Shocking reports of Zimbabwean citizens cutting off their toes and selling them for money have gone viral in some countries in Africa, including Nigeria where popular media blogs are reporting the story.
According to the story, poor Zimbabweans are cutting off their toes and selling them for as high as $20,000 to ritualists from South Africa and other locations. Some reports say that up to a whopping $40,000 can be offered for a big toe.
How true are the reports of Zimbabweans selling their toes for money?
While stories of people trading body parts for use in juju practice and other kinds of rituals are not uncommon in Africa, the DNB Stories’ Team has found reasons to believe that this particular story of Zimbabweans selling their toes might be false, or at least a little too exaggerated.
First, the stories started as a social media trend with people posting memes and funny tweets to create humour. On Twitter, some of the posts were posted with the hashtag #Chigunwe, which means “toes” in the local Zimbabwean language. Some media outlets clearly took the joke out of context and began reporting it as facts.
As of press time, none of Zimbabwe’s most reputable newspapers has carried the story. The BBC described the story as a “joke that missed the mark”, adding that their team believe some of the videos attached to the story, supposedly depicting people who have sold their toes or about to, are staged.
Body parts rituals in Africa
In Nigeria and many other African countries, a belief that human body parts can be used in a kind of witchcraft practice to bring riches is widely believed. The belief is called money rituals or “ogwu ego” in the local Nigerian Igbo language. The belief has led to the rise of markets for human body parts in some areas in the country. Horrifying reports of the police arresting people in possession of human parts (mostly head and genitals) are very common in Nigeria.