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Does the traditional healer have a religious distinctiveness in Modern-day South Africa?

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Gabriel Louw*, Andrè Duvenhage**

* Gabriel Louw, PhD, DPhil, a psychologist and an emeritus-professor, is a research associate in the Focus Area Social Transformation, Faculty of Arts, Potchefstroom Campus of the North-West University, South Africa. His main research interests are healthcare and tertiary education development and management as well as the individual’s Constitutional rights. E-mail: profgplouw@gmail.com
** Andrè Duvenhage, PhD, a political and social academic/scientist and a professor, is the research director of the Focus Area Social Transformation, Faculty of Arts, Potchefstroom Campus of the North-West University, South Africa. His main research interests are sustainable social planning and development, political systems as well as governmental and public management. E-mail: andre.duvenhage@nwu.ac.za

Ensovoort volume 36(2016), number 11:1

Abstract

Research alludes that the South African traditional healer is not a medical identity, but origin from the old Traditional African Religious Culture as a traditional religious-healer; a spiritual remnant from a previous, pre-modern time of living. Hereto had the New South Africa not only undergo dramatic religious, social, economical and political changes after 1994, but had already moved into new religious and cultural domains centuries ago, leaving many of its pre-modern religious and cultural beliefs, such as the traditional healer and his religious activities, totally behind. Present-day political and cultural moulding by politicians and cultural leaders with outdated thoughts and intentions, as the enforcing of Act No 22 (2007) and the re-starting of the traditional healer as a spiritual practitioner, are met more and more with resistance, aggression and even disrespect. It is thus important to research and to determine changes in South Africans religious values and styles to can see if the traditional healer has a religious distinctiveness in modern-day South Africa. The aim of the study was thus to determine if the South African traditional healer has a South African religious distinctiveness to make him unique and significant as a religious practitioner in Modern-day South Africa.

Keywords: African religion, indigenous, homo Africanus, homo Europeanist, priest, religious distinctiveness, spiritual, traditional healer.

1. Introduction and background

Some research on the status of the South African traditional healer and traditional healing, that includes research on Act No 22 (2007) and its various definitions, identify a so called exclusive religious distinctiveness to be associated with the traditional healer in the modern-day South African Society. These opinions reflect that the traditional healer is an essential and a prominent part of the religious life of Black South Africans, especially those in the poorer rural areas. This alleged religious distinctiveness stands specific in relation to their beliefing in the supernatural and the evil-doings of the witch; elements which are built into Act No 22 (2007) and are seen as an exclusive part of the traditional healer’s spiritual practice (Boon, 1996; Essien, 2013; Gumede, 1990; Mbiti, 1991).

Hereto see various other researchers above assumptions, views and opinions of the role of the traditional healer in the South African society as a religious practitioner as insignificant or even as untrue. Evidence shows in total only between 1,2% and 1,5% of the population makes use of the traditional healer, while as a diviner/spiritualist his usage is only between 1% and 1,3% by the total population (Holland, 2005; Nxumalo et al, 2011; Petersen, 2013; Wilkinson, 2013).

The view that the South Africa traditional healer has a religious distinctiveness seems to be doubted and needs further evaluation.

2. The identification of the traditional healer as a religious practitioner

Comprehensive research by writers with deep roots in the African Culture and its religion customs and traditions clearly define the traditional healer as a religious practitioner, a person with a strong religious-social leadership-standing in the African Society. Essien (2013) describes the traditional healer as an inextricable component of the Traditional (old) African Religions, that the act of healing by the traditional healer is divinely and that the traditional healer’s healing acts are aimed at aiding humans to adjust to superstition, magic and religious actions and threats. Gumede (1990) sees the traditional healer and his healing process as an internal part of the African Religion-setup and as a “gifted man of God”: a parallel to the modern-day religious minister and evangelist. The idiom of approach of the traditional healer for Gumede (1990) is, besides his social, political, economical and moral transformations and guidance, mainly a religious one. Boon (1996) defines particularly the work-role of the traditional healer as that of a priest-healer (meaning to heal spiritual or to restore health solely through spiritual actions).

Above classifications and identifications of the traditional healer as a priest, spiritualist, a seer and religious leader and practitioner, are supported by the descriptions and definitions of many other researchers (Cheethams & Griffiths, 1982; Griffiths & Cheethams, 1982; Gqaleni et al., 2007; Hund, 2000; Nxumalo et al, 2011; Peltzer, 2009; Rautenbach, 2014; “Religion in Africa”, 2014; “Studying Africa”, 2014; “Traditional healers of”, 2014).

Shortcomings of most of these classifications and identifications are how the traditional healer as a community religious figure/practitioner/leader represents a certain group of believers’ religious views and what his own religious learning, opinions and standpoints are. Further are there the absence of a written documentation on his doctrine and the way he is administrating his religious beliefs, besides the overall acceptance that his religious healing/practice is founded in the supernatural, the ancestors and afterlife and the fighting off of the so called evil-witch. The impression is left that so many traditional religious healers/practitioners there are so many traditional religious ideologies/dogmas are there: a grouping of unrelated and un-ordained individuals without any uniform religious practice- and belief-cohesion, customs and traditions, religious-practice buildings like churches, mosques and synagogues, congregations, a Holy Book, the Bible or Koran for religious teaching or religious training schools as commonly existing in the Islam, Christian and Hindu Religions. Act No 22 (2007) as well as its Traditional Health Practitioners Regulations No 1052 (2015) only indicate a minimum-entrance qualification to study traditional healing of Grade 3, while the training and scope of practice in the category Divination in Traditional Healing of the entity Diviner of the traditional healer is left totally undefined (Boon, 1996; Essien, 2013; Gumede, 1990; Holland, 2005; Pretorius, 1999; “Religion in Africa”, 2014; Richter, 2003; SA, 2007, 2015; Truter, 2007).

The word divination can means foreboding, forecast, fortune-telling, prediction and soothsaying, while diviner can means augur, bone-thrower, forecaster, predictor, soothsayer, witch-doctor and wizard. It is only the words divine and divinity (that form clearly nowhere part of the definitions and descriptions of Act No 22 of 2007) that can mean religion, spiritual and theology. These negative outcomes indeed put the above classification and identification of the traditional healer as a “true” or “real” religious practitioner in South Africa in doubt (Gumede, 1991; Reader’s Digest, 1993; Richter, 2003; SA, 1957, 2007).

3. Does the traditional healer really have a religious distinctiveness in Modern-day South Africa?

In light op above exclusive pointing out of the traditional healer as a religious practitioner, the question is thus: does he really has, as assumed by many researchers, a religious distinctiveness in Modern-day South Africa? The fact that only between 1% to 1.3% persons in South Africa visit the traditional healer as a religious practitioner or for spiritual rituals, together with the lack of a comprehensive written doctrine on traditional religion practices, custom and traditions, make answers on this question a priority (Boon, 1996; Gumede, 1990; Petersen, 2013; Richter, 2003; Truter, 2007).

Religion, culture, politics, economics and ethnicity are interwoven and are influencing each other daily. In undermentioned discussions the focus will be on the interaction of these cultural, ethnic and political components on African life, specific their capture of the African Religions of pre-1900 up to today, to reflect on the presence, position and status of the traditional healer as a religious practitioner in modern-day South Africa. Only through this path of discovery it will be possible to determine if the traditional healer is a distinctive or indistinctive religious role-player in Modern-day South Africa.

The outdated Old Traditional Africa culture-religion-mould

In over viewing the role of the traditional healer in the South African religious milieu by researchers, there is the tendency to put him in relation to the Old Traditional African Cultures that are assumed still to be active today and thus is upholding the traditional healer’s religious distinctiveness. But to block-in Africa solely as ancient, isolated and captive in a Dark Age, as the Old Traditional African Religions do, is wrong and misleading. Modern-day South Africa Africa is very modern in lifestyle, thinking and also in religious inclinations. It encompasses a wide variety of religions and although some of religious beliefs, customs and practices are seen as unique to certain areas/regions, it is in truth also shared by many Africans all over the continent. The fact that Africans were always dynamic and very adaptable to new circumstances, had contact through global economics, politics, ethnicity, modern education and communication and specific religion, brought immense chances the last 100 or more years to them. It was specific Christianity in South Africa (and Islam in the northern Africa) that became interwoven with Traditional African Religions and had changes its religious beliefs, rituals and customs (and of course, brought a vice versa change also to Christianity and Islam). Especially the similar way the monotheistic religions Christianity and Traditional African Religions had been characterized God, had made this interweaving easy (Awolalu, 1976; Boon, 1996; Gathogo, 2009; Gumede, 1990; Mbiti, 1991, “Studying Africa”, 2014; “Religion in Africa”, 2014; Van Zyl, 2014).

To argue thus today that there still are thousands types/entities of religions in Africa with their own, unique, isolated and undisturbed systems and foundations of hundred years back and that they are very active in the up keep of the traditional healer’s religious status as a priest, is false. Resistance over the years to religious changes in Modern Africa seems to be minimal. Awolalu’s (1976, p. 1) argument of 40 years ago, which is still underwrote by some African policy-makers and leaders today, is outdated and is misleading to use today when he alleged that: “The declared adherents of the indigenous religion are very conservative, resisting the influence of modernism heralded by the colonial era, including the introduction of Islam, Christianity, Western education and improved medical facilities. They cherish their tradition; they worship with sincerity because their worship is quite meaningful to them; they hold tenaciously to their covenant that binds them together”.

