Misnomer plea scapegoats “witchcraft activities”

In an open letter published in the Times entitled ‘Witchcraft plea’ and republished as ‘Barack Obama in Africa: MPs Call on US President to Tackle Witchcraft Violence’ by Hannah Osborne, signatories including “Baroness Miller of Chilthorne; Kirsty Brimelow, QC; Professor Susan Edwards; Christina Oakley Harrington; Russell Brown, MP; Craig Whittaker, MP; All Party Parliamentary Group on Street Children; American Humanist Association; Bar Human Rights Committee of England and Wales; Basic Rights Counsel; Bethany Children’s Trust; Centre for Human Rights and Development; Churches Child Protection Advisory Service; Consortium for Street Children; Greenwich Inclusion Project; Humane Africa; International Humanist and Ethical Union; The Pagan Federation; Stepping Stones Nigeria; StreetInvest; Under the Same Sun; Witchcraft and Human Rights Information Network; Leo Igwe, Nigerian Humanist Movement; John W. Morehead, Evangelical Chapter of the Foundation for Religious Diplomacy; Hugh Davies,QC; Louisa Young, author; Zoe Young, film-maker; and Paul Stockley, development worker,” called for an end to “witchcraft activities”, alleged in their public letter, to be the cause of human mutilations and the trade in human body parts for magic in South Africa.

“Sir, As President Obama commences his visit to Africa, we call upon him to use the tour as an opportunity to demand urgent action to tackle the widespread and systemic violations of human rights that take place across the continent due to harmful practices connected to witchcraft.” [0]

Let’s examine the facts…

In South Africa individuals found guilty in courts of law of engaging in human mutilations (erroneously called muthi murder in S.A.) and of trading in human body parts for magic, have never self-identified as Witches. In fact, witchcraft is not in any way implicated in such activities simply because the perpetrators of these heinous crimes are not, and have never been, practitioners of any form of Witchcraft!

In 2006, 4 year old Connie Ncube was abducted and murdered by traditional healer Mandla Ephraim Zulu because he wanted to remove parts of the young girl’s body to make “a muti for financial prosperity”. He was hired by a hairdresser Lourence Eric Ngoveni. Neither Zulu nor Ngoveni identified themselves as Witches.

Also in 2006 Bishop Joseph Tanzwani of the Holiness Apostolic Church, and sangomas Mukondeleli Phosha and Shumani Dzebu were tried in the Thohoyandou High Court for the murder and mutilation of Shonisani Thinandavha. Her right hand, left ear, nipples and upper lip were cut from her body. None of the accused identified themselves as Witches.

In 2007 KwaDabeka police investigated the beheading of a 7 year old KwaZulu-Natal boy believe to have been the victim of a “witchdoctor syndicate”. The body of Vuyani Ngqulunga, who went missing on November 1, was found with his head and testicles removed. The alleged perpetrators, two 18 year olds named Lizwi Gwiqisa and Bandile Msikiofwere, were hired by building contractor Petros Gwosebenn. None of the accused identified themselves as Witches.

Also in 2007 Abigail Njapha and five men, all allegedly members of a “muti gang”, were accused of harvesting and selling body parts and charged with conspiracy to murder 15 women. None of the accused identified themselves as Witches.

In 2008 Vusi Sixikixa and Sonwabile Qhosha appeared in the Bizana magistrate’s court for the alleged murder of 9 victims. Police confirm that they were investigating two sangomas implicated in the murders. None of the accused identified themselves as Witches.

In 2009 Demakatso Sheli Shabangu was allegedly sold by her caregiver to a teacher from Sibange village. The teacher later admitted to being part of a “human body part syndicate”. None of the accused identified themselves as Witches. [1]

Allegations of “harmful witchcraft activities” remain nothing more than fabricated media sensationalism in relation to muthi murders; a handy media misnomer [2] with which to ignore the real perpetrators of these crimes – traditional healers, isangomas, inyangas and even Christian priests – in favour of further scapegoating alleged, accused and actual Witches in a country in which witch-hunts are frequent and violent. [3]

Murder and the trade in human body parts do not form any part of Witchcraft! Witchcraft is not a synonym for ‘crime’ or ‘criminal acts’. The fictitious belief that “witchcraft” is inherently dangerous and harmful actually serves to fuel accusations of witchcraft against men, women and children in South Africa.

Actual victims of witchcraft accusations and witch-hunts, both deceased and living refugees, must not be regarded as collateral damage for political and academic bias against Witchcraft in Africa. They deserve more than a by-line between careless misnomer and inadvertent scapegoating! [4]

The signatories to this well-meaning appeal for human rights in South Africa and elsewhere do South African Witches no favour by reinforcing wholly false stereotypes against “witchcraft” in our country. Rather than support human rights for all South Africans equally, this open letter simply reinforces unfounded accusations of criminality against anyone suspected of engaging in “witchcraft practices”.

Further Reading:

[0]http://www.thetimes.co.uk/tto/opinion/letters/article3802164.ece
[Published at 12:01AM, June 28 2013]
Republished ashttp://www.ibtimes.co.uk/articles/484352/20130628/obama-urged-tackle-witchcraft-violence-visit-africa.htm
[Published 12:14 PM, June 28, 2013]
[1] http://www.penton.co.za/muti-murderers-are-not-witches/
[2] http://www.penton.co.za/african-witchcraft-an-academic-misnomer/
[3] http://www.paganrightsalliance.org/remember-their-names/
[4] http://www.paganrightsalliance.org/concerns-raised-by-witchcraft-accusations-and-witch-hunts-in-south-africa-2013/

Touchstone Advocacy
An initiative of the South African Pagan Rights Alliance
http://www.paganrightsalliance.org/advocacy/