By Sij Ncube
HARARE, June 22, 2015 – STUNG by the prevailing harsh economic environment some weary and desperate citizens are turning to faith, traditional healers and herbalists in search of solutions to their mounting financial woes, a development, analysts say mirrors the crude state of the sick economy.
In recent months newspapers have been awash with adverts of local and foreign individuals proclaiming to possess mystic powers of conjuring up various tricks to solve citizens’ financial problems, top among them being the facilitation of “Short Boys” or goblins that are said to dispense instant cash like Automated Teller Machines.
Stories have also been told of money-spitting snakes in and around Harare.
“The Herbalist with 100% Result,” read one advert flighted in a local tabloid. “Short Boys to Get Money Every day.”
Another read: “Strongest Doctor and Master in All Herbs. Solves all problems. Get money in Your Account in 20 minutes. Delete Loans, magic wallet, charms to Win Money Competition.”
Some of the self-styled herbalists claim to be coming from East Africa but have huge followings in neighbouring South Africa where some enterprising newspapers dedicate more than four pages a day for “herbalists’ features.”
Other such characters claim to solve marital problems, including bringing back long lost lovers “in two hours” while others dabble in solving manhood problems.
But social commentators view the proliferation of such herbalists and other so-called fortune tellers as conmen, fraudsters and opportunities bent on making a quick buck from long-suffering Zimbabweans grappling with a harsh economic climate, in a country where the unemployment rate is estimated at 90%.
Remember, a dying man or woman can cling to straw.
Opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai is on record as saying the country has been turned into a nation of vendors due to the increase in the number of hawkers in cities and major towns of Zimbabwe.
But there is a general consensus among citizens that if these herbalists had the natural prowess to magically produce hard-cash in a few minutes, they should rank as some of the richest people on earth yet they appeared poor.
In fact, others argue, they should be financial advisors to finance minister Patrick Chinamasa, who every month battle to raise money to pay civil servants and in November expect a 13th cheque in as promised by President Robert Mugabe despite the country being technically broke.
Some commentators have gone as far as challenging some of these herbalists to wave their magic wand and assist the government pay its foreign debts if indeed they had the powers to command goblins to “vomit” cash.
But be that as it may, Rodrick Fayayo, a social commentator, agrees that desperate times are driving citizens to seek desperate measures such as seeking perceived financial miracles from false prophets, traditional healers and herbalists.
“These are very trying times economically. People need to pay school fees, council rates, etc. but they have no source of income,” said Fayayo, adding that the spiritually weak will always fall.
An editor with a local independent daily newspapers, speaking strictly is not named as he is not allowed to comment in the press, said due to the tight liquidity crunch, media houses were hard-pressed to accept any advertisements despite such adverts being in violation of industry regulations.
“But am sure people are so desperate that they are tricked into trying this. We did a story surrounding those who advertise these things – but they were not really forthcoming in showing us the goblins,” he said.
“If these said goblins bring money, why don’t those who own and sell them just keep them and make more money for themselves because they are selling them for $300.”
Jacob Mafume, a political analyst who doubles up as the spokesperson for MDC Renewal, said the hardships Zimbabweans are facing under Mugabe’s administration have led people to conclude that nothing can be gotten on merit.
“People are looking for an advantage high and low …they have been hoodwinked into believing that they need miracles. The poverty in Zimbabwe is blinding, people cannot see a way out but through the supernatural,” said Mafume.