MBALABALA, MATABELELAND SOUTH —
Mystery surrounds the closure of a clinic in Mzingwane District, Matabeleland South Province, where villagers and health officials claim that it has been shut down due to what are traditionally called "goblins" terrorizing nurses and local people.
The Irisvale Clinic was shut down three weeks ago, forcing hundreds of people to walk long distances to the nearest medical center.
Villagers near Irisvale Business Center say health officials working and residing in the backyard cottages of the clinic have all fled leaving more than 20,000 people, who rely on the health center for anti-natal and chronic medical services, desperate for help.
Provincial Medical Director for Matabeleland South, William Bhusumani, confirmed the closure of the clinic, saying his ministry understands that it was forced to shut down due to supernatural creatures called goblins or tikoloshes that were terrorizing staff members.
Bhusumani says traditional chiefs and Mzingwane Rural District Council officials should intervene for the benefit of local people.
"I think that they should conduct a traditional ceremony to cleanse the clinic. We understand that goblins are also terrorising local women," he says.
The health center caters for nine villages in the area and treats on average about 50 people a day. It also serves as a maternity center for expecting mothers.
The staff at the clinic, three nurses and one environmental health inspector, have since been taken to a nearby health center where they are doing outreach community programmes. The nurses have a vehicle they use daily to visit the nine villages and treat the sick as well as transporting expecting mothers to the nearest health center until a cleansing ceremony is conducted at Irisvale Clinic.
One of the affected villagers, Sibahle Mafuyana, says people in need of medical help are now walking more than 10 kilometers to the nearest health center.
“I am now left with only four tablets for my high blood pressure, which means that when these are finished I will be forced to walk a long distance or perhaps get a bus to Esigodini Hospital. I am now old and my legs are too weak,” said Mafuyana.
Other villagers say they are now living in fear of the goblins, which they strongly believe forced the clinic to shut down in 2012 after the invisible creatures terrorized staff members. Women claim that they are being sexually molested by the goblins at a time when a child died mysteriously in the area a few weeks ago.
A local businessman, who only wants to be identified as Tanyanyiwa, says women are now having sleepless nights due to the goblins.
“Women in particular are the most affected especially at the health center. It is said that these goblins are sexually molesting them at night and that is why the nurses are now running away.”
Local villager Bridget Moyo agrees, noting that the strange creatures make strange noises at night. “We hear strange sounds at night like footsteps or furniture being moved around.”
She says children are also being terrorized by the goblins as she recently lost a child, who is believed to have been killed by these creatures.
“My own child died in a very strange way just a month ago. I was sitting here (points to her lounge) and the baby started vomiting some strange mucus, her stomach started swelling and her eyes popped out. I quickly rushed her to the clinic where she was given an injection but she died. As I speak now, I am still in shock because my child was healthy but just died in a short space of time,” she said.
As the government and villagers try to find ways of re-opening the clinic, there is visible tension between traditionalists and religious people in Mbalabala area about the way forward. While traditionalists say the community should hire n’angas to cleanse the clinic, religious leaders believe that the answer lies in the Holy Spirit of the Almighty.
Tanyanyiwa, who is a devout Christian, says, “Government must look for a living church to tackle this problem. I don’t encourage them to look at earthly human solutions but they must seek divine intervention from God.”
But Miss. Moyo, the bereaved mother of a three-month-old toddler, disagrees. “They once called these church people to come here and conduct some sermons but they were not able to get rid of these goblins. I find it very sad because we are suffering and our leaders are refusing to call traditional healers preferring to call these pastors who have constantly failed us,” she said.
According to the constitution, Zimbabwe is regarded as a Christian nation with an estimated 70 percent of the population believed to be Christians while 30 percent are said to be traditionalists or almost Christian. They believe in issues like goblins which are regarded as evil or mischievous creatures, often described as grotesquely disfigured.