Thursday, June 25, 2009

Chirorodziva: Forgotten sleeping giant

This article appeared in the herald newspaper this morning:

ON the outskirts of the City of Chinhoyi lies a huge sacred pool, whose silence is like that of the innards of a grave.The silence as one descends into the intricate network of caves is both eerie and profound, yet the grottos and the huge sleeping pool form a spectacular combination in which reality defies existing tourism hyperbole diction.It is a geomorphological spectre whose grandeur Zimbabwe has failed to market for international tourism recognition. The caves are grossly under marketed that they have largely remained an untapped tourist attraction.When climbing down the steep granite steps it is easy for tourists to imagine approaching an abyss of darkness as light suddenly varnishes. The experience is hair-raising.The caves are a limestone shaft linked by a maze of passages and caves, at the foot of which lies a huge pool whose limpid and translucent gothic water maintains the same level 24/7.Inexplicably, the water defies common meteorological logic by remaining at the same temperature of 22 degrees Celsius 24/7 — every second, every minute, every hour and indeed every day.It is this deep blue pool beneath the sparkling cobalt stone that is known as the "Sleeping Pool.’’Myth and mystery has it that one cannot successfully throw a stone across the seemingly small pool as the sacred spirits that watch over the pool will catch the stone and bestow a curse upon the stone thrower.Oral tradition has it that at the bottom of Sleeping Pool lies immured, the bones of fallen Shona tribe heroes who died after being flung in by Nguni tribe raiders in pre-colonial Zimbabwe.The story is that it was in this pool that Nguni raiders flung their victims of battle to "sleep to eternity" when they fought notorious Shona outlaw Nyamakwere, in pre-colonial Zimbabwe.Prior to the incident Nyamakwere is said to have used the caves as his stronghold from which he killed his victims and threw them in.Nyamkwere was eventually overthrown by Chief Chinhoyi of the NeMakonde dynasty, hence the name of the city Chinhoyi.The Nemakonde (bastardised to Lomagundi by white colonial settlers), who resided in the area and often fell victim to Nguni raiders know the pool less euphemistically as Chirorodziva, the pool of the fallen heroes.Ironically, it is a spitting distance from the caves that the Battle of Chinhoyi- the fierce maiden gun battle between the black nationalists and white Rhodesian settlers marked the beginning of Zimbabwe’s protracted liberation struggle.The caves situated 8 kilometres from the city along the Highway to Kariba and Chirundu are a fascinating geological splendour.The main feature is the limestone cavern formed thousands of years back when the ground collapsed into a sinkhole.The Sleeping Pool is believed to be 172 metres deep with the drivers who have explored deepest, the United States Navy divers have only managed to go as far as 135 metre down.About 58 metres down the pool, there is another tunnel and a third tunnel lower, is yet to be explored.Several underwater passages lead from the Sleeping Pool and explorers have always found their way back to the pool.Its deep clear blue colour makes the poor almost impossible to the photograph successfully. The colour is not a reflection of the sky because it is the same deep blue colour on a cloudy day and at night. Another reason is that the portion of the pool visible from the Dark Cave is situated far from the sinkholes, yet it exhibits the same colour.The pool is blue for the same reason the sky is blue-scattering of light — and this is why it is blue throughout, whether is shade, sun or deep underground.Scientifically, this effect can only be achieved if the water is clear and this can be proved by visitors when they want to find the real surface.The rocks seen under the water are not reflection, as the eye might be fooled to see, but are real rocks underwater. The other fascination is the Dark Cave, which is artificially lit.Climbing in and out of the Dark cave is energy demanding. It is not for the week-kneed.More often that not many people come out of the cave panting, like fish put of the water.A good one-hour is enough for to explore Chinhoyi Caves, with one’s friends or family.Outside the caves is dense vegetation whose lasting beauty is spiced with melodious songs from an assortment of birds.The National Parks and Wildlife Management Authority has a picnic ground and camping site next to the caves, where you can enjoy a meal or braai for a modest charge oat Chinhoyi Caves Motel.Today, as tourists visit, the caves are still revered by the local people for being he custodians of their ancestral spirits.With proper marketing, combined national effort and international exposure Zimbabwe could realise serious tourism benefits from the sleeping giant. This is nothing nearer to his in Zimbabwe so the outstanding geological feature is what the Gods have bestowed upon Zimbabwe.lFeedback:

Saturday, June 20, 2009

Encounter With ‘Tokoloshes’

