The Sunday Mail
Tendai Chara – Extra Reporter
The September 16 1994 alleged sighting of an unidentified flying object (UFO) by a group of Ariel Primary School pupils in Ruwa remains Zimbabwe’s closest encounter with extraterrestrial life.
Some 20 years ago, the world woke up to news that a UFO with strange creatures aboard had landed at Ariel Primary School, some 20km from Harare.
Sixty-two pupils from the private school said they witnessed the landing as they played in the school grounds during a mid-morning break.
The children were between the ages of five and 12.
The story took on a life of its own when the pupils claimed they had interacted telepathically, “through eye contact”, with the mysterious creature that emerged from the UFO.
Some of the pupils said the creature wanted to warn humanity against destroying the planet.
Horrified, the children fled as the creature advanced towards them. A few of the older ones stood and watched in both awe and terror as the creature retreated, boarded its vessel and flew off.
The incident lasted 15 minutes.
Soon after, self-proclaimed UFO researchers descended on the farming community from all over the world.
Among them was the now late journalist, Cynthia Hind, who — in a subsequent article — said the UFO had hovered over the school yard before landing in a gum tree plantation.
Teachers and other staff were attending a meeting and did not witness the alleged sighting.
According to Hind’s report, a small, “human-like creature”, dressed in black and about a metre tall, emerged from the top of the mysterious object and advanced towards the children.
The witnesses, according to Hind’s report, claimed that the creature was dressed in a shining tight-fitting body suit. It had a narrow face, thin legs and arms and long black hair.
The pupils also claimed that the creature had large eyes the size of a rugby ball and “was bouncing” as if defying gravity.
In her attempts to authenticate the sightings, Hind instructed then headmaster, Mr Colin Mackie, to interview the children after which it was observed that not only were their versions of the occurrence consistent but their drawing of what they saw were also in line.
Twenty years on, the children have grown up and as the anniversary of that day passed, The Sunday Mail Extra tried to track them down.
Many of them have relocated mostly to Canada, Britain, the United States and New Zealand.
And school authorities, the community and the former pupils we managed to track down were largely of the same opinion: the didn’t want to talk about it and it was a closed chapter.
Miss Judith Bates, the current Ariel Primary School head, said: “We don’t look back. If you look back when you are driving, you hit a lamp. I am most interested in what Ariel is doing now and in the future. Discussing aliens will not, in any way, help us as a school.”
Miss Bates was a teacher at Ariel when the alleged landing took place.
She said the then headmaster, Mr Mackie, was heavily involved in the case. Mr Mackie, now based in Australia, did not respond to questions sent to him.
Other people were more forthcoming.
A former pupil, who spoke on condition of anonymity, confirmed seeing the UFO and alien.
“I can confirm that I witnessed both the landing and departure of the strange object. However, I am not at liberty to recount events of the day. I would not want my former school to be known for strange happenings. A lot of good things are happening there and I will be grateful if you could focus on them,” the former pupil said.
Another said he still does not have an explanation for what he saw that morning.
“The most difficult part is the fact that up until today, I cannot tell what that thing was. I do not believe in aliens or tokoloshis. It helps explain why some of us would not want to be associated with the events of the day,” the former pupil said.
Miss Shamiso Ruzvidzo, now a prominent fashion designer and newspaper columnist, was in Grade 7 at Ariel in 1994.
Ruzvidzo said she did not see the alleged UFO as she was writing high school entrance tests at another school.
She did say that those at the school that morning claimed to have seen the UFO.
The refusal by the former pupils and school authorities to divulge more information concerning the sighting was attributed by the local community to the superstitious beliefs that are common in this community.
“A lot of things, that are associated with witchcraft, have been reported in the community. Some of the former pupils do not want to be associated with such beliefs and will therefore refuse to discuss the sighting,” Mr Marizo Phiri, who lives in a farm compound adjacent to the school, said.
The Ariel sighting has been dismissed in some quarters as a prank.
But Dr John Mark, a UFO researcher who interviewed the pupils, said the 12 children he spoke to gave consistent and reliable accounts, and ruled out mass hysteria.
Dr Mack was struck and killed by a car after delivering a lecture on UFOs and the Ariel sightings at a London university.
According to UFO researchers, it was the first time a large group of people had reported witnessing the simultaneous appearance of spaceships and alien beings.
It was not only at Ariel where strange flying objects were observed that day.
A flight of strange objects and ships were reported to have hovered across Zimbabwean skies for two nights prior to the Ariel landing.
Similar observations were made in Hwange, Bulawayo and Kariba. Several Southern African countries also reported on the strange flying vessels.
Mrs Debra Nicholson of Chawara in Kariba told us that she saw a mysterious flying object hovering above her home around that time.
She was, however, unsure about the actual date.
“It was very hot that night and as I was sitting on the lawn at around 7pm I saw a round figure with plenty of lights hovering above our home. The object was definitely not an (airplane) since it was too round to be one. It silently flew over our home before it disappeared,” Mrs Nicholson said.
Mrs Nicholson said she alerted a neighbour who also saw the UFO.
Another Kariba resident, Mr David Nyamadzawo, said his daughter alerted him to the strange vessel: “The object was moving slowly without producing any sound.
“It had the shape of a disc and was brightly coloured. It might have been a spaceship or satellite transmission equipment. I do not know what that thing was.”
Mr Steve Edwards, another Kariba resident, believes the “ball of fire” he saw was simply a comet.
“At first I thought it was an aircraft that had been involved in a mid-air crash only to discover that it was a comet. I do not believe in aliens,” Mr Edwards said.
Who does, we may ask?