But above Awolalu-thinking of 40 years ago is not phased-out and had found a strong position in present-day religious-political inclinations, and thus the promotion of specific uses of religious customs and habits. Present-day political and social interference and intervention by these outdated groups in the Society is plentiful; even by fundamental, small minorities with strong empowerments and influences. Indeed, this is a worldwide phenomenon and is daily reflected for instance in India, Indonesia, Israel, Iran, Malaysia, Pakistan and Syria where the religion is overstretched and captured in interaction with the politics. Regression to old, outdated cultural thinking and doing became well-established in New Socio-political Orders. Religious recognition of a specific dogma and the upliftement as well as the up keep and promotion of its main-executive role-player, the religious practitioner, becomes prominent, notwithstanding its minority and insignificant position in Society (Harris, 2003; Miller, 2008; Naipaul, 1998; Palkhaivala, 1994).

The same, it seems, can be said about South Africa. In the 1960s, in time of Grand Apartheid, certain aims were identified by the then leadership of the ANC to promote African Culture when they should come to power. The regulation and statutory recognition of the traditional healer with all his practice-doings like religious actions, was executed, as promised in 2007, with Act No 22 (2007); notwithstanding that he and his practice had became outdated and unacceptable for most Africans in new South Africa. As Awolalu, the present-day view and guideline of the old-time political veteran, Mr Jacob Zuma, as a prominent political opinion-maker and –executive, is also prominent, namely that the African mind, his religion and lifestyle, are (and must) functioning inside a predetermined African mould, fixed permanently many hundreds of years ago. This cementation to an outdated mindset that cannot (and may not) be changed (or had not ever changed) by the modern environment, is thus to be expected and not a surprise. An overall free religious thinking, doing and lifestyle for the African, in terms of this fixed, outdated African view, are thus not possible. It seems, in terms of the viewpoint of Awolalu and Zuma, to be specific the African person, seated and fixed in the old (pure) cultural components, when moving out of his old African mould into the modern world society, who is losing immediately his rights to be an African or a Black (ANC, 1992, 1994a, 1994b, 1997; “JZ’s own words”, 2014; “Revolusie-meesterplan”, 2014; “Traditional healers to be”,2016; Van Onselen, 2014a).

This in-forcing of the so called excellent qualities of traditional healing and the traditional healer as a religious practitioner, is, as already said, a priority on the mind of the ANC since the 1960s. An unquestionable must, to be accepted as true and existing. A myth became a truth for a certain group of leaders and their followers; a misleading viewpoint, also been reflected with time in the literature on the South African traditional healer’s religious distinctiveness (Boon, 1996; Essien, 2013; Gumede, 1990; Mbiti, 1991; “Revolusie-meesterplan”, 2014).

It is thus no surprise that these Modern Africans, moving out of this outdated and inappropriate cultural and thought mould, are negative labelled and out-casted by so called “neo-African” politicians and other old-class Africans as “Black Europeans who have swallowed the White man’s saliva” (Gumede, 1990, p. 57). A situation that forced Gumede (1990, p. 197) disheartened, to say: “I was a Native; my children were Bantu or Bantoe; my first granddaughter was a Plural; my second granddaughter was a Black. She was nearly an African but just in case she thought she was an Afrikaner, she was made a Black”.

The truth is that Europe stopped long ago to be only home to Whites; Africa is not anymore only populated by Blacks. The change is good that even the indigenous African languages (and thus culture) are only up kept at present by the unmanageable aggravating life-circumstances of South African Blacks and that it will be replaced in 50 years by a global language(s), like English (Croucamp, 2014). The same can surely be said of present-day South African religious cultures, habits and customs.

The sole fact that Gumede (1990) himself acknowledged that racial, cultural and social borders diminished long ago and that the composition of some South African families or units consist already of a Black, African, White, Afrikaners or Creole member or members, showing the outdateness of an “unique” Africa or Black religious culture that is housing religious practitioners via traditional healers.

But, still the Old African mould of Awolalu and Zuma exists in the mindsets of small but strong opinion-forming groups, whom are trying constant to incarcerate even the modern African/Black to a limited, dependent cultural role in Africa. This so called “African Nationalism” clearly tries to re-enforce racism and concepts like the traditional healer’s spiritual status, while pure culture classifications (like African, Black and White) hereto are increasingly neutralized in the new South African Social Order. The line between body enhancement and genetic enhancement (that Zuma alludes is “lost” when an African developed into the Modern World) and religious beliefs, is more and more blurred (Gumede, 1990; “South Africa’s President”, 2016;“Jesus must come”, 2016; “JZ’s own words”, 2014; Mbembe, 2014; Newman & De Lannoy, 2014; Van Onselen, 2014a; “Zuma calls for”, 2016).

Outdated racism and belittling views of races that seeks to divide and that are denying independent thinking – and thus also new, modern religious beliefs and the right to Western and other modern-day religion adherents – are insults to the indigenous African/Black of the post-1994 South Africa. Above outdated utterances by Awolalu, Zuma and “pure” African academics and politicians, are clearly remnants of thinking of the old, phased-out Traditional African Religions what people still today wrongly experience as traditions instead as religion (what they see as tradition is indeed faith, although without formal creed or sacred texts). This old, outdated religion and cultural belief-system, that seems still to function in Zuma’s thinking, is well-echoed by his remark: “As Africans, long before the arrival of religion and [the] gospel, we had our own ways of doing things (“JZ’s own words,” 2014, p. 19). Its is in this context that the traditional healer’s so called religious distinctiveness is falsely portrayed as true, especially by Act No 22 (2007).

Here, as said, is clearly an excellent example of how fixed and false cultural, political and religious exclusiveness can be used to serve the selfish political aims of leaders, to the detriment of innocent and less fortunate people in their belief-systems on religion leadership like the traditional healer (Alonge, 2014; “Jesus must come”, 2016; “South Africa’s President”, 2016; Tlhabi, 2014a; “Zuma calls for”, 2016).

African leaders, like Awolalu, Zuma and Gumede and various other leaders, lost clearly contact with the enormous religious, cultural and political changes that had taken place since the 1900s, but mostly after 1994. The same can be said about the incorrect role of the more and more phased-out positions of the traditional healer as a religious practitioner in the Modern African Society of South Africa, as well as the inappropriate Act No 22 (2007) to promote the South African traditional healer’s religious role and thus his so called religious distinctiveness (Alonge, 2014; Awolalu, 1976; “JZ’s own words”, 2014; “Jesus must come”, 2016; Ndebele, 2014; ”Religion in Africa”, 2014; “Traditional healers of”, 2014; Van Onselen, 2014b).

Religion is always dynamic and growing

Religion, as culture and lifestyles, is not a permanent or an isolated phenomenon; it is dynamic and constantly influenced by other groups’ thoughts, philosophies, know-hows and behaviours. For South Africa it is far more: It is about Black Africans and White Africans, African Religions and European Religions as well as White Westerners and Black Westerners and the essence of African-ness which is no longer exclusively a thing of blackness or whiteness, but of humanity and holism. It is not anymore old, pure African thinking, believing and living incarcerated in terms of the Awolalu-Zuma-Gumede-African-mould (Boon, 1996; “JZ’s own words”, 2014; Malala, 2013; Mbiti, 1991; Swanepoel, 2014; Tlhabi, 2014a; Van Onselen, 2014a; “Zuma calls for”, 2016).

This stable, advancing movement, away from “old” African traditions, lifestyle and religion like the traditional healer and outdated religious beliefs, to new African (not necessary European) ones, is well described by Ndebele (2014, p. 18): “For the ‘black’ is a fabrication, a figment of history, wherein the human that he once was vanished in sacked villages and broken families that still break; swallowed up by mines and factories and farms that still swallow; disappeared in books and films that were never about him.The South Africa ‘black’ as a figment of history became a distracter and a detractor from his human value. It is time for South African ‘blacks’ to no longer put store in ‘blackness’. To continue to do so is to insist on living in a luminal space in which dreams and effort have become disentangled almost permanently. It is time that the South African ‘black’ began to appreciate the value of aspiring towards the universal and then to live in it, to become a part of it, to add to it the cumulative value of the experience of being free in the specificity of their historical circumstances, where dream and effort are inseparable.So, am I a ‘black’? I once was, but no more, am I an ‘African’? Yes, but with qualifications. Beyond the typifying singularity of the colonized ‘African’, there is no place any more for that ‘African”. Am I a ‘comrade’? Definitively not.That kind of struggle, that described ‘comrades’ is long over. Am I a ‘citizen’? Yes, although my voice and my actions have yet to be strong enough to assert their formative constitutionality. Am I a ‘human being’? Resoundingly, yes! ”

To speak thus of a pristine or a pure African and South African religion, all with “pure” African adherents (like the traditional healer and the pre-modern religious thinking and doings that accompanying him), is today impossible. As said, Christianity spread dynamically into South Africa the last 100 years and has influenced the practices of the Traditional African Religions (old ones) and contributed much too today’s Indigenous African Religions (new ones). On the other hand the African Religions rituals, beliefs and practices have also influenced the Christian Religions rituals, beliefs and practices immensely; the outcome was that indigenous Africans start to practice more and more a New African Religion, the so-called Indigenous African Religion (an in-between), in combination with Christianity. It must further be noted that Christianity came to African long before it reached Europe. The influences of the Christian colonists and missionaries were thus only an extension of an already established Christian religion of 1,500 years in Africa. The end-result today is a synthesis or combination of indigenous and non-indigenous rituals, beliefs and practices. Therefore the present-day indigenous African Religions can thus be described righteously as alloys of traditional value systems, imbibed by foreign religious beliefs, rituals and practices. This interaction on the South African religious spheres was of such an extent that it is imprecise even to talk today of a sole indigenous or traditional African Religion dogma per se, seeing that Christianity not also becomes a dominant African Religion (80%), but can be described as Christian African Religions, leaving behind remnants like the traditional healer and his religious inclinations (Awolalu, 1976; Gathogo, 2009; Mbiti, 1991; “Religion in Africa”, 2014; “South Africa-History”, 2014; “Studying Africa”, 2014).

