African sorcery: Flying wizards and magic aircraft…
Intriguing tales of supernatural events abound in Africa. And not all can be easily dismissed as being anecdotal due to the fact that there are often multiple witnesses to the events (mass hysteria could, or course, offer an explanation). Take the following story, which was reported in the Zambian press in spring 1997.
Angus Ngulabe died on April 7th of that year. But at around 2:00 am, on the night after his funeral, his widow, Joyce Mbewe, and members of her family, were woken by a howling gale and the dull thud of something hitting the thatched roof of their house in Barlastone Park, Lusaka. Whatever it was then rolled off the roof and hit the ground.
As the wind died down, the family heard the voice of a man asking the “mother of Banda” to let him in. The widow’s sister plucked up the courage to answer the door and allegedly found a “small humanoid creature whose features varied from a cat to an owl”.
The creature’s left foot was injured and dripped with blood. As the family watched, the creature grew and took the form of a man. He claimed to have been traveling on an aircraft and said that he had come to eat the flesh of his grandfather.
The police were summoned and took him away – suspecting that he was a wizard. He said his name was Kalasa Nswiba and that he was 70 years old. He had crash-landed because relatives of the man who had died in the area (Angus Ngulube) had fortified the place with strong Juju. As good Christians, Mr Ngulube’s family denied this, putting it down to the superior power of God.
The testimony of Nswiba (if that was his name) varied. He told the Times of Zambia that he had been “flying” with six other people in a “magic aircraft” across Zambia. But he told the police the aerial trip had been in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. He said he got the blood-caked wounds on his left ear and right foot from falling into a ditch.
The government started an investigation to see if the man really was in his village, as he said, the day before he allegedly crashed.
The Traditional Health Practitioners’ Association of Zambia said the man’s story could be true and called on the government to legalise witch-hunting. Police spokesman Beenwell Chimfwembe, a fair minded chief superintendent who has served on three United Nations peacekeeping operations, said an inquiry had been opened and the suspect would soon appear in court for professing knowledge of witchcraft, which was an offense under the Witchcraft Act.
In the end nothing proved conclusive and Nswiba – who had been pictured in the local papers in a loin cloth – was taken to a mental hospital for psychiatric evaluation. He probably would have been better advised to have claimed he’d been on a drinking binge and had no idea what had happened – such a fantastic tale was bound to lead the authorities to question his sanity.