By Ngoni Shumba
Chinhoyi’s dark caves belly a dark otherworldly secret. They are a portal to some mystic spiritual underworld.
Unlike most heritage sites this dark tapestry of grottos is still alive. And a largely contested sacred space.
Unless it has as many passageways to different spiritual realms as the groups that claim the caves suggest then the various groupings have the same spiritual source.
Traditional healers, spirit mediums, apostolic sects and Pentecostal Christian prophets frequent this place in clear testimony that they are used as an access point to another world – its caves and caverns are always littered with different religious artefacts from clay pots, religious clothes and devious strange objects.
These appear and disappear as the Zimbabwe National Parks and Wildlife (Zimparks) which manages the national heritage site has a policy of non-interference by not removing anything they see except litter.
They however also do not allow people to bring items into the place.
“We don’t allow anyone to bring anything into the caves or take anything away and all the things which we see and the rituals that go on in them are unsanctioned and may be done under the guise of tours as we don’t accompany everyone who going in,” Mwera an official at the site said.
The most frequent visitor to the dark caves is a self-proclaimed Chaminuka spirit medium who sometimes spends up to two weeks without leaving even for fresh air.
“He has been cleared to access the caves but we once arrested him after he came and tried to force entry without the requisite clearance,” he said.
Such traditionalists often come with government clearance to perform their rituals.
A few years ago some traditionalists herded four cattle and four goats down a steep incline into the caves for the night and released them the next day for whoever to take them in one of the most bizarre incidents.
“One of the cattle turn back and they allowed it saying there was no need to force any of the cattle but the next morning they released the animals for whoever wanted to take them as they were done with them,” Mwera said.
The Zimparks official said he has also seen some popular Pentecostal Christian leaders coming to spend nights in the dark caves.
When the MaDzimbahwe Explorer crew toured the caves they were lined with yellow clothes which according to the official is not a colour commonly associated with either the white garment church or tradition.
“We’re sure that after some time this will disappear as well,” Mwera said during the tour.
He said they got a hint of what actually happens after a certain family came intending to collect a clay pot that which they said they had been directed to collect by a traditional healer for the cure of their sick daughter.
“We couldn’t allow them to take it but it disappeared after several days. They probably sneaked in and took it so maybe it’s these traditional healers who bring these things and then send their patients to collect,” he said.