MATOPO — More than 500 Zimbabwean war veterans yesterday invaded a shrine in the Matobo Hills to conduct rituals despite resistance from local chiefs.
The place is part of the greater Njelele rain-making shrine.
Police mounted a roadblock to protect the former freedom fighters from traditional leaders who have been opposing the move for months now.
They blocked Chief Malaki Masuku and the cultural leaders from gaining access to the site where the war veterans conducted the rituals.
The group recently went to Nampundu and Freedom camps in Zambia used by Zipra forces during the liberation war and bombed by the Rhodesian army where they collected soil to use in the rituals.
When NewsDay arrived at about 3pm, the former freedom fighters, most of whom were wearing black garments, had gathered outside Matopo Police Station ready to leave after conducting the rituals.
They had 14 kombis and three buses transporting them.
The leader of the group, Noworeka Tensi, confirmed their visit to Zambia and that they had conducted rituals at the Matobo Hills.
The war veterans were reportedly in the company of 10 traditional leaders from Mashonaland, among them Chiefs Marange, Chivero, Zimunya, Mugabe, Makoni, Makumbe, Nematombo, Chundu, Goronga and Nyajena.
Infuriated by the incident, a local traditional leader, Chief Mathema, confronted Tensi as the former freedom fighters were leaving, demanding to know who had granted them permission to conduct the rituals at the site.
“Where do you get the courage to invade our area without our authority to conduct such activities?
“Do you mean I can as well go to your places and conduct any activity without your chiefs’ authority?
“You people are inviting war. What are you trying to do? As we speak, we are still trying to clear the mess you left last time and now without even talking to us, you do this?” Chief Mathema fumed at Tensi.
In response, Tensi said they had written letters to the chiefs and political leaders about their mission and had no evil intentions.
In an interview yesterday after the incident, Chief Masuku described it as “lack of respect for Ndebele chiefs”.
“Why do they want to bring their dead people to our area, worse without our permission?
“It appears these people do not respect Ndebele chiefs, it’s painful,” he said.
A cultural leader, Nhlanhla Khumalo, accused the police of protecting the war veterans at the expense of the traditional leaders and locals.
“It appears we are not protected here,” he said.
“The police block us and the local chief from seeing what the invaders are doing in our territory.
“This means that these people are being allowed by people from the top to do this and definitely it will spark war.”