Mermaids have been hounding workers away from the two planned new reservoirs in Zimbabwe, according to the country's Water Resources Minister.
Samuel Sipepa Nkomo told a Zimbabwean parliamentary committee that essential work on the planned reservoirs has been stopped as terrified workers are refusing to return to the sites, near the towns of Gokwe and Mutare.
Minister Nkomo said the only way to solve the problem was to brew traditional beer and carry out any rites to appease the spirits, the Daily Mail reported. "All the officers I have sent have vowed not to go back there," Minister Nkomo was reported as saying in Zimbabwe's state-approved Herald newspaper.
The belief in mermaids and other mythical creatures is widespread in Zimbabwe where many people combine a Christian faith with traditional beliefs. Dating back centuries, many mermaid stories continue to make their rounds in Zimbabwe.
One tale says mermaids carry humans underwater, but if there is a public outcry their relatives might never see them again. But another tale suggests victims can return as spirit mediums if their disappearance is not mourned. The senior politician said that mermaids were also present in other reservoirs.
"We even hired whites thinking that our boys did not want to work but they also returned saying they would not return to work there again," he added. The two, long overdue reservoirs are considered essential if Zimbabwe is to provide adequate water to its population and to boost its agricultural production.
Local Government, Rural and Urban Development Minister Ignatius Chombo said the government wants to give the population the water it needs, but cannot do so until the rituals are performed and necessary repairs can be carried out.