Religion changes, activated by cultural, economical and political changes, did take place all over South Africa; it includes all races and not only the Blacks. Not even Whites, notwithstanding their efforts since 1652 (especially between 1948 and 1994 with legalized Apartheid), could stop their racial, religious and cultural interaction and intermixing with Blacks. This interweaving was so intense, especially after the 1950’s, that the New Christianity (the White/European Christian Religion re-instated by the colonists and missionaries the last 100 years) forms today 80% (79.9%) of the total South African population religious inclination. The so-called belief of a separate White Christianity versus a separate Black Christianity, fails to survive. African Christianity spreads into the total South African lifestyle, phasing-out outdated and pre-modern religious beliefs in which the traditional healer previously seems to function as a religious figure (Gumede, 1990; Ndebele, 2014; “South Africa – History”, 2014).

Pobee (2001) is thus more than justified when he alludes that the homo Africanus of today is a multi-headed hydra. For him the Caucasians of South Africa is as much African as the Blacks south of the equator. The multi-headed homo Africanus and multi-headed homo Europeanist have changed South Africa and were them selve been changed. These changes go much deeper; the indigenous African is not only today a homo Africanus, but also a homo Modernist. He is in some cases much more homo Europeanist then his White counterpart and lives it fully out in his daily life, especially modern religion-beliefs and -adherence that exclude the supernatural and thus the traditional healer as a needed spiritualist (Boon, 1996; Ndebele, 2014; Pobee, 2001). Today the White yuppie of the city indeed has more in common with the Black yuppie of the city than that the White yuppie does have with his White counterpart in the rural areas (Louw, 1984).

The role of religious changes in the out casting of the traditional healer in Modern-day South Africa

In terms of enormous changes in religious orientations in South Africa which have also a direct influence on the traditional role of the traditional healer as a religious practitioner, the question is also here again, namely what is the traditional healer’s role or capacity in the present-day religious setup? Obvious, it seems that his activities are located at most in the African Religions that can be divided in two groups, namely the Traditional African Religions (the old group, with little religious standing in today’s society and reflects remnants like the traditional healer as a religious practitioner) and the Indigenous African Religions (the new group , but also with a diminutive role in South Africa) that adapted parts of foreign and modern religions, cultural and cognitive thinking and behaviour in which the traditional healer as religious practitioner does not play a prominent role (Gathogo, 2009; Mbiti, 1991; Pobee, 2001; “Religion in Africa”, 2014; “Studying Africa”, 2014).

From above two main groups, it seems especially the Traditional African Religions that have become delegitimized by African governments because of their negative behaviour, linked to witchcraft, ritual sacrifices and other illegal characteristics and which, as a group, is in a process to be forced out of the religious systems. The continuous position of the traditional healer as a religious practitioner is clearly in difficulty in this setup. To evaluate the traditional healer’s position in this context, it is necessary first to determine today’s total adherents to African Religions (traditional and indigenous).

In-depth data of African Religious adherents is limited. The Pewforum (2012) research shows that in 2012 Traditional Religions represented 6% of the total World Religion Population. This group of 6% includes African Religions, Chinese Folk Religions, Native American Religions and Australian Aboriginal Religions. Regarding Africa Mbiti (1991, p.3) reflects the following inTable 1:

Table 1: Estimated main religions of Africa (in percentage): 1900 to 2000

Christianity
Islam
Indigenous African*
Other
1900
9,2
32
58
1
1984
45
41
12
2
2000
48,4
41,4
8,9
1

Derived: Mbiti, 1991, p. 3 (* Term: “Indigenous African” refers to pure followers).

From Table 1 it is clear that the followers of Indigenous African Religions (including the old Traditional African Religions) show a dramatic decline the last 100 years (a total decline of 49,9% in adherents). This decline seems to be in line with the phasing-out of the old, Traditional African Religions [the one’s Awolalu (1976) and Mbiti (1991) seem to support and which are refer in literature too as old, rigid or fossil religions with overwhelming unacceptable rituals, like witchcraft, bad magic beliefs, etc.].

Regarding a South African perspective, it is reported that at the turn of the millennium that there was in South Africa in terms of the total population an estimated 28.5% adherents to Indigenous African Religions (and animist-believers), against 68% Christians, 2% Islam and 1.5% Hinduism (“South Africa – History”, 2014).

Hereto, Pewforum (2012) reports that in 2010 the adherents of Traditional African Religions were 210,000 in South Africa, against a total population of more or less 50 million. This represents only a 0.42% of the total population. This finding shows that Traditional African Religions become more and more phased-out. This declined adherence is in line with Mbiti’s (1991) finding.

Furthermore, the 2012 South African Census (SA, 2012) reveals that in 2001, out of a 44 819 778 total population that indicated their religious adherence, 35 416 616 citizens were Blacks. With reference to their specific religion-affiliations, only so little as 124 947 Blacks registered as adherents to indigenous African Religions (A total of 801 Coloureds, 132 Whites and 22 Indians/Asians also reflect adherents to indigenous types of African religions). This means that only as little as 124 947, out of 35 416 616 Blacks, are still today adherents of the African Religions (including the Modern Indigenous African Religions). This represents only 0.35% of Blacks of the total Black population. This percentage is totally insignificant, especially the fact that more or less 80% of the country’s Blacks (as well as the total population), identify themselves with Christianity. The enormous decline in adherents to the African Religions that Mbiti (1991) identifies, also reflects very well in South Africa with above 0.35% of the 2001 census statistics as well as the Pewforum’s (2012) finding of 0.42%.

A dislodged traditional healer in the Modern-day South Africa

It can be assumed that very few of the 124 947 adherents are still pure believers of the Traditional African Religions (old) and of pre-modern beliefs, customs and rituals (including traditional healers as religious practitioners), which researchers use so often to profile the standing on true African Religions (Awolalu, 1976; Du Toit, 2014; Gathogo 2009; Gumede, 1990; Mbiti, 1991; Probee, 2001; SA, 2012).

Further is it clear that the traditional healer and his spiritual healing are not parts of the Modern-day African Christian Religion, but belongs exclusively to a limited role-playing in Traditional African Religions, as illustrated by a said Khoabane (2014, p. 6) when she, herself a ‘called’ one to traditional healing, confesses: “I do not like to call myself a Christian, even though I was raised as one, because my understanding of Christianity is people who believe in – and put their faith in – Jesus Christ”, and: “religion is based on the socio-psychic behavioural patterns of the group following it. My gift has taught me that how we end up following cultural religions is not by choice, but by spiritual connections”, and “one thing my gift has taught me is to connect with my God without trying to please other people or holding the Bible in public and announcing that I also pray”.

It is further clear that the traditional healer of South Africa became even dislodged from his above role as a religious practitioner or spiritualist over the years. Clearly, the New Indigenous African Religions do not have a place for him. Where he still manifested, as said, seems to be in the remnants of the Old Traditional African Religions that plays an insignificant role in Modern-day South Africa, but seems still to exist strongly in the minds of certain politicians with masked agendas. The traditional healer’s impact, even in the modern-day Indigenous African Religions, is minimal, seeing that even this group only represents between 0.35% and 0.42% of the religious believers of the total Black population (35 416 616). The traditional healer’s total input as a religious practitioner of only between a 1% and 1.3% consulting rate is also insignificant and correlates further with the low 0.35% to 0.42% of adherents to Indigenous African Religions in 2001. It reaffirms his “outcast” position as a present-day religion practitioner; His input to the religion-life of Modern-day South Africans seems more obstructive than constructive (Petersen, 2013; SA, 2012).

From above it is clear the roles that pure African Religions (including both the traditional and indigenous groups), with the traditional healer specific as a religious practitioner, play in present-day South Africa, are minimal. Rituals, customs, practices and muthi, that can be associated with witchcraft, demons, bad magic, witches and other negative or problematic behaviours and doings by the traditional healer, seem thus more and more to become rare in global South Africa. It is specific limited to the Limpopo Province where it seems to be problematic and where the traditional healer is still very active (Mazibila, 2014a, 2014b; Roelofse, 2012; Vincent, 2008).

4. Conclusions

The South African traditional healer’s treatment can be in line with that of a religious practitioner or spiritualist, but is most probable that of a pre-modern indigenous welfare-caregiver. But the true status of a trained and an ordained priest, monk, religious minister or reverend are totally absent. The indistinctive role of the traditional healer as a religious practitioner, in terms of his status as a diviner in modern-day life of South Africans, is confirmed by the finding that his usage as a diviner is only between 1.2% and 1.5% by the total population of South Africa (50 586 757). At maximum, this usage represents only between 607 041 and 758 801 persons and is, in terms of the established religion Christianity, insignificant. Further is there also no evidence of a documented religious doctrine underwritten by the traditional healer, in the past or present (Petersen, 2013; SA, 2012).

The up keeping of the traditional healer and his so-called religious distinctiveness in South Africa, as done by Act No 22 (2007) and especially by the literature on traditional healing, seems to be political-orientated in the post-1994 setup where political leaders and opportunistic politicians, with masked agendas, misuse traditional healers as a so-called religious and cultural heritage that must be up kept. This unhealthy political-climate is also very well misused by the traditional healers themselves to advance their own interests, like Act No 22 (2007) and thus professional status. The traditional healer, with all his supernatural doings, is a pre-modern spiritual phenomenon with an ambiguous status, stretching back to Apollo’s oracles and wizards (Latif, 2010; Mbatha et al, 2012; Ritchken, 1989; SA, 1957, 2007, 2015; Stewart & Stewart, 1988).

