered questions. As if the sightings of the mermaid were not enough, engineers were shocked to discover a huge snake coiled inside one of the pipes, thereby stopping the flow of water.  How the huge snake entered the narrow pipe remains a mystery.

As was the case with Nyaminyami, cattle were slaughtered and traditional beer brewed to appease the water spirits at Gwehava Dam. Then at Osborne Dam, which is just outside Mutare, divers who had been sent to investigate the cause of drainage blockages in the dam’s pumping system allegedly left the dam in a hurry and vowed never to go back under.

Another team of divers was summoned to finish the task but they also could not stomach whatever it is they saw under the water. The divers even refused to share their experiences with their colleagues.

Traditional rituals were promptly held at the dam, with the situation normalising afterwards. So are the supernatural beings or spirits superior than scientists?

If not, and if reports of the blocked pipes at Gwehava and Osborne were false, then what can be attributed to the malfunctioning pumping systems?


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