Saturday, November 04, 2006

Academics, chiefs condemn Mt Ayliff killing

Academics, chiefs condemn Mt Ayliff killing

Ignorance, misogyny blamed for ‘witch’ murders of women in their 40s and 50s

’I’ve done scientific research in the Mthatha area about issues related to witchcraft. What is clear is that the level of ignorance is very high in rural areas. Women between the ages of 40 to 50 years old regularly fall prey to witchcraft related allegations’

— Bhanwari Meel

By ZINE GEORGE and THANDUXOLO JIKA

TRADITIONAL leaders and academics yesterday condemned the horror mob slaying of a Mount Ayliff woman accused of witchcraft, saying it was a manifestation of social illness.

Nomanelwa Ngwane, 50, was battered and burnt by about 200 people after being found naked on the doorstep of a widower, Zakhele Jakuja, in the early hours of Monday morning.

She allegedly told him she had arrived with his dead wife to fetch him for a meeting.

On Friday this newspaper carried a photograph of the killing, in which people are seen laughing at the bloodied woman.

African Traditional Health Practitioners’ Eastern Cape chairperson, Solly Nduku yesterday described the attack “as an act of hooliganism ... a manifestation of social ills.

“People do sleepwalk, which might have been the case in this instance,” said Nduku.

Dr Mathole Motshekga of the Kara Heritage Institute, an African Renaissance body, also condemned the villagers’ actions.

“There is an African way to deal with witches. Our people used to report all cases relating to witchcraft to traditional leaders and they would be resolved.

“But it’s because of the influence of the west that our people are now killing each other about something no one can really explain,” said Motshekga.

He added: “No one can deny that there are good and evil forces in every society. But no one can claim to know how to identify a witch unless he is witch himself.”

Nokuzola Mndende, director of the Icamagu Institute – an organisation designed to preserve African culture – hit out at those who had murdered Ngwane and described the act as misogynistic.

“Why is it that only women are accused of witchcraft?” she asked.

“This is a psychological problem among some men who fear powerful women in leadership roles. If it was a man who had been found naked they wouldn’t have done that,” she said.

Walter Sisulu University head of Forensic Medicine, Professor Bhanwari Meel attributed the actions to ignorance, illiteracy and lack of education.

“I’ve done scientific research in the Mthatha area about issues related to witchcraft. What is clear is that the level of ignorance is very high in rural areas. Women between the ages of 40 to 50 years old regularly fall prey to witchcraft related allegations,” Meel said.

He said superstition was still deeply entrenched in the region. For example, some people still simply did not want to accept that HIV/Aids existed.

“When a relative is infected with the disease some rural people go to sangomas to find out who had bewitched their relative,” he said.

In 2004 four elderly women were butchered in Centane after they were accused of being involved in witchcraft.

“It’s a complex issue informed by many social challenges. A lot still needs to be done to educate people about all these things,” said Meel.

Rhodes University anthropology lecturer Penny Bernard said the Mount Ayliff incident was bizarre.

It could have been caused by the woman being found partially naked in the early hours of the morning. But Bernard said killing someone was no solution. “I have done studies on sangomas and witchcraft mostly in KwaZulu-Natal, and people only use magic to retaliate, not to physically kill someone,” said Bernard.

0 Comments:

Post a Comment

Links to this post:

Create a Link

<< Home