The Sunday News
Peter Matika and Judith Phiri, Sunday News Reporters
VILLAGERS from Goodwood in Inyathi, Matabeleland North province are living in fear after a series of mysterious fires razed down three huts at a homestead in four days.
The fires also destroyed a single building at another homestead about 500 metres away forcing villagers to sleep outside as they fear that their huts might catch fire in the quiet of the night.
A visit to the area by Sunday News revealed that the inexplicable fires started last Monday at the Mkhwananzi homestead.
The Mkhwananzi family said the fire started after a huge gust of wind that “came from nowhere”, blew a heavy metal cooking stand used to balance pots, into the air and sent the family scurrying for cover.
“We were seated outside as we were preparing our evening meal, when suddenly a huge gust of wind came from nowhere, so powerful was the wind that it blew into the air a heavy metal cooking stand that we use for cooking. It also blew away a metal gauze and huge logs, which just vanished into thin air. We found the gauze at a nearby bush but the logs as big as they were to this day cannot be found,” said Mrs Siphilisiwe Mkhwananzi.
“The children, as well as my daughter-in-law ran to a hut for cover. My daughter-in-law decided to close the other huts, she saw that the hut was on fire and yelled for the others to run out. The fire was put out but my daughter started having trouble in breathing and said she was being strangled by unseen forces. We were all scared and tried to sit her up so that we could assist her but she would get into a frenzied and hypnotic state claiming she is being attacked by forces we could not see. It’s only after we prayed that she calmed down. She hasn’t been in a right state of mind since and says she sees visions of her attackers on a daily basis,” said Mrs Mkhwananzi.
So strange is the fire that after burning a hut at the Mkhwananzi homestead it razed down a hut at another homestead situated about 500 metres away the following day. Nothing was salvaged from the fire at the nearby Ndlovu homestead, when the first incident occurred.
“These fires just start on their own and it is frightening. We don’t know what is going on but something has to be done. The first fire occurred at around 3pm on Tuesday and another hut on the same day started burning at around 6pm,” said Mr Russell Ndlovu.
It was all calm on Wednesday until Thursday morning when another fire broke out at the Ndlovu homestead again burning down another hut. Mr Ndlovu said their 17-year-old daughter suddenly started screaming saying she was seeing three naked women and a man who wanted to strangle her for raising alarm about the fire. The family said they sought the services of spiritual healers also known as tsikamutandas.
“We have been sleeping outside because we fear that we might be burnt alive. We discovered when we woke up that another hut was on fire but we managed to put it out before it damaged the hut. That is when we decided to seek spiritual assistance,” said Mr Ndlovu.
“We have lived here for more than 19 years and have never seen such a thing happen, where houses just catch fire mysteriously. Our option now is to have spirit mediums and healers tell us what is going on,” said a local, Chief Heisman Zulu.
One of the tsikamutandas who identified himself as Titus Sithole, said there was a great evil spirit, which was thirsty for blood and would not stop tormenting villagers until it was appeased.
“This spirit is very dangerous and is out for blood. There are goblins here and the owner will be shamefully exposed and will face the wrath of the villagers,” he said.
Sithole assured villagers that the fires would not happen again.
However, after having promised villagers that the situation was under control another hut at the Ndlovu homestead was razed down at around 6pm. The local councillor, Abednico Maphosa confirmed the incident yesterday, saying villagers were now living in fear and were demanding immediate action.
“The situation is almost out of control. Villagers are demanding answers and that something be done to contain this whole thing. You must understand that such issues are very contentious in rural areas. We are working on solving the situation as we don’t want people to begin pointing fingers at each other, which might result in bloodshed,” said Clr Maphosa.