Evidence is clear that the South African traditional healer is not a theological or religious entity as viewed and recognised in modern-day life. It seems as if the name religious practitioner, as with his misleading identity as a medical healer, had derived from a misunderstanding by early colonists and missioners about his true religious role in the pre-modern South African Society. He is at most an augur, bone-thrower, forecaster, fortune-teller, predictor, soothsayer, witch-doctor and wizard: an entity in line with Act No 22 (2007)’s definition traditional philosophy which main intentions and focuses are the supernatural that is accompanied by fearful, unexpected, unpredictable and bad life-experiences threating everyday-life, the afterlife with the ancestors in a central role and witch-hunting and-finding. It is further clear that his diviner’s practice-activities can be in terms of the mentioned definition traditional philosophy and the legal meanings of the words divination and diviner inscribed into it, be in conflict with the Regulations of the Witchcraft Suppression Act No 3 of 1957 ( Gumede, 1991; Reader’s Digest, 1993; Richter, 2003; SA, 1957, 2007).

With special note to the promulgation of Act No 22 (2007), together with the role of the traditional healer specific as a religious practitioner inscribed in it, it must be mentioned that religion can not and may not be factored into the law-making process (especially into the healthcare), even if it is seen as fitting and is needed by the country. South Africa has a secular Constitution, with a Bill of Rights that guarantees freedom of religion (as well as non-belief). There is also the Ethics Act (No 82, 1990) that guides the correct and good behaviour and decision-making of the Executives of the South African State. Thus, both the South African State and its government must always remain neutral in relation to religion and neither favour any specific religion or group of believers (Devenish, 2014; Jeffreys, 2014; Mthombothi 2014a; SA, 1990).

With Act No 22 (2007) the State and the ANC-government did not stay neutral: they favoured the Traditional African Religions and the traditional healer as a pre-modern religious practitioner with their official statutory regulating of him as a healthcare practitioner. They failed the Constitution and had put indigenous South Africans back into a New Apartheid (although now a religions and cultural one), where, through Act No 22 (2007) the present government (as they accused the pre-1994 Regime of doing with the Dutch Reformed Churches in Apartheid) formed an association through Act No 22 (2007) with the traditional healer as an outdated religious group. At the same time Black people is belittled and degraded in their right to think and to live religious free by certain Black leaders under the cloak of an untrue and false neo-Africanism; one that includes specific religion as prejudice and bias (Devenish, 2014; Jeffreys, 2014; “JZ’s own words”, 2014; Louw, 1984; Mthombothi, 2014a, 2014b, 2014c, 2014d, 2014e; Ndebele, 2014; Pirow, 1958; Van Onselen, 2014b).

The South African traditional healer’s assumed exclusive religious distinctiveness is non-existing in the modern-day Indigenous African Religions, the African Society or in the General South African Society. Act No 22 (2007) is clearly inapplicable and inappropriate in its aim to accommodate and to regulate an outdated and indistinctive type of a pre-modern religious-caregiver as a modern-day professional, specific inside the formal health establishment. This kind of religious-registration, if there is merit, belongs exclusively with independent religion- or church-groups, totally outside governmental regulation and relationship.

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Conflict of interest

The authors declare that they have no competing interests.

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Is the Witchcraft Suppression Act (No 3, 1957) doing an injustice to the neo-pagans in South Africa?

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Gabriel Louw*, Andrè Duvenhage**

* Gabriel Louw, PhD, DPhil, a psychologist and emeritus-professor, is a research associate in the Focus Area Social Transformation, Faculty of Arts, Potchefstroom Campus of the North-West University, South Africa. His main research interests are healthcare and tertiary educational development and management as well as the individual’s constitutional rights. E-mail: profgplouw[at]gmail.com

** Andrè Duvenhage, PhD, a political and social academic/scientist and a professor, is the research director of Focus Area Social Transformation, Faculty of Arts, Potchefstroom Campus of the North-West University, South Africa. His main research interests are sustainable social planning and development, political systems as well as governmental and public management. E-mail: andre.duvenhage[at]nwu.ac.za

Ensovoort volume 36 (2016), number 11: 2.

Abstract

The presence of the so called neo-pagans became well-known since 1994 in South African with their claims that their religious, cultural and constitutional rights as individuals and as a group are endangered by the Witchcraft Suppression Act (No 3, 1957). Their constant demands that the Act must be repealed seem to become a controversial and a very demanding issue for the authorities. The aim of the research was to determine if the claims and demands of the so called neo-pagans are legitimate and if Act No 3 (1957) is doing an injustice to them.

Keywords: affiliation, bona fide, discriminative, doctrine, incetations, neo-paganism, transgressing.

1. Introduction and background

A prominent group of appellants in South Africa, trying to have Act No 3 (1957) reviewed and repealed, is the so-called neo-pagans, also referred to them selves as pagan-witches and self-identified witches. This group enters the scene after the promulgation of the Constitution in 1996. Three splinter groups of neo-pagans can be identified, namely the Pagan Federation of South Africa (PFSA) that was formed in 1996, the South African Pagan Rights Alliance (SAPRA) formed in 2004 and the Pagan Council of South Africa (PCSA/SAPC) formed in 2006. These three mouthpieces – PFSA, PCSA (SAPC) and SAPRA – make the public very well aware of their assumed rights and status in terms of Section 5 of the Civil Union Act (No 17, 2006). Specific prominent is their demand to have Act No 3 (1957) repealed because they argue that it transgresses not less than 11 clauses of Chapter 2 of the Constitutional Act and the Bill of Rights. Their main opinion is that Act No 3 (1957) penalises them as a religious group in their daily life and has the implication to criminalise them (”Neo-paganism”, 2014; SA 1957, 2006; SAPRA, 2014; “The1957 Witchcraft”, 2014; “Witchcraft Suppression”, 2014a).

It seems that the so-called neo-pagans, besides their actions through the PFSA, PCSA (SAPC) and SAPRA, in an aggressive effort to strengthen their legal appeal with the South African Law Review Commission (SALRC), also motivated their so-called members to agitate as individuals to have the Act repealed. The PCSA (SAPC) and SAPRA, with the help of support organisations like the Lawyers for Human Rights (LHR), tried in vain since 2000 to have Act No 3 (1957) repealed or reviewed with various applications to the SALRC (“Make witchcraft”, 2014; “Neo-paganism”, 2014; SAPRA, 2014; “The Witchcraft”, 2014: “Using the”, 2011; “Witchcraft Suppression” 2014a,2014b).

2. The self-promotion drive and incitation of the neo-pagans

It seems that the neo-pagans are making well-used of modern telecommunication aids in the form of websites, newsletters and journals and various other public efforts to promote and to mark themselves exclusively as an aggrieved party inside the South African religious and cultural community (“Make witchcraft”, 2014; SAPRA, 2014; “The 1957 Witchcraft” 2014a, 2014b;”Using the”, 2014;“ Women, witchcraft”, 2016); ”Witchcraft Suppression” 2014a;

Various exclusive claims, statements, assumptions and allegations are made by the neo-pagans. They lay claim that they, as the true witches, hold the sole right to the ownership of the names “witch” and “witchcraft”, together with the right of interpretation of the meaning/description of these names; that they can and may describe themselves as “witches”, ignoring outright the legal regulations of Act No 3 (1957) forbidding it; that they claim to have the right to practise processes that are forbidden in terms of Section 1 of the Act (but failed on the other side to describe fully which of the rules they are claiming to transgress their rights or which they feel are discriminated against them); they claim that they did not, will not and shall not agree to accept the regulations of Section 1 of Act No 3; they allege that their practices contravening Section 1 of the Act were always part of their religion and culture; they claim also that they are a bona fide religion and an indigenous / traditional African religion / culture (SAPRA, 2014; “The 1957 Witchcraft”, 2014; “Using the”, 2011; “Witchcraft Suppression”, 2014a; “Witches want”, 2014).

3. A literature perspective

3.1 Leadership anomaly

In light of above claims, statements, opinions and allegations and the neo-pagans efforts to do away with Act No 3 (1957), it was found necessary to evaluate the general South African literature on neo-paganism as well as the self-described literature of the neo-pagan fraternity in-depth.

These literature shows throughout contradictions of who they really as a group are, what their true mission, vision and aims are, their specific and real role in the South African religious and cultural setup, and thus primarily their right to appeal to the SALRC to have Act No 3 (1957) repealed.

Regarding literature it seems by the own references of the neo-pagans that the persons claiming to be the rightful appointed leaders, conveyers, spokes-persons and decision-makers for the neo-pagans in South Africa, that these so called representative executive power is centred in the hand of a few non-selective and self-appointed representatives of the three separate, and sometimes opposing, bodies active inside paganism in South Africa. This shows a small segment of individuals acting on behalf of the so called neo-pagans, reflecting their own views, aims and intentions. What is immediate clear is that these splinter bodies and their insignificant leaderships failed totally to offer a trustworthy membership-listing or -numbering of neo-pagans in South Africa. This outcome puts immediately not only the existence of true paganism in South Africa in doubt, but also puts the existence of a true and powerful leadership, representing a significant group of individuals with constitutional rights, in doubt. The impression of a very small group of activists meddling in trivial matter or an aimless few law-obstructionists, falsely reflected them selves as a significant religious and cultural group fighting specific for religious freedom, is put to the foreground (“Neo-paganism”, 2014; SAPRA, 2014; “The 1957 Withcraft”, 2014;” Using the”, 2011).

