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Court Orders Psychiatric Evaluation for Suspected Witches

  • Blessing  Zulu
  • Tatenda Gumbo

The Zimbabwean community was shocked Wednesday when two women from Gokwe were allegedly caught naked in Harare’s Budiriro high density surburb claiming to have flown all the way from Gokwe in winnowing baskets during the night.

The two, Chipo Chakaja (26) and her aunt Maria Moyo (35), on Thursday appeared before Mbare magistrate Reuben Mukavhi and denied charges of engaging in practices associated with witchcraft.

Mukavhi remanded them in custody to September 26 and ordered them to undergo psychiatric evaluation. The two women told the court that they had no idea how they ended up in Budiriro.

Moyo recalled sleeping Tuesday night and dreaming flying in a winnowing basket and crashing while flying over the Budiriro house where they were found.

Chakaja's story was the same as Moyo and both women failed to account for the materials found in their possession when they were arrested.

The bizarre incident has brought back to the fore the discussion about witchcraft in the country, and there are mixed sentiments.

VOA’s Blessing Zulu reached out to Dr. Sekai Martha Nhiwatiwa to speak about the witchcraft and related health issues.

Dr. Nhiwatiwa said health experts usually conduct initial investigations in such cases to establish the mental condition of the people.

She said though she was not familiar with cases of witchcraft, at times this type of behavior can be characterized as temporal lobe epilepsy where patients find themselves in places without knowing how they got there.

For perspective on issue, reporter Tatenda Gumbo turned to Center on Faith and Public Policy director Reverend Usani Sibanda and member of the Zimbabwe National Traditional Healers Association, Sekuru Peter Sibanda.

Though both acknowledged the presence of witchcraft within Zimbabwe’s communities, they disagreed on the way to handle such incidents in society. Sekuru Sibanda said Zimbabweans should try to understand witchcraft and its uses as people embrace today’s modern culture.