This article appeared in today's Standard Newspaper

Saturday, 20 June 2009 21:21
I have heard about “tokoloshes” as creatures that bring fortunes or misfortunes to families. In all those discussions I have ended up even more sceptical. That is why most people crave for an encounter with the malevolent mythical human-like creatures.
Last weekend I went to my village in Mazvihwa in Zvishavane district in the Midlands. I wanted to reconnect with my roots.
On arrival on Friday evening I was greeted with news of the arrival of a “prophet” in the village who had come to conduct a cleansing ceremony. They said it was an awesome spectacle. I was not sure that I was prepared for this sort of thing.
I decided to walk the 5km journey to a mountainous range on Saturday morning where “Prophet” Jeremiah was conducting the cleansing ceremony.
My cousin Peter helped me negotiate the maze of footpaths to the rendezvous.
We met scores of other people on the way — from youths walking energetically to those whose pace was usurped by age.
“I am going to get my problem solved, my son,” a frail old man told me expectantly. I walked past many people who carried their food and water. This was obviously going to be a lengthy process.
We arrived just in time. Peter is a very resourceful young man. He negotiated so I could capture the cleansing ceremony on my digital camera.
A short stout youth in a white bib with stars came back to announce: “You are most welcome to get into the ring and do your business.”
About a thousand people formed a crescent. In the middle were five people who had brought their “bags”. They were lining up to be cleansed of their calamities.
The “prophet” poured some white powder into water that was in a bucket and then conducted a prayer.
Jeremiah then asked the individuals to stand by their bags. We waited with bated breath for Jeremiah was asking the owners to own up to having ‘tokoloshes’ in front of a whole community.
Jeremiah then took his wooden staff and pointed at the bags. He sprinkled “holy water” on the bags.
On approaching the first bag Jeremiah appeared to go into a trance. His assistant, opened the next bag , but it appeared the process went awry. He collapsed, as if struck by something invisible to those of us watching this drama. The others rushed to his rescue. He was able to dip the “tokoloshe” in the “holy water”, rendering it “powerless”.
The remaining bags were checked but nothing was found. It was suggested they had failed to trap the “tokoloshes”.
Fooled or was this real?
We were invited to draw closer to see the “creatures”. The first was a snake — a dead snake, grey in colour and metre-long but curiously wrapped with condoms.
“This snake has just engaged in a sexually activity with a human being,” Jeremiah claimed. “Hmmm,” I wondered.
The next “tokoloshe” was rather bizarre: beaded black stockings in half and garishly decorating a calabash with a carved head of a person.
This was the work of beautiful art turned gory, I muttered to myself. My thoughts were interrupted by an announcement from Jeremiah: “This has blood in it and it survives on human blood.” The cleansing process was repeated several times with spectacular “findings”. The “tokoloshes” were then taken away to be burnt. I followed at a distance, emotions of fear and dismay competing.
One of the men accompanied by his octogenarian mother, his wife and three female members of his family said they had undergone a transformation. There was a sudden change on their faces. They were fresh smiling. It was as if a heavy burden had been lifted off their shoulders.
Peter told me about his experience too. But he could not find a ready explanation.
Jeremiah said he was born Meryward Marara 30 years ago in Mount Darwin, Mashonaland Central. He is married and has two children who live in Gweru.
I left with more questions than answers. I need another take.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Doors opening and closing

We have a serious security problem in Zimbabwe and our house is surrounded inside and out by alarm sensors.
In the early hours of this morning I was awake when I distinctly heard the sound of a wooden door closing. We close all doors before retiring to bed so I became a little fearful that our security system had broken down and someone was in the house.

We went down the hallway and looked in every door - nothing - all was peaceful or was it?

This morning I found two statues that sit on top of a speaker moved and yet the alarms had not gone off in this room!

Is our ghost on the rampage again? Who knows.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Tongogara's ghost

Tongogara was killed in a 'car accident' and was reburied in Heroes Acre - on the outskirts of Harare in 1980.

Six days after the Lancaster House Agreement was signed Robert Mugabe, on the Voice of Zimbabwe radio station, conveyed "an extremely sad message" to "all the fighting people of Zimbabwe": the forty one year old Tongogara was dead, killed in a car accident in Mozambique on December 26 1979. Josiah Tungamirai, the ZANLA High Command's political commissar relates that on the night of the fatality, he and Tongogara had been travelling with others in two vehicles from Maputo to Chimoio. Tungamirai said he was in the front vehicle. It was dark and the roads were bad. Tungamirai's car passed a military vehicle that had been carelessly abandoned, with no warning signs at the side of the road. After that, he could no longer see the headlights of the following car in his rear view mirror. Eventually he turned back, and, as he had feared, they found Tongogara's car had struck the abandoned vehicle. Tongogara was sitting in the front passenger seat. Tungamirai told me that he had struggled to lift Tongogara out of the wrecked car. He said that as he was doing so, Tongogara heaved a huge sigh and died in his
Margaret Dongo was one of the last people to see him alive. "We were eighteen girls who were having a function and he came to say a few words to bless the occasion."

ZANU released an undertaker's statement saying his injuries were consistent with a road accident, but no autopsy results or pictures have been released(the undertaker who gave the report was indeed Mr K.J Stokesand not Mr R Silke).

His ghost has been reportedly seen by a number of people in and around the burial place.

It is also said that he haunts the State House in Harare and that this has driven a certain person to antidepressents!