3.2 Indigenous African religion and culture affiliation

The neo-pagans of South Africa are undoubtly not at all an indigenous African religious or African cultural group as they profess. There is no linking evidence of Black supporters to make the so called South African neo-pagans a movement that is African-founded or driven. Indeed, an evaluation shows that most of their so-called spokespersons and leaders are from European and other non-African descent. Further, in linking to their claim of an African root, it is important to note that “witches” and “witchcraft” do have negative connotations in the traditional African context. It is not terms generally used by traditional African religions to identify them selves (“Neo-paganism”, 2014: SAPRA, 2014; “The 1957 Witchcraft”, 2014; “Using the”, 2011).

3.3 English/European affiliation

The South African neo-pagans claim to have also roots in the European- or Englishwitchfamily or brotherhood, is also unfounded. It can at most been said that paganism is the indigenous pre-Christian body of religion of Old Europe, which had included branches such as Druidism and Wicca. A review of the history of the South African pagan-bodies, like the PFSA, reflects that although they pride themselves to have a constitution [assumed based on the United Kingdom Pagan Federations (UKPF)’s one], they do not enjoy international standing or affiliation with either UKPF or the Pagan Federation International (PFI). They seem to be outer eggs in the modern-day European pagan-family, isolated and limited in pagan-empowerment (“Make witchcraft”, 2014; “Neo-paganism”, 2014; “Using the”, 2011).

3.4 Knowledge and understanding of religion-philosophies

From their literature studied, the opinion is left that the so called South African neo-pagans experience a lack of knowledge and understanding of religion-philosophies, occultism, devil-worshipping, atheism or symbolism, reality and reasoning. The opinion is also that they reflect an inability to do self-introspection or to understand their own psyche, cognitive and emotional functioning inside the bigger South African Social System. This lacking seems to confuse them and is limiting their understanding of the true meaning of spiritualism, shamanism, atheism, witchcraft, occultism and even paganism that they underwrite (“Make witchcraft”, 2014; “Neo-paganism”, 2014; “Using the”, 2011).

3.5 Future life-style and -planning

The opinion that the neo-pagans are confused on their own future, lifestyle, life-planning, etc. seems to be confirmed by their unspecified reasons why they want Act No 3 (1957) to be repealed. Research-evidence shows that their lifestyle, -planning and-future are not endangered or discriminated against, nor are they in line for prosecution (Louw, 206a, 2016b, 2016c).

This policy of non-discrimiation is well-confirmed by the fact that they were never prosecuted over the years for their provocative use of the name “witch” and the fact that the law-enforcing agencies seemingly allowed them to practice unrestricted certain activities that are prohibited by Act No 3 (1957). It seems specific to be subsections 1(f) and (d) that reads “like to pretends to exercise or use supernatural power, witchcraft, sorcery, charms, enchantment or conjuration and fortune-telling and knowledge of occult science”, which are apparently contravened by them and are the reasons why they fight to repeal the Act. Linking to the opinion of confusion, as been reflected above, seems their apparent ignorance and the lack of understanding how the regulations of Act No 3 (1957) are partial applied by the South African Police Services (SAPS) and the National Prosecution Authority (NPA) in their prosecutions and conviction approaches of offences in terms of the Act (SA, 1957; SAPRA, 2014; “The 1957 Witchcraft”, 2014; “Witchcraft Suppression” 2014a, 2014b).

4. Exposure to prosecution

The neo-pagans’ only possible exposure to prosecution by the regulations of Act No 3 (1957) is the transgression of specific subregulations, namely 1(a), 1(c) and 1(e). On the other side it must be noted that this specific transgressing are not only applicable on the neo-pagans, but on all South African citizens transgressing it, because it is an essential part of the country’s criminal code to safeguard the individual’s rights and life (Mazibila, 2014a, 2014b; “Neo-paganism”, 2014;”Polisie het”, 2014; SAPRA, 2014; “Women, witchcraft”, 2016).

The partial sanction by the SAPS and NPA of certain neo-pagans’ behaviour that can strictly be interpreted as criminal, seeing that it stands on the law books as offences, is not a failure of the Act, nor negligence by the SAPS and NPA to execute their duties or orders. It is basically an outcome of the fact that it becomes well-known over the years that neo-pagans are not generally involved in crime-related behaviour, as general literature and public talk try to profess. The SAPS and NAP understand, it seems, very well that the neo-pagans have suffered prejudice and misunderstanding, and that they have been mistakenly classed with the much feared satanic worshipping (“Make witchcraft”, 2014; Mazibila, 2014a, 2014b; “Neo-paganism” , 2014; “Polisie het”, 2014; “Women, witchcraft”, 2016).

5. Witch scape-goating

The negative classification of the witch as a criminal-intended and as a dangerous persona is a direct and a wrong outcome of the medieval scape-goating of the witch as a person who makes a conscious pact with the devil. This religious-narrative incorporated mythologies of the witch-graze of medieval times, but are still stigmatised and stereotyping up today by naming the witch as a harmful person and a danger to the community. In real life this early scapegoating [starting officially in 1957 in South Africa with Act No 3 (1957)], distracts successfully the attention from the true culprits in witch-related crimes: the traditional healer, insangoma, inyanga and the Christian and other religion priests and spiritualists doing criminal wrong. This one-sided scape-goating gives the deliquent traditional healer and various others a free pass to practice unhindered and unofficial since 1957 while the witch became criminal-blacklisted. In their prosecution approach, witchcraft, in its true context, is seemingly not solely seen by the SAPS as a unique supernatural-crime, executed specific by the “wizard” as described by Act No 3 (1957), but only as an inclusive name use to “umbrella” a series of other criminal activities committed by various other culprits as the “witch”. This view of the SAPS is well-reflected by their “X-files” approach to prosecute only certain witchcraft criminal-related behaviour (“Make witchcraft”, 2014: Mazibila 2014a, 2014b;“Neo-paganism”, 2014; “Polisie het”, 2014; SAPRA, 2014; “The 1957Witchcraft”, 2014; “Women, witchcraft”, 2016:

6. Philosophy of Paganism

The philosophy of paganism seems to be based on pre-modern, even childish, inclinations (that is possible also the guidelines that the SAPS and NPA follow in their lenient treatments of the neo-pagans in South Africa), as the under mentioned description expresses it (“Neo-paganism”, 2014: para.4) : “Pagan belief is based on the notion of life as an endless circle, with the promise of rebirth, renewal and recycling as embodied in the ‘wheel of the year’, a calendar of events following the solar and lunar cycles. Rituals are performed, in sacred places, on occasions linked to cyclic events such as the full moon, the summer solstice, the spring equinox and the autumn equinox. Pagans emphasise healing, the use of magic, and journeys to the ‘other world’ through meditation, drumming, dance, divination, and the use of an assortment of sacred tools including crystals, candles, drums, and feathers. Paganism is associated with a strong reverence for the Earth, and for human life, and places women in a special position in religious worship”.

It is clear that the South African paganism is not a religion as the neo-pagans here try to profess in terms of Section 5(1) and (2) of the Civil Union Act (Act No 17, 2006), but at most a kind of lifestyle of a small number of mainly White South Africans. It is only when this lifestyle becomes criminal-intended, that prosecution is enacted. On the other side the neo-pagans as a so-called “religious group” is so small that law-breaking and –obstruction, to can be identified as a class-action for claims and demands in terms of the Constitution, is minimal (“Neo-paganism”, 2014; SA, 2006).

The South African neo-pagans fail in general to offer a written and proven religion-doctrine, although the PFSA claims to have a constitution and the fact that pagans call on writers like a Professor Philip Harrison and a Dr Dale Wallace to offer some authority and foundation to their belief-system. They fail further to show some constructive forms of religion-affiliation, religious opinions, standpoints, views and relation-references. They fail also to offer research-outcomes and -findings to support their beliefs and legal arguments, but save emotional and unsubstantial rhetoric on their so-called rights as a “religion”. Descriptions of the roles of the member, priest, healer and “practitioner of witchcraft” of neo-paganism, are also missing in their “religious writings” and websites, journals and newsletter manifestos. Their literature it seems is only aimed to promote and to mark themselves superficially, acknowledging unknowingly and unguarded their own limited definitions, understandings and the meanings of the concepts and connotations of “witch”, “witchcraft”, “pagan-witch” or “neo-pagan”. The opinion is left that the neo-pagan ideology is incomplete, superficial and without an academic- or religion-integrity in present-day South Africa. It is thus not without reason that there are references to the neo-pagans as “amateurs” (“Neo-pagans”, 2014; SAPRA, 2014; “Witchcraft Suppression”, 2014a; 2014b; “Women, witchcraft”, 2016).

7. Membership-numbers of neo-pagans in South Africa

The official membership of an organization is very important to can decided if a group can be a role player claiming rights per se for the group in terms of the Constitution and if claims are limited to the individual’s rights. Hereto even the South African neo-pagans unofficial membership-numbers seems to be unknown. Literature reflects an unorganised group of seemingly bohemian and uncommitted supporters. In 2003 a president of the PFSA, Norman Geldenhuys, reported 50 000 pagans in South Africa, while a later president, Donna Vos, reported in 2008 between 10 000 and 50 000 followers (a deviation of 40 000!). SAPRA itself, which seems to be the leader in the neo-paganism-marketing and-promotion, had reflected in 2007 only 3 000 to 5 000 neo-pagans in South Africa. The neo-pagans’ leadership’s above own admittance of an “unknown” about the true neo-pagans numbers in South Africa, reaffirms the reason why the South African Census 2011-forms did not made any provisions for questions on neo-paganism: basically because their numbers are too low to be significant. Memberships seems even to be below the 3 000 minimum numbers as estimated by SAPRA (”Make witchcraft”, 2014; “Neo-pagan” 2014; “Witchcraft Suppression”, 2014b).

