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Foetus vanishes from dead woman’s womb

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In a suspected case of witchcraft, a foetus was found missing from the womb of a 22-year-old Mutorashanga woman who died under mysterious circumstances while seven months pregnant.

Her death has triggered clashes between cultural practices and the law after burial rituals of removing the foetus before burial revealed that there was nothing in the womb.

Tesire Bonomani of Tafara 3 Village died on September 17 after a sudden illness and in line with her family’s cultural beliefs, the foetus was supposed to be removed and buried separately.

Those hired to remove the foetus are said to have found nothing and the shocked family proceeded with the burial. Police in Mutorashanga detained the people who took part in the ritual before releasing them as investigations continue.

People interviewed in the mining town said the incident has left the community shell-shocked.

"Firstly, the woman died in controversial circumstances, then there are reports that when they tried to remove the foetus, they found nothing," a resident said.

A visit this week to the bereaved family also failed to break the secrecy shrouding the woman’s burial.

A woman identified by neighbours as Tesire’s mother later turned out to be the guardian. She said she was a younger sister to the deceased’s mother.

She, however, professed ignorance about what happened.

The woman also confirmed that Tesire had died suddenly after complaining of a severe headache, but said she was not aware of the rumours circulating in the area.

According to the Chewa tradition, the neighbours said, women are not allowed to go to the burial site and only men perform the rituals.

However, some people interviewed said on the burial day, the family hired a man from the area who is the leader of a Nyau dancing group to perform the "operation".

But the "operation" was unsuccessful as no foetus was found and the burial proceeded.

Mashonaland West police spokesperson Inspector Denford Maingire yesterday confirmed that police had received such a report.

"On September 21, we received reports of Tesire’s death and that the family had hired a family friend identified as Chorus Saurosi to remove the foetus, but he failed.

"When our officers got wind of the rumour, they launched an investigation and the family members including the woman’s father, Lembani Bonomani, were taken to the police station for questioning," he said.

Insp Maingire said Bonomani explained to the police that it was their culture to remove the foetus and bury it separately from the mother.

"Investigations are, however, continuing to see if a criminal offence was committed," he said.

However, traditionalists have condemned attempts by the family to remove the foetus.Zinatha president Professor Gordon Chavhunduka yesterday said such rituals were taboo in Shona culture.

"The foetus should be buried together with the mother. Why should it be removed? It’s unheard of in our culture," he said.


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