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Witchcraft Dispute With Chief Lands Zimbabwe Family in Jail

A dispute between a traditional chief in Matopo district, Zimbabwe, and a village head accused of witchcraft landed the family of the suspect in jail for close to a week after it refused to pay a fine imposed by the chief for the alleged crime.

Witchcraft is a common phenomenon in Zimbabwe and is recognized by the country's laws.

Mapoto chief, Maliki Masuku reportedly fined Shadreck Dube a beast after a traditional healer, or inyanga, accused him of owning goblins that were allegedly terrorizing nurses at Nathisa Clinic.

After the female nurses complained of nightly sexual harassment by the creatures, sources said, chief Masuku called in the spiritual man to do a cleansing ceremony at the clinic where he charged the goblins belonged to Dube.

The chief then ordered him to pay a fine in the form of a beast. But his family met with the chief last Sunday and told him they would not oblige because the accusations were false.

Tampers flared at the meeting, witnesses said, resulting in Dube's arrest together with six members of his family and charged with undermining the chief's authority.

Family spokesman, Anele Dube told VOA they were only released late on Thursday after prosecutors in Kezi said they were still assessing evidence.

"We did not do anything that disrespected the court of the chief," he said, adding that "the witchcraft accusations against my uncle are simply false."

Under Zimbabwe's Witchcraft Suppression Act, engaging in witchcraft practices is a criminal offense punishable by a fine or up to five years in jail.

Chapter V of the law reads: "Any person who engages in any practice knowing that it is commonly associated with witchcraft, shall be guilty of engaging in a practice commonly associated with witchcraft if having the intention to cause harm to any person.”

Lawyer, Matshobana Ncube told VOA that the traditional chief didn't have jurisdiction to put Dube to trial.