The neo-pagans’ claim that they is a significant indigenous African or South African group, can further be tested by comparing their numbers with the South African Census (2012) statistics of 2001 on religion groups and their numbers. From these statistics it is reflected that only 124 946 Black South Africans (out of a total of 35,416,616 Blacks) were adherents of the indigenous African religions (this represent only 0.35%). Memberships to these indigenous African religions do clearly not include neo-pagans. When non-Blacks who can belong to the so-called “non-traditional” African religions, which can possible include neo-pagans, are calculated, the number are only 955 persons. This number is much less than the 3 000 to 5 000 neo-pagans as alleged by SAPRA (SA, 2012; “Witchcraft Suppression”, 2014a, 2014b; “Women, witchcraft”, 2016).

A more objective view about the true numbers of neo-pagans is obtained by the using of Pretorius (1999) calculation-approach that she had used to deviate between bogus and bona fide traditional healers (Her finding is that there is as much as 90% bogus healers versus a 10% bona fide healers). With this calculation-guideline (that she used effectively to offer some bona fide reliability on the alleged and unsubstantiated number of
200 000 traditional healers in South Africa), it seems that the bona fide neo-pagans are at most between 300 and 500 (using the SAPRA-count of 3 000 to 5 000) “uncommitted members” in South Africa, a finding in line (although lower) with that of the South African Census (2012) number of 955. This declares also why there was no provision made on the South African Census 2011-form to include an explicit count of neo-pagans (”Neo-pagans”, 2014; Pretorius, 1999: SA, 2012).

Above outcome alone contradicts outright their claim to be a committed and identifiable group, either religious, cultural, politically or ethnic, that must be recognised in terms of the Constitution, and thus have rights to may call on Chapter 2 of the Constitution (SA, 1957; “The 1957 Witchcraft”, 2014; “Witchcraft Suppression”, 2014a, 2014b).

8. Mental dysfunction and politico-religious-cultural dissidence

A point of concern that went unnoticed with unique cultural, religious and lifestyle groups worldwide and also in South Africa, is the role that mental impairment in the thinking, doings and motivations of religious and cultural dissidents play or can play. This dysfunction is specific common in politico-religion groups: it is common fact that religious and cultural dissidents are attracted by non-common ideologies and lifestyles in which mental impairment play a strong role. This is applicable on followers as well as leaders: Mental dysfunction can go unnoticed on for years before it is clearly manifested, with unsocial and illicit behaviour. The neo-pagans lack of aims, a vision, a mission, a meaningful doctrine, together with their obsession to be know as “witches” and to have Act No 3 (1957) repealed without any convincing reason why, seems more and more a point of concern (Anitos, 2014; “A not so”, 2014; Briggs, 1998; Cronje, 2014; De Groot, 2014; Fihlani, 2013; Hofstatter, 2014; Marais, 2014; Swaab, 2014).

9. Conclusions

The misuse of the South African Constitution by groups and individuals including the present doings of the neo-pagans, have limits. The other citizens also have rights, privileges and freedom, equal to that of the neo-pagans, which must at all times be protected as Sections 12(2) and 32(1)(b) of Act No 108 (1992), a pre-1994 version of the Constitution, already was in 1992 clear and loud about (SA, 1992).There is also a great difference between private rights and public rights, with the last mentioned as the favoured (a fact that the individual-orientated leaders of the so called neo-pagans in South Africa must take note of). Differences between South Africans, as the neo-pagans try to profess about them selves and the rest of the population cannot be addressed or solved by misuses of the Constitution or other laws as the neo-pagans try to do (Titus, 2014). It is nothing less than religious, cultural and ethnic discrimination by the neo-pagans against the rest of the population.

It is clear that there exists a misunderstanding of the working of the South African Constitution, as well as a misused and disrespect for it by some South Africans since 1994 who think the Constitution gives them rights without limitations. The neo-pagans seem such a newcomer on the scene (Joubert, 2014; Shoba, Mokane, Joubert, 2014).

In retrospect is it clear that the South African neo-pagans are neither a religious nor a cultural group of social standing. They failed thus the legal test of the Constitution to be classified as a group who is been discriminated and criminalised by the Act. The neo-pagans of South Africa can at most be described as a social lifestyle-group of individuals that chose a way of life that is not special or unique, but can be deviated to a certain extend from the rest of the bigger society. Neo-paganism is at all thus not a religion, nor a culture, as the neo-pagans try to profess (“Make witchcraft”, 2014; “Witchcraft Suppression” 2014a, 2014b;”Women, witchcraft”, 2016).

The Act No 3 of 1957 fulfils fully to the neo-pagans present constitutional needs and rights to can and may practice a specific life-style as a South African group, as well as an individual neo-pagan. There is no evidence that the Act discriminates with criminalising the law-abiding neo-pagan who declares himself a witch in public. The only action against him is when he contravenes a focussed criminal law or threatens or endanger the life of other people in terms of subsection 1(a) , 1(c) and 1(e) of the Act (SA, 1957; “Witchcraft Suppression”, 2014a, 2014b).

In studying the general literature on neo-paganism as well as their own writings, their arguments and objections, the opinion is left that the South African neo-pagans seem to be public nuisances and attention-seekers, persons apparently without any real aims or intention to better the community. Their continuous feeble efforts to be recognised, specific as a religious or a cultural group, are viewed by some critics as an obscure effort by SAPRA, which sees itself as a “faith-based human rights organisation”, simply to uphold the Constitution’s intentions to promote so-called guaranteed liberties and freedom (“Make witchcraft”, 2014; “Neo-pagans”, 2014).

These efforts are seen by other critics as dark and masked motives of the neo-pagans, as a commentator clearly pinpointed the issue out to the neo-pagans; not only by asking them for self-clearance about their intentions but also sending a clear warning about their true social, religious and legal position when he said straight and honestly (“Make witchcraft”: response 28): “You need to very carefully examine your motives because in fact, nobody really gives a hairy goat’s knee about a bunch of wannabees running around at full moon and purporting to be witches, etc”.

Their continuous appeals over many years to the SALRC to have Act No 3 (1957) repealed must be regarded by the SALRC as obstructive, unnecessary time-consuming and a cost for the taxpayer. It is time that “stop law” is executed on them, because they are a few quarrelsome grousers, looking for controversy to position only self-interest. Their foolish and aimless behaviour to be “witches” and to be recognised as role-players in the South African dissident-religion and -culture societies, is excellent reflected by the following remark (“Make witchcraft”: response 16): “The only real witches in the 21st century are a bunch of tree-hugging pagans and they don’t harm anybody. It’s time these superstitions were put into perspective and revealed for exalting what they are – superstitious nonsense. Kill the nonsense”.

The finding in principle by the SALRC more recently that certain sections of the Act can be unconstitutional, is not an approval at this stage that the Witchcraft Suppression Act (No 3, 1957) is a failure or is going to be repealed or changed immediately. The matter must first be considered by the law-makers and the Parliament. It will be wise for the SALRC in future to consider the neo-pagans appeals and actions still with great caution (SALRC, 2014; Ward, 2016).

If the SALRC and Parliament yield to their request to repeal Act No 3 (1957), a miscarriage of justice will be done, not only to the Constitution and the Bill of Rights, but to every law-abiding citizen. Act No 3 (1957) must be kept for the present to control and restrain possible dangerous, criminal-minded and mental impaired quasi-religious believers and other problem-makers (SA, 1957).

The Witchcraft Suppression Act (No3, 1957) is not doing any injustice to the so called neo-pagans. The South African neo-pagans are unrestricted in their daily and night life; they are free to hug as many trees as they wanted, to call them selves witches and to practice dances and rituals when the moon is full or the sun is shining. The golden rule that they must remember and respect at all times is that they are subordinate as every other South African to the country’s laws: not more, not less.

References

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Louw GP. How and why bewitching and wickedness are created and maintained within small, specific segments of the South African population. Unpublished article: pending for publication; 2016b.
Louw GP. Do South Africans still belief today in the supernatural, bad magic, witchcraft, witches and evil demons? Unpublished article: pending for publication, 2016c.
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CONFLICT OF INTEREST
The authors declare that they have no competing interests

Word count: 4,856

The Traditional Health Practitioners Act (No 22 of 2007): A South African Constitutional Mishap?

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Gabriel Louw*, Andrè Duvenhage**

* Research Associate, Focus Area Social Transformation, Faculty of Arts, Potchefstroom Campus, North-West University, Potchefstroom, South Africa
** Research Director, Focus Area Social Transformation, Faculty of Arts, Potchefstroom Campus, North-West University, Potchefstroom, South Africa

Ensovoort volume 36 (2016), number 10: 2.

Research

Corresponding Author:
Prof Dr Gabriel Louw
Focus Area 7.2 Sustainable Social Development
Faculty of Arts
Potchefstroom Campus, North-West University, Potchefstroom, South Africa
Email profgplouw[at]gmail.com,
Cell +27 83 626 8005, South Africa

Abstract

Background

The Traditional Health Practitioners Act (Act No 22, 2007), which elicits controversy in the South African healthcare and public sector since proclamation, went untested through the legislature, driven inside the post-1994 socio-political dispensation.. No previous in-depth studies have been identified.

Aims

The aim of this study was to determine and to reflect the Act’s long term legal implications for the already statutory health professions and the public: specific with the focus on the Constitution and other legislations and possible ways to oppose it

Methods

This is an exploratory and descriptive research, in line with the modern-day history approach of investigation and reviewing research, using contemporary reports, news papers and articles as primary resources to reflect on the situation, thinking, opinions, trends and activities around Act No 22 and its implications on the Constitution and citizen’s rights. The focus was also to put Act No 22 in a future in perspective. Findings are represented in narrative form.

Results

Act No 22 (2007) was promulgated without an applicable and appropriate scientific needs-analysis. The Act seems to stand to a great extent in conflict with the Constitution as well as various other Acts, like the Witchcraft Suppression Act (No 3, 1957).

