In some African cultures, people believe that loved ones can be reincarnated into swarms of insects or lizards. So, when a man in South Africa approached a swarm of bees and began talking to them, it wasn’t out of the ordinary. Unfortunately, though, the interaction did not end genially, and the insects stung the man to death.
Nkosentsha Njimbana, 58, was at his Zalara home outside Qonce when the accident occurred. At the time, he noticed that the bees had gathered on his property and took it as a sign to perform a traditional ceremony.
Before he began the practices, Njimbana consulted a sangoma, a Zulu healer, to help him understand the task before him. According to Loyiso Nqevu, a traditional spokesperson for the community, typically, believers will bring items like soda, saucers of sugar and brandy.
“This is the welcoming ceremony. If you are a Xhosa person, you don’t run away and call municipal workers to remove the bees because bees are your visitors,” Nqevu told News24.
After the first offering, believers then have to make “umqombothi,” a traditional beer that takes four days to prepare. Njimbana was actually on his way to give the swarm of bees the beverage when things took a turn for the worst. The bees should have flown away, but instead, they attacked Njimbana.
Of course, the family is mourning the sudden death of Njimbana. His brother, Mandla, believed that Njimbana performed the ritual properly and did not offend the swarm in any way.
“This is the most painful thing ever to befall our family,” Mandla said. “We don’t understand why they were so angry with him, yet he had welcomed them to his home. He never tried to violently chase them away.”
Local Authorities Urge Residents to Contact Professionals For Bee Removal
In Nqevu’s words, the reason for this tragedy is that Njimbana likely did not properly interpret the message from his ancestors or was trying to dismiss the bees too soon.
Aside from the cultural interpretations of the tragedy, Njimbana’s death points to an issue that locals have been experiencing with insect swarms.
“Both animals and people get killed from too many bee stings, and bees get quite aggressive very fast when an inexperienced person uses poison or other substance to remove them,” said Siani Tinley, a manager of the marine and zoo amenities for the Buffalo City Metro municipality.
Tinley stressed that the only safe way to remove these swarms is to contact professionals. Of course, this directly conflicts with local traditions and sentiments, creating a conflict for locals that take part in these rituals.
“The beekeepers know how to read the bees and how to relocate them in an environmentally friendly way,” Tinley said.