A n’anga’s daughter has been denied refugee status in New Zealand despite her fears that she will be forced to take his place if she returns home.

The New Zealand Herald reports that the woman said if she returned to Zimbabwe her late father's tribe could use sorcery against her to force her to become the next n’anga.

The woman's mother fell pregnant at 17 to the sangoma of another tribe - members of the VaRemba culture - who lived about 250km away. When her parents found out about the pregnancy, they took her to the man's tribe and demanded he take care of her, as custom dictated. But she later fled and the sangoma later passed away.

The woman’s daughter, then in her 20s, got married and had a son. The pair and their son travelled to New Zealand on false South African passports, and sought refugee or protected person status.

The woman gave birth to another son in August that year, while detained in community accommodation. Their initial appeals for refugee status pointed to political troubles for the husband, and were dismissed as not credible.

The trouble began in 2017 when members of the tribe approached the woman's mother at her home and told her that as the n’anga’sr's eldest child, the woman must return home and take his place.

They said many people had died since his death, and that a spirit had possessed one of their members and announced the woman must be the village's next n'anga.

But the Immigration tribunal found there was "simply no scientific principle underlying any claim of the efficacy or power of sorcery".

"Absent any testable, verifiable and falsifiable, and independent evidence of witchcraft powers which would otherwise seem to defy the laws of physics and/or chemistry, the tribunal is satisfied that claims of harm arising from acts of witchcraft do not suffice for the purposes of establishing the well-foundedness element of the refugee inquiry."

It had not been established that the tribe would be able to use sorcery to force the woman to take up the mantle of n;anga, the decision said.

"She may be subjectively fearful that they can do so but the objective reality is that they cannot."

There was also no evidence of any real risk she would suffer serious harm or that she would be physically forced into the role, the decision said.

The appeals for refugee and protected person status were dismissed.