Drama and chaos as 77-year-old woman dies and rises thrice before actual death. Visualise the superstition, terror and chaos. This has been a true-life experience for Sinotsi villagers in Bulilima’s Ward 8 in Matabeleland South. Imagine being at a funeral wake and the corpsesuddenly comes back to life. Villagers have seen Ms Thembeni Moyo (77) “resurrecting” not once, not twice but three times in two days. Moyo, died her final death on March 9 and was buried last Friday.
The family went against rural convention, under which the body is buried within two days. They kept a vigil for five days to ensure Moyo was really dead.
Some medical studies suggest Moyo could have been suffering from the Lazarus syndrome, deriving from a biblical scenario where Lazarus was raised from the dead by Christ after four days.
Villagers told Chronicle Moyo had become a legend in the area. “We all expected her to rise again but alas, this time she didn’t,” said Mr Bongani Ncube (85). In most rural areas, if a person has not died in hospital, where a medical doctor certifies death, it is elders who use experience gained over years to declare someone dead. Medically, a person is pronounced dead when vital signs like, heartbeat, pulse and brain activity are no longer present. Moyo, according to family members, first died in February this year. Her younger sister Mrs Thandi Sebele (60) said competent elders declared Moyo dead then and everyone gathered for burial.
“Before her first death, her body became swollen and she started having breathing difficulties. Later, she stopped breathing altogether. She had no pulse and was unresponsive to all kinds of stimuli. Neighbours gathered to pay their last respects,” said Mrs Sebele.
“I was in the room where the body lay with two other neighbours when we saw my dead sister stirring. We could not believe our eyes and at first, we thought it was the light. Then we saw her struggling to move her body. We were shocked and scared out of our wits. We crowded in one corner until she finally opened her eyes,” said Mrs Sebele.
She said there was widespread panic when other mourners heard their neighbour had risen from the dead. The whole village, Mrs Sebele said, was abuzz with the story of her resurrected sister and people gave opinions on what could have transpired.
“Everyone was talking. everyone including myself didn’t understand what had happened. People departed for their homes and my sister died again a few hours later. We did not rush to notify people this time around. But after some hours when her body had turned cold, we eventually told them,” she said.
She said the family spent a night in grief and when it was time for burial early in the morning, she found her sister alive.
“This time around I didn’t feel any relief or happiness. I was drained of emotion. I had a million thoughts. I was now scared of her but there was nothing I could do when everyone started drifting away, I could not turn my back on her,” said Mrs Sebele.
Once again, she said, people left for their homes. “We did not take her to hospital because we were constantly referred to Bulawayo and we did not have money for that,” said Mrs Sebele.
She said after three days her sister became pale as she could not eat anything. Around 11am in the morning she had no pulse, was not breathing and could not move. “We kept it confidential this time around and she woke up the next day around 5am she was up again,” she narrated with tears streaming down her eyes.
Mrs Sebele said her family are not religious people but she was ready to invite a pastor to pray for her sister since she also could not understand what was going on. “Just when I was planning to invite a pastor, she lost her pulse and suddenly became cold. This time I was certain she was gone for good.
She had left us. Neighbours gathered for her burial. She died on a Monday but we delayed her burial to Friday,” she said in a breaking voice. Matabeleland South Provincial Medical director Dr Rudo Chikodzore said she could not comment because Moyo had not been certified dead at a medical facility.
“Medically we check the heartbeat, check if the person is breathing and if the pupils are dilated and fixed. We do not know if that was done,” she said. However, community members insisted Moyo died and came back to life.
Mr Isaac Ncube from the same village said such scenarios are caused by the herbs that the older generation used to take in order to strengthen themselves or prevent certain things from happening.
“We, old people have a lot of traditional practices through which we strengthen our bodies. we take a lot of herbs that are effective in curbing troubles brought about by life. A scenario where a person dies and rises again resembles the characteristics of a python. Long back when a person was on the verge of death, he/she was given a concoction with a python skin to drink that would ensure a longer life.
The person would then die multiple times before their actual death like a python. To cure it the person would be made to drink the same concoction after one or two days the person would finally rest,” said Mr Ncube. Moyo is survived by a daughter who lives in South Africa with her three children.
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