Freedom Mupanedemo, Midlands Bureau
A SELF-STYLED traditional healer in Gweru has detained two minor children for four years after their mother failed to pay two beasts for the treatment of a rare foot disease.
The kids, now aged 11 and 15 were aged 7 and 11, respectively when their mother, Ms Simangele Zimba (33) handed them over to the inyanga, Juliet Mpofu, popularly known as Gogo Maphilisa in 2013 so she could treat them.
The traditional healer who is insisting on the payment of the two beasts before releasing the children, is so benevolent that she is paying school fees for the two children who are in grades Three and Six at Nyozani Primary School in Fort Rixon, Matabeleland South province.
The traditional healer is also taking great care of their upkeep and as such the children are now refusing to go back to their family.
Gogo Maphilisa confirmed that she was detaining the kids over non-payment of the bill. “The kids are in good health. I healed them. They are going to school. All I want is payment for the job I did. Just two beasts,” she said.
Asked if the upkeep and school fees did not cost her much more than the two cows she is owed, she said she was following the principles of the occult.
“The payment of the two beasts is a matter of principle. It is also a matter of principle that children should wear good clothes, eat good food and attend school. I will, however, not release them as long as payment is outstanding,’’ she said.
Police in Gweru are now negotiating with both the traditional healer and the children who are vehemently refusing to reunite with their mother.
Officer-in-charge Gweru Rural Police Station Chief Inspector Samuel Tadzaushe, confirmed police mediation but referred all questions to the Acting Midlands Provincial Police Spokesperson, Assistant Inspector Ethel Mukwende, who could not be reached. “Yes, we have such a case but I am not allowed to speak to the Press. Get comment from the provincial spokesperson,’’ he said.
According the children’s mother, Gogo Maphilisa had initially indicated she would “admit” the kids for only two months so that she monitors the healing process before releasing them back to their mother.
She said it was unfortunate that she failed to raise the money to buy the beasts hence the impasse.
“I did not personally know Gogo Maphilisa but when I approached my brother about the children’s rare disease in 2013, he said he knew Gogo Maphilisa, a traditional healer and took me to her. She told us to bring the kids for two months saying after the period they will be healed.
“When we got to Gogo Maphilisa’s house in Mkoba 18, with the kids she examined them and told us that she would need at least two months for them to heal. She indicated that she needed to admit them so that she monitors the healing and I had no choice but to agree on that arrangement because my kids could not put on shoes owing to the problem.
“My brother who is in Gweru promised he would be visiting the boys every now and then to check on their recovery and would bring the boys back home once they were healed,” said Ms Zimba from Romac on the outskirts of Gweru. She said since 2013, she has not been allowed to see her children after Gogo Maphilisa changed goal posts, demanding that she pays two beasts first.
She said she recently decided to report the matter to the police at Gweru Rural Police Station after Gogo Maphilisa remained adamant that she would not release the kids.
“I have been patient trying to reason with her with my brother stopping me from going to the police to report the matter. I visited Gogo Maphilisa at her house in Mkoba 18 several times but I did not see my kids. I was later to be told she was hiding them somewhere in Shangani that is when I became worried.
“My brother went to Shangani and met the kids but insisted that reporting to the police should be the last resort.
“His argument was that the kids were in good health and he was negotiating with Gogo Maphilisa to release them but unfortunately this did not happen,” she said.
Ms Zimba said she only reunited briefly with her kids last Friday at Gweru Rural Police Station when Gogo Maphilisa was summoned to the police station.
“Just imagine meeting your kids after four years at a police station? It’s very painful.
Gogo Maphilisa who claimed she stayed under water for four years from where she emerged with healing powers, said she was happy that following the intervention of police at Gweru Rural Police Station, Ms Zimba agreed to pay for her services. “The kids’ mother also agreed that I stay with them while she looks for money to make a down payment in appreciation of what I did for them,” she said.
The children told our Midlands Bureau that they are comfortable staying with the traditional healer.