Even in modern-day times, there are people in South Africa who still perform witchcraft rituals, and the tradition is active among several different cultures. Witchcraft or muti (A Zulu word for medicine) killings are crimes against humanity. The South African Police Commissioner, Riah Phiyega referred to the use of muti murders as a serious crime and actions were called for to stop the killings.
The practice of witchcraft is not new as it was widely practiced throughout Africa before colonial times. The different traditions of witchcraft vary between different cultures and often are the reason bad things happen to people. The accusations against people practicing the traditions are serious and lead to human rights violations.
It is illegal to accuse anybody of being a witch as South Africa is governed by the Witchcraft Suppression Act of 1957. The law challenges the rights of people to perform witchcraft acts. A recent study revealed that witchcraft has intensified more in rural areas. The tradition is more gender-biased and directed at women, especially women who have achieved powerful positions and financial freedom of which some are jealous.
South African witches identify witchcraft as a religion and have challenged the traditional African and Christian beliefs. While the witch is believed to be linked to all misfortune and unable to do any good within society, the challenge to defend the accusations and discrimination continues.
South African President Jacob Zuma admitted to using witchcraft against white people under the apartheid era bewitching the Boers with the magic and practices of witchcraft traditions. The Zulu tribe of South Africa is naturally a superstitious people and they consult a Sangoma (spiritual healer) to prevent misfortune.
Although other tribes in South Africa do practice the art of witchcraft for endless demands, the most horrifying is the practice of using body parts to concoct up a potion. Several different belief sects practice ritual murders that are supposed to have miraculous medical effects and the Limpopo province of South Africa recorded 250 muti murders in just one year.
A hospital in Swaziland, bordering South Africa was accused of harvesting body parts for the witchcraft practice in 2013. A black market operation selling body parts to use in muti spells, with the most effective parts taken from live humans. Although body parts from dead people were made available as well.
Muti murders are often brutal and machetes, sharp rocks, glass and knives are used to hack off body parts and mostly performed near rivers. There are certain elements attached to the potency of body parts used in the potion and the parts taken from live humans are considered the most powerful . Further, the agonized screams of victims before they succumb to shock makes the potentency even stronger.
During social or political changes an escalation of witchcraft practices remains common and prevalent. Dr. Dale Wallace of the University of Kwa-Zulu Natal sums up the activity of witchcraft traditions in South Africa as not disappearing overnight and emphasizes the importance of education rather than the suppressing of the truth.
By Laura Oneale