Elders run for dear life as bees sting and kill sangoma during rain-making ritual at sacred shrine


A SPIRIT medium died after he was stung by a swarm of bees at a shrine in Tsholotsho where rain-makers, popularly known as ihosana, had gathered for some traditional rituals.

Mr Milton Tshuma (80) of Mpucuko Village, Tshayile Line under Chief Matupula, was rushed to hospital after being stung by the bees and died at Tsholotsho district hospital the following day.

The incident happened last week and Mr Tshuma was buried on Monday. The shrine is referred to as little Njelele because it is believed to have a link with the main Njelele Shrine in Matopo, Matabeleland South province.

It is located a stone’s throw from Chief Matupula’s homestead. The Chronicle was told that a group of ihosana and some elders visited the shrine last week to perform some rainmaking rituals (umtolo) when they were attacked by the bees.

The shrine has a small hut located at the centre and is surrounded by big trees. Two of the trees have cavities where swarms of bees called inyosi zelinda, have stayed for many years.

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The shrine is sacred and no unauthorised people are allowed in as it is used for traditional ceremonies and rituals.

On the fateful day, Mr Tshuma was attacked by a swarm of bees when he entered the shrine.

The deceased’s young brother Mr Morgan Masaka Tshuma who is headman for Tshayile Line confirmed the incident. He said elders will gather on Sunday to select emissaries to Njelele Shrine in Matopo to consult spirits.

“They were supposed to have an umtolo (ceremony) at the shrine when he was stung by inyosi zelinda. The shrine is a sacred place and only ihosana are allowed to enter,” said Mr Tshuma.

He said when his late brother arrived at the shrine, he was told by the other elders who had arrived before him that they had been stung by the bees when they entered the shrine. Mr Tshuma said the elders then asked his late brother to enter the shrine and appease the spirits.

“When he entered the shrine intending to appease the spirits, he was also attacked by the bees and the other elders ran away instead of rescuing him,” said Mr Tshuma.

He said this was the first time the bees had stung people hence the community fears the shrine may have been defiled.

“This is something new and shocking. Spirit mediums are set to meet on Sunday to deliberate on the issue and select people who will visit the main Njelele Shrine to consult because this could be a sign that something bad has happened,” said Mr Tshuma. Tsholotsho Rural District ward 6 Councillor Mthetho Sikhosana narrated what happened.

“There was supposed to be a traditional ceremony and the deceased was one of the elders who were supposed to consult spirits. Some elders got there before him and opened the shrine.

They went in and bees stung them and they fled. They waited for him to arrive and the confessed to entering the shrine without permission resulting in them being stung by the bees. They pleaded with him to appease the spirits on their behalf,” said Clr Sikhosana.

He said the now deceased entered the shrine and while inside, a swarm of bees attacked him and the other elders ran away instead of rescuing him.

Clr Sikhosana said Mr Tshuma was later rescued by his family members who rushed to the shrine after being told of the incident.

They wore rags and some mosquito nets to avoid being stung and they rushed him to Jimila Clinic before he was transferred to Tsholotsho District Hospital where he died the following day. A community elder, Ms Jane Ncube confirmed that a meeting will be held on Sunday.

“We are shocked as a community because this is the first time this has happened. We wish to get answers so that the shrine is cleansed. We are meeting on Sunday to select a delegation that will go and consult the spirits at Njelele Shrine,” she said.

— Chronicle

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