Business came to a halt along Lobenguala Street, Bulawayo, Zimbabwe when four vegetable and fruits vendors exchanged kicks and blows — and were later hospitalised — over water used to wash corpses.
Reportedly, the women always contribute money, which they use to clandestinely buy the water.
It is believed that the vendors use the water to wash fruits and vegetables for superstitious reasons. But on this day, two of them shortchanged the others and used the water without sharing.
The four mama mbogas, Dumisani Sibanda, Thabiso Tshuma, Melody Mloyi and Monica Mlilo, fought a vicious battle, after Mlilo accused one of them of stealing and using the corpse water that was collectively procured from Kelvin Industrial Funeral home, local media reported.
The development brings the total number of named-and-shamed corpse water thieves to nineteen after fifteen others were arrested in separate incidents last year.
The water, according to other vendors who reportedly refused to be identified, is used to attract clients to buy their fruits and vegetables regularly and in big quantities.
They sprinkle the water used by undertakers when bathing the deceased at the funeral parlour.
“If you buy fruits sprinkled with corpse water, you automatically become a permanent consumer, as this will force your heart and mind to look for me,” a vendor, only identified by others as Nanomsa, who plies her trade along Bulawayo’s Lobengula Street, told local journalists.
Tshuma, one of the ladies, refused to comment on the cause of the fight that brought business to a standstill along the street, but she became arrogant and threatened journalists with assault by her bouncer boy-friend who works at a Bulawayo night club.
But Mloyi opened up and revealed their source of corpse water in anger.
“We contributed $70 (Sh6,580) to buy corpse water from the funeral home for business, but Monica and
Thabiso opted to steal the magical water for their use, forgetting others who contributed,” she shouted on top of her voice.
Last year, local reports indicate, 15 vendors were reprimanded for public fighting over the strange and rare commodity, and they were handed a final warning by their Association for the offence of using corpse water to lure clients.
When reached for comment, the funeral home manager, Mr Killian Nkomo, dismissed the allegations , terming them malicious.
“This is malicious and total fabrication. However, we will investigate the issue, with our undertakers, as this is not for the first time to hear such accusations from vendors and the public.”
But speaking to local media, the Vendors and Informal Traders Association National President, Edward Manning, confirmed the existence of the deals between vendors and funeral house undertakers.
“This has been happening, and we warned our members against using dirty charms on innocent and unsuspecting clients as this is a health hazard,” he said.
He added: “The four fought over corpse water and we have issued them with a final warning, this time we are going to chase them away from Lobengula Street for their evil doings,” said Manning who appeared visibly angry.
So next time you are in Zimbabwe, think twice before you order for ugali-sukuma or buy fruits along Lobengula Street.