Sekuru Ndunge passes baton
FOR seven uninterrupted decades, Sekuru Charles Makwiyana Ndunge, the doyen of local traditional healing and witchcraft practices, has been waving his magic wand to hundreds of thousands of people.
His wand has cast spells and directed healing powers to people from as far afield as Europe and Asia.
Famed for allegedly having the expertise to make bank balances grow, curse enemies, treat terminal illnesses and to win back the love of one’s life, people from all social, religious and economic standing have been making a beeline for the traditional healer’s hilltop residence in Chipinge.
Recently, we drove to Makwiyana Village, which is located on the border with Mozambique and sat down with arguably the country’s most powerful and feared witchdoctor.
An intriguing and complex character, Sekuru Ndunge is quite a handful.
Sharp tongued, his vicious remarks often leaves some of his clients upset and confused.
He does not tolerate those that take ages to explain why they would have paid him a visit.
Despite these unpleasant traits, Sekuru Ndunge can be very pleasant and considerate.
A 40-minute chat with the famed traditional healer revealed that like the moon, Sekuru Ndunge has both a dark and bright side. He is human after all. In this trade since 1948, it was clear from the interview that he is now yearning for a quiet life, far away from “the madding crowd”.
Craving a simple life, it seems he has, in the past couple of years, been meticulously planning for “retirement”.
Indications on the ground reveals that he is gradually passing on the baton to his daughter Nyerai.
Sekuru Ndunge confirmed the development.
“Oh yes! My daughter is now in the trade. She was here yesterday and attended to my sore feet. As you might know, a doctor sometimes seeks help from other doctors,” a beaming Sekuru Ndunge said.
He, however, said he will only “hang his boots” after Nyerai has passed several crucial tests.
“For one to fight witchcraft and evil, that person must first master the dark secrets. In terms of our trade, she is still a toddler who is slowly getting there.”
“I don’t want to rush her into this, remember I have a name and legacy to protect,” added Sekuru Ndunge.
Sekuru Ndunge, who does not know his age, clearly has faith in his protégé.
His face glowed when he was asked how he would spend his time in the event that he decides to turn his back against casting away evil spirits.
“I am a grandfather and will spend most of my time with my grandchildren. By the way, I have lots of them and don’t know them all by name. I refer to them by the names of their mothers,” he said.
Possibly as part of his fall back plan, Sekuru Ndunge also runs a restaurant, bar, grinding mill and a guest house.
He said he owns several houses in Chipinge.
It was abundantly clear that the traditional healer has a deep longing for the past.
Outside his modest house is an unusual fleet of both vintage and modern vehicles.
Whilst some of the cars are exposed to the sun, some of them are, however, neatly tucked in a huge shed.
Sekuru Ndunge owns an estimated 80 cars, including Chevrolets, Bentleys, Mercs and BMWs, among other models.
He refused to admit that his place is a junkyard.
“Do not be fooled by the dust that has gathered on the roofs. All these cars are in perfect condition. I will, without doubt, engage myself in joyrides when I finally have the time,” said the famous witchdoctor.
He said he has been so pre-occupied with his work to the extent that he has not, in the past 23 years, travelled out of his village.
Despite the fact that he owns these many cars, he said he was last behind the wheel some 20 years ago.
It was abundantly clear that the traditional healer has plans for the cars, with one of his sons tasked with making sure that he runs the engines occasionally.
He definitely does not intend to use the cars in the afterlife.
Apart from the cars, Sekuru Ndunge also has an insatiable appetite for music.
He is a proud owner of three functional gramophone record players and he says he occasionally plays his favourite songs from the devices.
Part of his gramophone record collection includes classics such as Percy Sledge’s “When A Man loves a Woman” and Sting Ray’s “Whole Lotta Fire”, among others.
Works by Thomas Mapfumo, Safirio “Mukadota” Madzikatire, the Green Arrows and Patrick Mukwamba are also proudly displayed in the traditional healer’s well-furnished living room.
“I wish I was younger. Back then we enjoyed life. It was during the 1940s and I was based in Mutare. Sexually transmitted diseases were treatable then and we had lots of girls,” Sekuru Ndunge said with a chuckle.
Meet the protégé Munyambazi Village is a small, secluded outpost located on the Zimbabwe/ Mozambique border in Chipinge.
This mountainous area is blessed with rolling evergreen hills, a cool weather and perennial rivers.
It is here that we met Nyerai Jane Makwiyana, one of Sekuru Ndunge’s two daughters. She is set to take over the baton from her father in the event that he passes on.
Nyerai is an unassuming character, a woman of few words. She displays no wish for attention or admiration.
Getting an interview with her proved to be a mammoth task and were it not for the directive from her father for her to attend to our enquiries, we would have definitely left her homestead empty-handed.
When The Sunday Mail Society crew arrived, we found her sitting on a chair under a mango tree, with her tools of the trade neatly placed on a chair. A horn and small bayonet and beads were among the items.
Her homestead was filled to the brim with people seeking her services.
“How can I help you?” she bellowed as soon as we were directed to sit on a bench, facing her.
After explaining our mission, she remained tense and somewhat uninterested.
“I do not trust strangers. I am still under the tutelage of my father. He forbade me from divulging family secrets,” she said.
After further probing, she opened up a bit but was too cautious and chose her words carefully.
“People come to me with various problems. Some will be troubled by avenging spirits whilst others are barren. What I can say is that more are coming,” the 50-year-old said.
She could not be further drawn into divulging much of her work.
“I was sworn into secrecy and cannot tell you much. The increasing number of people that are coming here means that they are being helped. I let my work do the talking,” she said, showing no signs of relenting.
On the Mozambican side of the border, she is commonly known as “Owen”.
Basing on the number of people that were at her homestead, “Owen”, like her father, is set to reach the zenith of this dark craft.