Saturday, 23 October 2021


The end was within a trample or gore as he hung precariously on one of the elephant’s tusks after being missed by the initial strike.

He realised that his head and neck were now firmly sandwiched between the trunk and tusk.

Each trumpeting by the elephant amplified imminent death for Shepherd Bakasa and attracted a corresponding shriek from an elephant herd, presumably breeding, that was nearby.

Imagine the trumpet that can be heard from about 3km away being repeatedly sounded from the source.

It is disorienting! It is not every day that one has an encounter with an elephant and live to tell the story.

For Bakasa, his walk home from a fishing expedition in Lake Kariba with his brother and two colleagues was abruptly interrupted about 600 metres from his home on a piece of land demarcated for Kasese Housing Project.

An elephant came charging from the bush in their direction.

The elephant is said to have been agitated by being pelted with stones by young boys from the Nyamhunga 2 neighbourhood.

It sent them scurrying in different directions.

The elephant singled out Bakasa who ran for about 30 metres before he was tripped by a stick and fell face down.

One of them was lucky after the elephant passed by where he had fallen out of the radar, literally, as its eyes were fixated on Bakasa who was running.

In raising his head to check the position of his pursuer, Bakasa found the looming figure of the elephant over him.

“It is at this stage that I realised that the situation would not end well for me, as with most other people who have been attacked before, without divine intervention,” cautiously narrated Bakasa, who has hardly bated an eyelid since the incident on October 13, 2021.

It knelt and he knew what was coming.

It was positioning itself to bludgeon him with its tusk.

“At some point our eyes interlocked and I could discern that it was about to strike and I moved just in time to have its tusk brush my chest and tear my T-shirt.

“As it zoomed past me, I grabbed the tusk. I cannot say I was clever or anything but it was just instinctive action,” said Bakasa.

It lifted its head with him hanging on to the tusk.

At that point, said Bakasa, he had to suspend his legs and be as far away from the ground as possible.

It was about to trample him, to end his life the way many have lost their lives.

Indeed, the elephant trampled the ground several times while Bakasa maintained his grip on the tusk while dangling in the air.

Another trumpet!

It loosened its grip and he dropped to the ground before it retreated for about five metres.

“We were now face to face, with me in a kneeling position while the elephant stood about five metres from where I was. All this while it was sizing me.

“As it approached, I started shouting Jesu, Jesu Mwanakomana, Jesu weNazareth and it abruptly stopped. The elephant moved in a semi-circle around me and I kept shouting while it was also trumpeting,” he said.

Up to this day, said Bakasa, he is amazed at how the elephant stopped in its tracks each time he shouted Jesu and kept praying.

It started dispersing sand and dust at him.

After a while, it started moving backwards again until it stood about 20 metres from where he was.

“Never did I at any time feel scared during the ordeal but every move I made I believe was guided by God. I cannot explain it any other way. My assertion is reinforced by the reaction I saw from the elephant whenever I called out the name of Jesus,” he said.

With the elephant about 35 metres away from him, the now jelly-kneed Bakasa could not rise up and run.

Instead, he crawled on all fours in the opposite direction for about 20 metres.

Meanwhile, his brother Caution had a panoramic view of the incident after running into a nearby hill.

“I saw everything that was happening to my brother. I could hear him shouting Jeso, Jeso from the hill I took refuge in about 30 metres away. I did not however, see how he left the scene,”

Caution’s heart sank when he finally gathered the nerve to descend from the hill and see what had happened to his brother.

“I got to the point where the elephant was attacking him and he was not there.

“I immediately thought he had died. After a while I called his wife’s number and she panicked wanting to know what had happened to her husband,” said his brother Caution.

Meanwhile, the now ruffled wife was relieved to see her husband arriving home with a bloodied and torn shirt.

“It was a relief to see him after the phone call from his brother clearly indicating that something was wrong,” said the wife.

The young brother went home bearing “bad news” but was relieved and presently surprised to see his brother alive.

The elephant, he said, came back to the scene after a few minutes.

The Herald visited Bakasa at his house in Kariba’s Nyamhunga 2 suburb where he is recovering from the scratches on his neck and chest.

Physical scars he sustained do not compare to the emotional trauma that is evident when one talks to him.

“I have hardly slept since the incident because the vision of what happened plays out continuously. It seems so fresh that it does not allow me to sleep,” said Bakasa.

The incident is one of the never ending cases of human and wildlife conflict which have seen many people being killed or maimed in areas bound by national parks and conservancies across the country.

Zimbabwe Parks and Wildlife Management Authority (Zimparks) spokesperson Mr Tinashe Farawo attributed human and wildlife conflict to above capacity animal populations.

“We have similar problems in Hwange, Mbire, Kariba, Hurungwe and Masvingo among others. In fact, these problems will persist as long as elephant populations remain this high. Our animal population is higher that we can carry at the moment,” he said.

The country, like others in the region including Botswana and Zambia were lobbying for a review of the laws governing the management of the elephants.

The Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) which regulates the movement of elephants in Africa and Asia for commercial and non-commercial purposes has maintained a tight rein on the trade in elephants and ivory.

This follows a decline in the population of elephant population in Africa and Asia since the 1990s primarily due to poaching for ivory.

However, Zimbabwe, just like other countries with robust conservation systems have borne the brunt of a ballooning elephant population and stockpile of ivory igniting conflict with humans as habitats shrink.

More than 50 people have died from animal attacks so far this year, underscoring the magnitude of the dangers posed by animals to humans.

Hardly a week passes without a person being attacked by animals including crocodiles.

Barely two week ago, a tourist was trampled by an elephant in Victoria Falls while a 71-year-old was trampled to death by an elephant while on an unguided tour of Mana Pools.

For Bakasa, the scars will heal but the trauma will linger until the passage of time erases the footprint of the incident or professional assistance comes to his rescue.

Meanwhile, the marks on the ground where the encounter took place will fade with the passage of time until another encounter. Herald


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