Essential work on planned reservoirs in Zimbabwe has stopped because mermaids have been hounding workers away, according to the country’s Water Resources Minister.
Samuel Sipepa Nkomo told a Zimbabwean parliamentary committee that terrified workers are refusing to return to the sites, near the towns of Gokwe and Mutare.
Minister Nkomo said the only way to solve the problem was to brew traditional beer and carry out any rites to appease the spirits.
‘All the officers I have sent have vowed not to go back there’, Minister Nkomo was reported as saying in Zimbabwe’s state-approved Herald newspaper.
Mermaids are mythological water creatures with a female body twinned with the tail of a fish.
Opinion about the existence of mermaids varies throughout Zimbabwe – some people are skeptical, but some firmly believe that mermaids exist in Zimbabwe.
Dating back centuries, many mermaid stories continue to make their rounds in Zimbabwe.
One tale says mermaids carry humans underwater, but if there is a public outcry their relatives might never see them again.
But another tale suggests victims can return as spirit mediums if their disappearance is not mourned.
The senior politician said that mermaids were also present in other reservoirs.
‘We even hired whites thinking that our boys did not want to work but they also returned saying they would not return to work there again,’ he added.
The two, long overdue reservoirs are considered essential if Zimbabwe is provide adequate water to its population and to boost its agricultural production.
Having once been the ‘bread basket’ of Southern Africa, the country’s farms have been laid low by lack of faith in government policy.
From 2000, President Robert Mugabe expropriated some 4,000 white owned farms and gave them to politically connected blacks.
Partly as a result, agricultural production is this year forecast to be at its second lowest level since Zimbabwe achieved independence from Britain in 1980.
The belief in mermaids and other mythical creatures is widespread in the country, where many people combine a Christian faith with traditional beliefs.
Local Government, Rural and Urban Development Minister Ignatius Chombo said the government wants to give the population the water it needs, but cannot do so until the rituals are performed and necessary repairs can be carried out.
Three quarters of Zimbabwe’s population live on less than one US dollar a day.