Cannabis is Illegal in Zimbabwe, But Healers Use It to Cast Out Spirits, Cure Patients

Ndlovu, a traditional healer who asked that only his last name be used, says cannabis is useful for casting out evil spirits and to heal people with mental challenges. Fortune Moyo, GPJ Zimbabwe

Even government officials acknowledge that sectors of Zimbabwean society use cannabis, even though it’s illegal in any form. Healers say they use “dagga,” as its commonly known, to help people.

BULAWAYO, ZIMBABWE — Cannabis is technically illegal for any type of use here, but it’s common knowledge that traditional healers often prescribe it.

“I use cannabis for medicinal purposes, to heal people with mental challenges,” says Ndlovu, a healer who asked that only his last name be used because of his admission to illegal activity. “I also use cannabis to cast away evil spirits that bother people or hover around their homes.”

Cannabis, locally known as Indian hemp, “mbanje” or “dagga,” is classified in Zimbabwe as a dangerous drug. Anyone caught producing, dealing or otherwise supplying a dangerous drug can face prison time. Still, the plant, in various forms, is smuggled into and through Zimbabwe at high rates.

I use cannabis for medicinal purposes, to heal people with mental challenges.

David Parirenyatwa, Zimbabwe’s minister of health and child care, says that cannabis isn’t sanctioned for medicinal or recreational use in Zimbabwe. But in a nod to a common Zimbabwean attitude of tacit acknowledgment of the drug’s prevalence, Parirenyatwa notes that the BaTonga people who live in Zimbabwe’s western Binga district use cannabis both culturally and medicinally.

Earnest Tekere, the chairman for the Zimbabwe National Traditional Healers’ Association for the Matabeleland region, says that not every traditional healer uses cannabis, but that some ancestral spirits, when they possess people, ask to smoke some.

“However, after the trance, when the individual is now normal, they do not smoke the cannabis,” Tekere says.