Leonard Ncube, Victoria Falls Reporter
TRADITIONALISTS in Chief Mvuthu’s area outside Victoria Falls have called for cleansing of the Falls and its environs saying calamities like drownings in Zambezi River and attacks by wildlife are a result of the defilement of sacred places.

Chief Mvuthu’s area covers communities around Mvuthu, Ndlovu, Chikandakubi, Kachechete, Jabula, Chisuma, Sizinda, Monde, Woodlands and Victoria Falls town.

Original inhabitants are the Tokaleya people, a group of the BaTonga people also found across the Zambezi River in Zambia under Chief Mukuni.

Traditionalists from the Tokaleya ethnic group said some gorges along the Zambezi River and some places in the community were sacred and not supposed to be visited by strangers.

These include a shrine in Phakama Village where spirit mediums used to conduct rituals under a baobab tree, which reportedly fell about two decades ago but is still alive and bearing fruits, something which the traditionalists said signifies the anger of the gods.

Tour operating companies and Zimbabwe Parks and Wildlife Management Authority have reportedly fenced off some of the sacred places blocking access by traditionalists.

Traditionalists have accused some churches and people originally not from Victoria Falls of defiling sacred places by holding unsanctioned activities thereby angering the spirits.

Some villagers have also been accused of disrespecting the local cultural practices like upholding Thursday as a sacred day of rest.

The traditionalists have called for cleansing of the area saying they were committed to rectifying the wrongs that have happened.

They have approached elders from the Tokaleya people and agreed to conduct a cleansing ceremony on October 8 at the “fallen” baobab tree shrine in Phakama Village.

Three preparatory meetings have been held so far and a committee made up of traditionalists and traditional leaders has been formed.

Speaking at one of the meetings attended by traditional leaders, councillors from the area, police and Zimparks rangers in Chisuma during the week, chairman of the committee Mr Joshua Magomba Chuma, who is one of the surviving Tokaleya elders said drowning incidents on Zambezi River were a result of anger of the gods.

Two men drowned in Victoria Falls a fortnight ago while another drowned in Msuna area downstream in Hwange.

In August last year at almost the same time with the recent incidents, two siblings from Chidobe also drowned while posing for photos on the rocks in Zambezi River.

“We grew up knowing that Zambezi River was sacred and no one was allowed to swim or even go there but now anyone can do anything there. We have to respect other people’s cultures. All these drowning incidents that have happened are a sign that the gods are angry. We have to cleanse the area to appease the gods,” he said.

Alderman Elias Muzamba, also from the Tokaleya tribe said swimming in Zambezi River was not allowed.

“People should stop bathing or washing with soap in the Zambezi River. Some have even washed dark pots in the river while some have disturbed some graves. Some have taken clay pots that were used by spirit mediums on the river and even sold them to tourists as artefacts. All this has angered the spirits,” he said.

Zambezi River is used for rafting, bungee jumping, fishing, boat cruise and several other water activities that are popular with tourists.

Headman Afozani Mpofu who was representing acting Chief Mvuthu, Mr Bishop Matata Sibanda, accused some churches of deliberately disrespecting traditional leaders as they had openly defied custom.

“We are aware of the churches and groups of people that now conduct activities at the baobab tree. They are defiling the place and this should stop. We are glad now that you as the original owners of the place have decided to lead us in this,” he said. — @ncubeleon