Zim learns: No diesel from a stone
A Zimbabwean spirit medium has been jailed for more than three years for bamboozling President Robert Mugabe's powerful politburo into believing she could conjure diesel fuel from a rock.
According to reports at the time, Nomatter Tagarira assembled the country's ministers of national intelligence, police and defence and other top-ranking security officials in 2007 for a demonstration of her powers.
At a stroke on a rock, an assistant hidden in bushes above the group would open a tap to a secret fuel bowser and send the fuel gushing down the rock.
The gullible aides believed she had the answer to the country's crippling fuel shortages then and gave her 1.7 million British pounds, a farm, an armed guard, food and, on one occasion, a 50-vehicle convoy, to carry out her rituals.
On Wednesday, magistrate Ignatius Mugova sentenced her to 39 months in jail for defrauding the government and "supplying false information" to government officials, the independent News Day paper reported.
"The state channeled immense resources towards the "diesel project"," he said. "Many vehicles and at times helicopters were used in a wild goose chase" to secure large volumes of the "magic" fuel, he said.
"Such a prank cannot be condoned in this court," he added.
He also disclosed that Tobaiwa Mudede, the registrar-general in charge of the issue of all personal documentation, had supplied Tagarira with 125 litres of diesel fuel to use in her performances.
After the administration woke up to the fact they had been hoaxed Mudede had hidden the medium from the police, the court heart.
However, no action is known to have been taken against Mudede, who
has been in charge of managing elections for most of the last 30 years, including a decade of disputed polls.
Photographs taken at the scene in 2007 and published Thursday in News Day showed a group of security ministers gasping in delighted amazement as the woman known as "the diesel nganga" (Shona vernacular for spirit medium) gestured at a fountain of fuel.
Reports then said Mugabe dispatched a "task force" from his Zanu-PF party to investigate Tagarira's claims. Photographs showed the security officials paying homage to her and taking off their shoes at her command to show respect.
They reported back that she was indeed able to produce fuel out of a granite rock but Mugabe expressed doubts and sent a second mission. That group poured cold water on her purported powers, and she went on the run.