A 13-year-old girl who “died and resurrected” three days later, and then “died again” 10 hours afterwards. Ashel Abigal Zananda’s mysterious last moments continue to provide material for animated discourse in her home area of Nembudziya in Gokwe.

“Ashel was jovial and everyone around here knew her for her good sense of humour. Whenever she was not around, one could sense something was amiss. She simply loved laughing and making others laugh, too,” says her father, Mr Esau Zananda.

Always a bubbly character, she suddenly developed an unknown ailment in April 2015 and died on June 8, 2015. Her family was plunged into mourning, questioning fate why such a young life had been lost.

“The joy she brought was replaced by agony, her life extinguished like a candle in the wind.”

But mourners were stunned when she “resurrected” three days later as they prepared to bury her.

She ate porridge and drank water – but did not say a word. Ten hours later, she was dead again.

Numerous questions are being asked as the community tries to wrap its mind around what happened.

What caused Ashel’s death? How did she come back to life? What role did Chipo Chinhondo play in all this? Could a second post-mortem have solved the mystery? Was she buried alive?

Ashel’s family believes their daughter may have been a victim of witchcraft.

Mr Zananda told The Sunday Mail, “My daughter was sick for about two months, often complaining of migraines. Doctors ran tests, but the results did not show the cause of these headaches.

“They then gave her pills, which seemed not to work as her condition worsened. I immediately turned to traditional healers who deduced that her problem was being caused by goblins from some of our family members.”

Mr Zananda’s theory gained credence among relatives after Ashel bade them to pray continually as she had visions of people trying to kill her.

“My daughter did not die once or twice, but several times. On one occasion when she was suffering from those migraines, she lost consciousness. We thought she had died as she did not have a pulse and was not breathing, remaining in that state for some minutes. She later regained consciousness, though.”

Ashel was at her aunt’s home when she “died” the first time, and her father was hardly moved, thinking she would once again regain consciousness.

He only began making funeral arrangements after doctors and police certified her dead.

There was intrigue when their neighbour and Apostolic sect member Ms Chipo Chinhondo showed up at the funeral wake.

Mr Zananda says, “As soon as she arrived, Chipo Chinhondo told us my daughter was still alive, a revelation she said was from the Holy Spirit. She then prayed for Ashel and our daugther came back to life!”

Astonishment was evident among mourners, some of whom quickly got local traditional leaders and police to attend the scene.

It is said police officers encouraged the family to take Ashel to hospital promptly.

The traditional leaders, on the other hand, figured it prudent for their advisors to determine what precipitated this death and resurrection.

Mr Zananda took his daughter to hospital after she had been fed porridge.

Ms Chinhondo declined commenting when The Sunday Mail caught up with her: “I am not allowed to talk to anyone without church permission. I am happy at my church and don’t want to risk my place there.”

Midlands police spokesperson Inspector Joel Goko says, “The incident did occur. I am not at liberty to divulge further information at the moment save to say this did happen and that no further information has been gathered since.”

Ashel died again while awaiting attention at the hospital.

This time, the Zananda family requested to bury her after failing to transport the corpse to Bulawayo for post-mortem.

Since there was no post-mortem, another theory has emerged; that she could have been epileptic and was buried alive.

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ZIMENE MUMAKONDA

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