HARARE – It is 15:44 on Monday, January 21. My phone rings and I realise it is a colleague calling but would never have prepared myself for what I was to see in the next three hours.
At first my informant tells me at least seven people have died in an explosion in Chitungwiza. I did not doubt him and in a matter of minutes I was on my way to Harare’s dormitory town. Forty minutes later we arrive to see multitudes massed around a section of Ndororo Street in Zengeza 2.
Five people had perished, including a seven-month-old baby girl. Human flesh was strewn everywhere. There was a stench that went straight to the pit of my stomach in a matter of minutes.
Several journalists were also there. Personnel from the army presidential guard bomb disposal unit, police and other State apparatuses scoured the area for clues.
Besides talking to officials who seemed out of explanations, the Daily News on Sunday crew also talked to neighbours who had known the late traditional healer Speakmore Mandere for barely a month.
Zimbabweans are a superstitious lot and this is what they were saying in hushed tones.
“We are neighbours and would not want to be identified. It is what we know and understand to have happened or led to the blast,” said one of the neighbours.
“Mandere was brought here by the party (Zanu PF) department of Transport and Welfare. You see the opposite house, the party’s chairperson for ward 9, Sekuru Shumba (the late traditional healer) assisted us a lot,” a young lady who claimed to be the Zanu PF treasurer in the ward offered.
Then it struck me President Robert Mugabe’s party and traditional healers are not strange bedfellows.
A few years ago Mugabe and powerful ministers in the then Zanu PF government were taken up the garden path by one Rotina Mavhunga.
It was at the height of Zimbabwe’s fuel crisis and the scantly educated traditional healer had Didymus Mutasa and Sidney Sekeramayi a qualified medical doctor sitting on their hunches grinning and clapping for “pure fuel” after telling them that diesel was oozing off a rock in Chinhoyi.
Another man offers an insight.
“In fact the owner of the house’s son is an ex-soldier and a veteran of the Democratic Republic of Congo war. He was released from the military because of mental problems so he might have left something explosive in there,” he said refusing to be identified.
Another theory was that there had been some commotion in Zengeza 5 the week before where one of Mandere also known as (Sekuru Shumba)’s clients had a problem with a black mamba.
“He wanted to bring back the snake and that could have gone horribly wrong hence the explosion.”
Some of the theories were as bizarre as they come.
One resident talked of a beast that had been seen going into the house a few minutes before the explosion. “So what they were picking up from the mango trees and rooftops is not flesh but beef.”
It was an experience of a lifetime but I could not do a follow up the following day. The trauma had just been too much for me.
Although experts could be close to concluding that a bomb was behind the horror blast which killed Five people in Chitungwiza, as first reported by our sister paper the Daily News, the case has turned mythical.
Our reporters Richard Chidza and Xolisani Ncube share some of their experiences covering the story.