In Zimbabwe and indeed the African continent, traditional African belief widely holds, that physical challenges in the form of sickness, disease, even death of a loved one, or persistent woes, like failure in business, or an underperforming child at school, are direct results of an evil power.
Some people believe that an individual can either inherit evil power or receive it from a Sangoma (Witch Doctor). They also believe that there is a personal devil behind any persistent sorrow or misfortune. When a certain tribal Chief in Chiweshe authorized compulsory witch hunting way back in the year 2000, many welcomed it, as a solution to weed out the menacing source of all evil.
All villagers, non-Christians and Christians of varying denominations, submitted out of fear to the wishes of the tribal Chief, to be publically investigated by Tsikamutanda the witch hunter. People in my village said that some prominent Christians were humiliated or became mad, when they tried undoing the rituals performed by this witch hunter, in their homes, in order to protect their innocent from wickedness. One Sunday in my church when I questioned my Pastor, as to why a handful of regular attendees attended the service, I was told they were in fact queuing to be publically investigated by a witch hunter. These attendees were being obedient to the Chief’s command. Soon it was the turn for my home village, Muchirakwenda, to come under the witch hunter’s scrutiny.
Since my village was next and certain that no one would escape the witch hunter’s wrath, one of the elders who had visited the witch hunter, the week before, announced to the congregants, that they would be watching, with interest, how I would deal with the matter, as a novice member of the church. When I refused to pay the Zim$100 fee to the Witch hunter to prophesy, find fault or cleanse my family from supposed evil, the whole village conspired to make sure that the witch hunter would start performing the cleansing rituals with my home. The villagers, including Christians, approached my home, praising the witch hunter, substituting Christ Jesus’ name with the witch hunter’s name in one of the Christian hymns. Tsikamutanda is number one when it comes to solving difficult challenges, so they sang confidently at my gate. A helpless village-head who lead the crowd, explained that it was the villagers behind him that wanted the witch hunter to perform the ritual that would prove witchcraft superior to Christianity.
Peter and John chose to obey God rather than fear An’nas the high priest, despite the threatenings and beatings. The story of the three Hebrew men who had no reason to fear king Nebuchadnezzar’s ignorance of the true God, encouraged me. They understood Jesus’ definition of a personal devil, ‘….he is a liar and the father of it.’ (John 8 vs. 44) At that time I had almost completed reading a textbook on Christian healing, titled Science and Health With key to the scriptures, by Mary Baker Eddy. Eddy writes, ‘Ignorance of God is no longer a stepping stone to faith. The guarantee of obedience is a right apprehension of Him whom to know aright is Life eternal.’ (page vii).
A small zero or a large zero or a long string of zeroes from one end of the horizon to the other, have the same value – nothing. In Exodus 20 vs. 3 we read, ‘Thou shalt have no other gods before me.’ I would not accept the Chief, the church elder, or the witch hunter’s authority, over an all-powerful, ever-present God, who I was now understanding more clearly, for the first time, through my in-depth study of the Bible and Science and Health. I therefore allowed the witch hunter to perform the ritual that would expose the anticipated magic or goblins, I was supposed to possess, which would cause harm and bad luck to my relatives and the rest of the villagers.
But once the ritual was complete, I removed and burnt the wooden sticks, while the witch hunter, his followers and the villagers looked on. They believed that, as a consequence of my foolish act of defiance, I would go mad within three hours, so they cheered when the sorcerer announced that I was going to be mad. When I did not go mad, I was told that the judgment was adjusted to three days and then to three weeks with no effect of the witch hunter’s prophesy. Still I never went mad. Mrs. Eddy writes, ‘We sustain Truth, not by accepting, but by rejecting a lie.’ (see Science and Health page 357) The Chief’s compulsory witch hunting command naturally died after this incident. It was clearly seen that there was no power to the witch hunter’s prophesy. As a result of my experience, the following villages ignored the Chiefs edict. My defiance had led many villagers to awaken to the idea that all power belongs only to God.
Originally published in The Sunday Mail Reporter, @SundayMailZim