Mermaids and mermen are considered by some to be the ultimate “wet dream,” but a woman in Zimbabwe might disagree. She claims three mermaids kidnapped her while she was bathing in a river and held her captive for two weeks until a local cleric helped her family to free her. Is this a case of The Little Mermaid meets Beetlejuice?
“I and my sister Melody had visited our uncle and we decided to take a bath in the river. Melody saw a fish and we decided to try and catch. In trying to do so, an unexpected whirlwind whisked me away and took me into a deep cave underneath the water where I found three ladies who had half human and half fish bodies.”
Thus begins the strange tale of Claris Chuma, who told the Zimbabwe News Network of her adventures in Aquaman-land. The 34-year-old resident of the Zenda village in the Buhera District in eastern Zimbabwe was bathing in the nearby Sebakwe (Zibagwe) River when the alleged aquatic abduction occurred. Zibagwe means “a very large maize plant or cob” and got the name after locals visited a river camp abandoned by European settlers who left a very large maize plant with big cobs in the camp urinal, where they left it for long enough that the river was eventually named after it. Sebakwe is not known to be contaminated with mermaids – in fact, its purity makes it the local source for drinking water.
“Claris went missing and but I could not believe she was taken by a mermaids. I told myself she had run away somewhere. We went to churches to seek for help, some churches claimed two beasts for us to find our daughter and we were willing to pay.”
Back to the story. Claris’ aunt Angeline Nyamanda expressed her skepticism to the Zimbabwe Mail and revealed that unscrupulous local church members offered to help find her niece for a finder’s fee of two cows. In the meantime, Claris was getting worried.
“I survived for the two weeks eating raw fish and the ladies threatened to kill me I refused to eat them so I had no option but to listen to their orders.”
In this religious and extremely superstitious country, Claris’ family continued to search for help from more honest religious leaders, not believing she had run away. They eventually encountered prophet Madzibaba Edborn, a follower of Johane Masowe (John of the Wilderness), an itinerate southern African preacher who founded several churches. Edborn agreed to help for free, not knowing he would soon be dealing with mermaids.
“The prophet, church members and the family prayed at the river. After prayers the water was dark and cycling. The prophet instructed the family to look in the water and saw Claris lying in a cave under the water.”
According to the Zimbabwe Mail, Edborn told the family to sing while spitting on the woman’s body until she regained consciousness. As incredulous as that seems, it apparently worked.
“The mermaids told me that I had to return home as some people were looking for me. They handed me a basket and an arrow with a lot of medicines and instructed me to heal people and return with gifts of money at the cave as thanksgiving. I was shocked to see people gathered around with my family present and my body was so powerless. The prophet then burnt the basket to ashes and I don’t know how to thank him for saving me.”
Well, a couple of cows would be nice, Claris.
While you may not believe in mermaids, plenty of Zimbabweans do. Those who feel they are killer monsters or demons – mermaids were blamed for two deaths in 2017 and stealing a woman’s teeth in 2016 – easily fall victim to fake mermaid removal scams. On the other hand, Justice Manyonga claims he was kidnapped and held by mermaids for two years but, instead of being tortured, they taught him how to become a healer before freeing him. He told ABC News (Australia) in 2012 that Claris was right not to refuse to eat the mermaids’ fish – cannibalistic as that may sound.
"On the first day you are taken into the water, you are given millet or sorghum meal and two silver fish. The fish will be rotten but you are told to eat them. If you show any sign of disgust, the mermaids won't be happy with your ancestors and you could be killed."
As expected, there are no videos or photos of Claris being found in the underwater cave nor of the basket of mysterious medicines. Just the tale of a strange mermaid abduction in the superstitious country of Zimbabwe.