Matabeleland South Province has a number of sacred places with the most popular one being the Njelele rain making shrine in Matobo.

However, hidden in Umzingwane district is the mysterious and sacrosanct Diana Pools where the community shares tales of the existence of mermaids once upon a time.

The pools are also known as ‘Embizeni,’ which means a place of pots. 

The name is derived from the potholes that rain water has carved into the granite rocks over a lengthy period.

The pools, the granite hills and rock paintings used to attract scores of tourists to the place but to the local community, this area is sacred.

Diana Pools village head, Mr Peter Moyo said from the ancient times, the community has considered it a taboo to destroy the environment here as it is believed to anger the ‘gods.’

“From the time that I was a young boy, I have always known that we do not cut trees in this area. We view the pools as sacrosanct, even when the white people visit this area they would throw coins into the waters before they explore the site,” he said.

What is however interesting about the Diana Pools are tales about mermaids which used to reside in the water.

Community leaders said a white woman with the tail of a fish was once spotted emerging from the pool.

“We are also told that there was also a group of people who we went swimming in the shallow part of the waters when a mermaid grabbed their clothes which were left hanging by nearby trees before disappearing into the water,” said headman Moyo.

“Long back in the 1980s, a local woman claimed to have seen a mermaid with very long hair emerging from the deep waters early in the morning,” Mr Loken Ndlovu said.

In other parts of the country, stories of people being held captive by mermaids have been reported, with relatives of the victim often discouraged from crying for their loved ones as it is considered bad luck.

In 2012, work at Gokwe dam in the Midlands Province was suspended after workers refused to go to work because they claimed to have been terrorised by mermaids.

While some people may believe that stories of the existence of mermaids are just but a myth, a number of communities actually believe that these half-human half-fish creatures are found in some water bodies.