Zimbabwe faces economic difficulties from superstitious population: Mermaids hinder work on new reservoirs

‘Mermaids’ scare off workers

A government minister in Zimbabwe says work has stopped on new reservoirs because workers have been scared off by mermaids, a report has said.

Minister of Water Resources Samuel Sipepa Nkomo reportedly told a parliamentary committee that terrified workers were refusing to return to the sites.

“All the officers I have sent have vowed not to go back there,” Zimbabwe’s state-approved Herald newspaper quoted him as saying.

The belief in mermaids and other mythical creatures is widespread in the country, where many people combine a Christian faith with traditional beliefs.

Tip: Fortean Times

Do you get the impression that something is missing from this story, perhaps about working conditions or something not supernatural? Read on.

Apparently this situation is taken very seriously.
‘Mermaid’ Sightings in Zimbabwe Spark Debate Over Traditional Beliefs

Water Resources Minister Sam Sipepa Nkomo told a senate committee that traditional chiefs will perform rituals to exorcise mermaids believed to inhabit reservoirs where workers are now afraid to tread.

According to the minister, workers report that people have disappeared mysteriously while some have been chased away by the legendary creatures.

Traditional leader chief Edison Chihota of Mashonaland East said there is no dispute about the existence of mermaids.

“As a custodian of the traditional I have no doubt,” chief Chihota said. “For anyone to dispute this is also disputing him or herself.”

Cultural activist Prince Peter Zwide Khumalo, a descendant of King Lobengula, said mermaids play a central role in spiritual beliefs and they are thought to mainly inhabit the largest dams, such as Lake Kariba.

Nkomo offered another theory: He suggested that unusual water pressures in the reservoirs could be creating hazardous currents and perhaps illusions.

“In Mutare what I think is happening is that there must be a sanction underneath there which creates a hole and the water will actually be swirling violently that if you fell in you will not come out, even if you had an oxygen mask.”

The article sheds some light on the superstitious culture (including belief in witchcraft) that currently exists in Zimbabwe with some quotes that suggest the traditional views hinder development. Also curious is the existence of dangerous conditions around the dam, hazardous work that needs to be performed, and the interpretation of the locals as to what is going in there – problems that need to be repaired versus mythical creatures harassing workers. What exists is actually a complex economic and cultural situation – tough to do a fast fix on that.

  1 comment for “Zimbabwe faces economic difficulties from superstitious population: Mermaids hinder work on new reservoirs

  1. Massachusetts
    February 12, 2012 at 3:53 PM

    Yes, are the traditional beliefs hindering development, or hindering development from hurting workers? An interesting set of questions.

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