Conclusions

The Act is still today, nearly a decade after promulgation, not fully active. It is a Constitutional mishap. Notwithstanding its constitutional controversy, the Act’s political sanction by governmental agencies and political leaders will ensure that it will not vanish easily from the South African law books.

Keywords

Apartheid, constitution, human rights, post-1994 dispensation, traditional healer and religions

What this study adds:

1. What is known about the subject?
Little research was done on the possible transgressing by Act No 22 of the South African Constitution and the possibility in future of misuses by the traditional healing fraternity of Act No 22 to benefit their quackery.
2. What new information is offered by this study?
It clearly described the legal misinterpretations of the Constitution by the traditional healing fraternity to serve their improper interests.
3. What are the implications for research, policy, or practice?
The status of traditional healing as a statutory profession is in doubt; the same can be said of the legal status of Act No 22.

Background

Act no 22 (2007) was shaped by two strategy manifestos of the African National Congress (ANC), namely the Manifesto of the National Democratic Revolution (NDR) of 1969 and the National Health Plan (NHP) of 1994. Never was there over the years deviated an inch from these master-plans in the execution of political and cultural preferences, notwithstanding sound logical, legal and financial argumentation against it. This fixed viewpoint malformed thinking around the true rights of individuals and groups, democracy and the correct interpretation of the various clauses of the Constitution.1-13
The aim of this exploratory and descriptive research was to determine if the impact of Act No 22 (2008) on the Constitution and other South African Acts can makes these laws mal-functioning.

Methods

Books and articles on the South African traditional healing are very limited; it offers mostly trivial, old, and superficial information.14 This lack of sound and in-depth research findings on the traditional healer in the Republic of South Africa (RSA) had necessitated a study that builds a viewpoint and forms a conclusion from the ground, derived directly from the evidence as it appears as the research developed. The exploratory and descriptive research approach, as used in modern-day historical studies of investigation and reviewing information, was the most appropriate. Here-through contemporary news papers, reports and articles were used as primary resources to reflect on the impact of Act No 22 and traditional healing on specific the functioning of the Constitution as well as the present-day life of South Africans.15-16
The findings were offered in narrative form.

Results

Act No 22 (2007) is still untested today
A good indication of the political skim-off and misdirected thinking and doing in general since the early 1960s on the traditional healer’s competence, is reflected by the designing and compiling of Act 22. An in-depth study to determine the true needs and applicability of the Act was never done. The problem was side-stepped with two superficial enquiries, supported by various road shows between 1997 and 1998.1-3,17-23

