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Mermaids for hire? Fake healer’s scam is all wet

/ Source: The Associated Press

A bogus traditional healer who persuaded a businesswoman to hire “mermaids” and accommodate them in a hotel to help find a stolen car was convicted of theft by false pretenses, court officials said.

Harare magistrate Sandra Nhau found Edina Chizema guilty of swindling a businesswoman of her savings with promises that mermaids would help recover the luxury car and solve the woman’s unspecified “personal problems.”

Prosecutors said Chizema persuaded Margaret Mapfumo in 2004 to pay 200 million Zimbabwe dollars (then worth about $30,000) to hire mermaids, feed and accommodate them in a Harare hotel, buy power generators for a floodlit lakeside ceremony and invoke ancestral spirits to find the car.

At a hearing Monday, the magistrate said Chizema, who claimed to be a spirit medium, was not a credible witness and the “idiosyncrasies” of her not guilty plea weren’t recognized in law.

Chizema will be sentenced to imprisonment or a fine at a hearing later, court officials said.

Tribal superstition is deeply entrenched in Zimbabwe, and prominent figures and even leading politicians have often been the victims of such scams.