Witchcraft makes one of the fundamental aspects of a strong belief system in Zimbabwe such that it is regarded as a reality despite there being no evidence for it. This phenomenon could have easily lost weight through free inquiry since it is not backed by confirmed evidence. Hearsay and speculation are its only basis. Nevertheless, it remains a popular belief because the mainstream media authenticates traditional self-proclaimed cults like the Tsikamutanda or dubious prophets who continue to make unsubstantiated claims about witchcraft. Witchcraft could be a harmless myth, but the problem comes when actual people are associated with this horrific belief. Real people are victimised over a myth that has been popularised by the media.
A good case in point is that of Mrs. Magada, a local businesswoman in Mutare, Zimbabwe. The state-owned Manica Post published stories on speculations about her sacrificing her relatives and keeping goblins for three consecutive years. This defiled her character and caused untold suffering and victimisation of her family. While Mrs. Magada was wealthy enough to move from Zimbabwe, a lot of victims are too impoverished to move and have no choice but to stay and feel the wrath of the community’s paranoia.
Mr. Mataruka from the International Institute for Development Facilitation (iidfzimbabwe.org) has revealed that 45% of mainstream media coverage in Zimbabwe is on witchcraft. It becomes a real threat for most people when the mainstream media reinforces this belief; if they talk about it so often, then it has to be true. A lot of innocent people, mostly vulnerable women, end up being the real victims of these fake stories.
The International Institute for Development Facilitation seeks to facilitate a dialogue with various media houses sensitising them about the dangers of reporting on these sensitive topics as though objectively. As much as the media seeks marketing by letting out catchy headlines on paranormal phenomena, it is important to seriously consider the effects of such journalism. IIDF will also be working with its Young Humanist Forums to educate communities about the how this phenomenon is affecting the well-being of the community.