The final decision to construct the Act was based on the outcome of five basic questions, put to the public.1,3,17, 18,23,24,25,26,27
They are:
The desirability of a statutory council for traditional healers;
The recognition of medical certificates, issued by traditional healers;
The recognition of the claims of traditional healers by medical schemes;
The formal legal recognition of traditional healers as a medical source;
The establishment of an interim council for the regulation of traditional healers as a health profession.
Negative indicators about the traditional health practitioner’s future statutory recognizing in terms of Act No 22 (2007), as well as the future regulation of traditional healing as a formal healthcare sector, were not thoroughly considered in the proposal of the Act. Specific a lack in need for traditional healers, various non-described-types of traditional healers in practice, a lack of present-day formal training programs, training standards and a functioning system, risks of traditional treatment and concoctions to the public and the health sector, the negative effect of the traditional healer on the practices of the already statutory recognized health practitioners, especially medical doctors, as well as a lack on in-depth research on the possible negative role to play in healthcare, were ignored. Thoughts how to incorporate the traditional healer into the already established allied professions, like homoeopathy, naturopathy, phytotherapy and ethno-medicine, and thus to avoid duplication in training and health practitioner-types, as well the limiting of the immense development costs around the separate recognition of the traditional healer, were also ignored.1-3,5,11,17,18,28-43
This legalizing of traditional healing into the established health sector, was driven under the banner of Section 31(1) of the Constitution of South Africa. This regulation, it was argued, declares that every person, belonging to a cultural community, may not be denied, together with the other members of his community, the right to enjoy their culture. This clause was and is still interpreted by the propagandists of traditional healing as the bestowing of unchallengeable constitutional rights on the traditional healer to practice his trade. It is also argued that it offers the right for the community, to whom the healer belongs, to demand for his services and to use exclusive his services as traditional healer.25,44-46
These beliefs by the traditional healer and his followers in his right to be an official health provider and to may practice freely and fully at all time his trade, were further driven and supported by the Patients Charter 2002 of the Department of Health (DOH). This Charter emphasis the right of patients to be free to choose a particular type of healthcare practitioner for services, notwithstanding the practitioner’s risk impact to healthcare or the user’s life. It seems in this context as if the Charter itself can be a constitutional mishap, as Act No 22 (2007) seems already is doing.10,18,25,47-51
Present-day law-transgressing by offering official work and training appointments to traditional healers
The above opportunistic and scornful attitudes about the alleged rights and status of the traditional healer, as reflected inside as well as outside the traditional healthcare setup, led thereto that various governmental, semi-governmental and other agencies and bodies had even signed legal agreements with traditional healers to work in an official health team or to formally train traditional healers. Examples of these agreements are with a well-known university and two prominent municipalities. One of these municipalities appointed traditional medicine managers to integrate traditional healing and allopathic medicine in its health system and to promote two-way referrals and collaboration between the municipal’s clinics and traditional healers. The University is alleged to have a traditional healer on its staff, working in its counselling and wellness-program. These actions are alarming and irresponsible; it are risky and must be evaluated against the Constitution’s Human Rights Manifesto.10, 24, 25, 31, 44, 45, 47, 51-53
In retrospect, it must be noted, that, all though Act 22 (2007) was promulgated, the Act is not fully activated at this stage (2016) regarding a functioning register for traditional healers. It is thus still illegal, in terms of the various Health Acts, for the already registered health practitioners to work with the unregistered traditional healer. Anybody, municipality, university or individual, doing so, put the health and life of their patients at risk and will not have any indemnity against lawsuits for malpractice with this delinquent behaviour.30,44,54-57
Subtle misuses of legal definitions in self-promotion and reflecting of possession of ability by the traditional healer
Indirect law-transgressing is further well illustrated in the misuses of certain clauses of the Constitution, the Civil Union Act (No 17, 2007), as well as Act No 22 by the traditional fraternity to present themselves to the public as skilled and thus acceptable by the statutory healthcare.
Here it is specific the actions of certain traditional healers organizations which reflect these misuses of the Constitution very well in their public ethic-declarations and practice-rights communications. Specific are those clauses hauled in under the traditional healings umbrella of “exclusive rights to can and may practice”, with the misleading prefix in the Constitution that stipulates that “everyone has a right to equality, human dignity, free association, privacy, religion, beliefs and opinions, trade preferences, occupations and professions, preference life-styles, fair labour practices and access to preferred healthcare”, notwithstanding that they are knowing very well that these clauses are not fully applicable on the traditional healers unscientific and risky practices. 1,3,11,17,24,44,45
These legal misuses are also very subtle reflected by traditional health fraternity communications in their efforts to drag in Act No 22’s description of the representative of the Health Professional Council of South Africa (HPCSA) the formal recognition of traditional healing by the medical and pharmaceutical fraternities. The impression is also subtle left that the HPCSA and SAPC recognize the traditional healer as an independent health practitioner, notwithstanding that traditional healers know very well that these representatives, sitting on the THPCSA, is required by Section 7 of Act No 22 solely to oversee that the THPCSA and its practitioners are not violating the legal rights and privileges of the already statutory recognized health practitioners.44,55,56
Constitutional misuses have limits, even for the traditional healer in New South Africa
Constitutional misuses have limits; it also does not give free-booting to the traditional healer to practice as he feels. First, because he is still an unregulated practitioner, one who is clearly violating many of the country’s health laws and as such must be controlled. Second, because other citizens of South Africa also have rights, privileges and freedom, equal to that of the traditional healer, which must be protected. Sections 12(2) and 32(1) (b) of Act No 108 (1992), a pre-1994 version of the Constitution, are clear and loud about this.50
There is great difference between private and public rights, with the last mentioned as favoured. Differences and uniqueness in culture, person, finance and lifestyles between South Africans, as the traditional healer tries to profess about him self since 1994, cannot be addressed or solved by misuses of the Constitution, as the government blindly did with the promulgation of Act No 22 and the official recognition of the traditional healer. Not even the Constitution can bring equality, as the academic and human activist, Dr Danny Titus, clearly point-out when he states that South Africans cannot argue away their true differences with the argument that everyone is equal before the law: South Africans are just too unequal and need another address for individual rights.57
The Nobel-laureate Milton Freedman also warned long ago that a society that considers bluntly equality higher than the individual’s freedom [in this case safe medicines versus medical concoctions], will end without any one of the two.58
It seems as if there is confusion in the mind-sets of the post-1994 government about outright equality for every South African and to how to differentiate when conferring such a right. It is ill-considered to give unlimited rights to a specific individual, here the traditional healer, knowing well the person can be a danger to the health of others.5,59-64
Constitution experts, Prof. Marinus Wiechers and Prof. Koos Malan, identified clearly this mind-set, which allows that the law-abiding, good and sound person’s rights and claims are sacrificed, to serve a pretended ideal state of equality. Malan pinpoints this pretended equal-state not as a correction-action-state, but as a consuming-governmental-state, that devastating all justice doings. The intention is the disregard of all the rights and claims of the good as well as the problematic individual. This devastator, it seems, is now inside formal healthcare with the traditional healer and Act No 22.62-64
Act No 22 is political, not cultural orientated
It is argued by the propagandists of traditional healing that traditional healing is an essential cultural demand by the South African society, free of politics. The NDR (1969) contradicts this free of political meddling argument. This political document, which had given birth to Act No 22 and formulated in the Apartheid regime’s most notorious time of the suppression of the South African majority, clearly had as an aim and a vision the establishment of pro-African healthcare services and institutes, one that includes traditional healing.1-3,6,8,10-13,17,24,28,29,33-38,49,65,66
The whole 1969-thinking was executed by a small, in exiled political leadership, who empowered themselves to think, right or wrong, on behalf of the voiceless and vote-less majority at home; an autocratic decision-making, possible acceptable by the majority in that time of suffering and uncertainty. But the demolishing of Apartheid in 1994 and the end of barriers on political, economical, educational and healthcare, brought political rights in decision-making direct to the till-then side-lined majority. These changes also brought enormous new mind-sets, more and more away from the 1969 autocratic leadership’s thinking, especially on the outdated healthcare, cultural and political thinking of 1969. South Africans, now free to think as they choose, become modern, also in their healthcare use. Traditional healing, together with other pre-modern remnants of healings and religions, disappeared from their mindsets.64,68-75,125?
Hereto it seems that the 1969-leadership, now elders but with some still in political power, failed to change also and hang on to outdated and warped thinking on the supernatural, witches and traditional healing; not only because they believe in it, but primary because they see it as a matter to stay in power and to serve self-interests. Act No 22 is such a political behavioural-upkeep, notwithstanding that these leaders knowingly transgress Article 16 of the Constitution and the Code of Ethics for Members of the Executive, as prescribed by the Ethics Act (No 82, 1990).4,49,51,55,67,76-87
Is Act No 22 (2007): a Constitutional mishap?
Act No 22 was a well-planned legal and promotion exercise which will bring the pre-modern traditional healer inside the formal health sector, equal to the modern-day health practitioner. This all-over-forcing-down of the traditional healer, also shows the official disregard for the poor, uneducated individual, who is not only deprived by the government of medical and life-aids, but is now also left with the unscrupulous traditional healer and his dangerous concoction. 4,49,51,55,67,76-87
Only the post-1994 government’s immediate personal and political interests are served with the recognition of the traditional healer: its recognition as a specific healer’s type is not equal to the uplifting of the poor or uneducated individual. Uplifting, equality and non-discrimination are three separate entities; to be a sole entity, uplifting and non-discrimination are prerequisites, not ill-considered equality as the government tries to do. To stretch certain clauses of the Constitution, Act No 22 and other legal rules to promote and to establish traditional healing, are dangerous.49,59,62-64,88-90
The present constitutional mishap of the South African political-legal system cuts to the heart of a society still under construction. This mishap forced emeritus-judge Bernard Ngoepe to react on how the Constitution is misunderstood, misused and disrespected, by saying that some South Africans think that the Constitution gives them rights without limitations, an excuse through which they can get everything for nothing. It is clear for Ngoepe that some South Africans, the public as well as politicians, have a problem in the way they understand and apply the Constitution. Act No 22 and traditional healing is surely such an example.91,92
Opposition in the past to Act No 22
Opposition to the Act was so far minimal, notwithstanding the serious consequences it holds for the established health practitioners, especially the medical doctor. This poor reaction to the Act can be described to various obstructions:
First, critic on the government is choked; summarily ignored and executive decisions are taken one-sided, basically of the overpowering majority of the ANC in the Parliament.18,21,49,89
Second, critic from especially journalists and academics, is strong, but with very little positive outcome. In this concern there is always the fear of victimizing. At the moment these objection-actions seem just not strong enough to obtain a turn-around. More organized actions are needed, but the question is what really can be done to nullify Act No 22 (2007).93-96
Possible future actions against Act No 22
Submissions to Parliament
It is doubtful if any sympathy would be found at Parliament and its lawmakers for the repealing of the Act, seeing that it was they who had put the present Act through Parliament in 2003 and did nothing to oppose it. The present ANC-led government’s disrespect for the Constitution and basic rights on health safety, as the traditional healer demonstrates, together with rejections of appeal to rectify one-sided decisions, will surely makes any direct appeal by the medical fraternity to Parliament on the Act nil and void. This concern is confirmed by the action of Parliament to ignore the legal presence of the Witchcraft Suppression Act (NO 3, 1957) when promulgation Act No 22 (2007). Also the bluntly ignoring of the rights of the established healthcare professions, when parliamentarians activating the traditional healer as a formal health practitioner, serves as a further reminder of no interest to repeal Act No 22.77,96-108
The fact that the present ANC-government is going to stay in power for at least another 20 years, re-confirms that the Parliament is not an ideal pathway to take.61,109-113
Also the fact that some of the top-members of the government themselves believe in the supernatural and interference by the ancestors, rules out on its own any anti-action in Parliament against the Act.78,114
It must further be remembered that the public had lost trust in the Parliament to solve their problems, like the constitutional mishap Act No 22, long ago. This is confirmed by two research polls, namely the 2014 IPSOS-Poll and 2014 Media 24-Poll. These studies show that between 53% and 89% of the population distrust the Parliament and government. Taken action and taking on the Parliament on Act No 22, seems to be worthless.114-118
Court actions
Another option to take on Act No 22 and against the present-day government, are through direct court actions. So far the Act went unchallenged in court, although there seems a lot of violation of the rights and practices of the already statutory health professions. In this concern is important to note that South African Courts are not very willing to give judgments on controversial political and cultural issues, like Act No 22 and traditional healing. Here, the medical fraternity’s own sad experience of the side-kicking of the Doctors for Life (DFL)’s legal action in 2003 with the Traditional Health Practitioners Bill, is still too fresh in their minds to readily re-engage in court-actions.61,84
Similar to the above mentioned negative experience of the DFL, it must be noted that a 2014 Media 24-Poll had found that as so much as 78% of the population does not trust South African Courts fully. This negative inclination surely also effects the medical fraternity to rethink before they decide to take on Act No 22 (2007) in a legal battle. As learn from the DFL-case, the outcome can also be negative for them.30
The hesitation of the medical fraternity to take legal actions must also be seen from the point that Act No 22 is still in limbo and can thus not effectively be taken on in court. The implementation that certain Sections of the Act to commence, was only done on 1 May 2014 and was limited to the establishment of the Interim Traditional Health Practitioners Council and the providing of a regulatory framework to ensure the efficacy and quality of traditional core services. This limits legal reaction. Recourse to courts of law by the medical fraternity is thus difficult at this stage, seeing that there is no real legal and physical endangering at present by Act No 22. As soon as the traditional healer enters physical the health services and establishment, claims from medical aid funds and will make him/her guilty of improper behaviour, organized court-actions from the medical profession can be expected.30,55,56
Informal ways to address Act No 22
The experience of the author to motivate healthcare practitioners to address their professional dilemmas themselves, were disappointing and it is doubted if a well-organized formal reaction against Act No 22 will be ever realized. It is clear that other ways must be found and followed, outside the formal venues to address the Act. For this input not only individual, but also class-actions are needed, like the intensively use of the public and private media, in-depth research on the Act, traditional health and its impact on the healthcare sector. Strikes and walkouts, so commonly and effective to everyday-life in South Africa, seems a very appropriate and effective alternative for the up till now passive allopathic practitioners to be followed.
Discussion
It is the duty of the South African government to ensure that a specific healthcare or spiritual practitioner, in this case the traditional healer who is at most a spiritual caregiver, does not transgress any established legislations in his practice, either against the individual or a group. It also must be seen that the health practitioner do not endanger the health or the life of the user of his/her services or medicines. These prerequisites failed outright with Act No 22 (2007). Never in South Africa’s history was on the priest conferred statutory healer status or religion groups official regulated.

The Act is one of the many inapplicable, inappropriate and unworkable Acts that were put through Parliament since 1994, as Prof Piet Naude, Director of University Stellenbosch Business School (USB), reflects when he alluded that our politicians not always paid respect for Parliament and that they make acts which do not pass the test and must again and again be revised. The fact that Act No 22 is still not fully functioning, although promulgated in 2007, confirms that it did not passes the test of good legislation up to today.118,119

Strength and limitations
Enough information was available to formulate and support a legal stand-point on Act No 22’s doubtfully position as a proper healthcare Act and its transgressing of the Constitution.

The post-1994 Political-dispensation’s one-sided unscientific opinions and mal-thinking on healthcare practices, that had led to the justification of a so called “African Culture” that promotes specific the quackery traditional healing, makes the successfully outcome of an opposing public standpoint, like this one against Act No 22, minimal.

Conclusions
The Traditional Health Practitioners Act (ACT No 22, 2007) is an improper healthcare Act, a constitutional mishap. In light of its high level political sanctioning, it stands firm and it must be accepted that it will not be comprehensive revised, neither be repealed, in the next 10 to 20 years.
Further misuses of the Constitution with Act No 22 by the traditional healer fraternity, with more and stronger official sanctioning, can be expected.

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Conflict of interest
The author does not have any financial or personal conflict to declare.
Declaration
All the information contained in this manuscript has not been presented elsewhere.

Sources of support
All costs incurred in the cause of the study were borne by the author.

Word count: Abstract 257, Contents 3 562

Is the Traditional Health Practitioners Act (No 22 of 2007) in conflict with the Witchcraft Suppression Act (No 3 of 1957) in present-day South Africa?

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Gabriel Louw*, Andrè Duvenhage**

* Research Associate, Focus Area Social Transformation, Faculty of Arts, Potchefstroom Campus, North-West University, Potchefstroom, South Africa
** Research Director, Focus Area Social Transformation, Faculty of Arts, Potchefstroom Campus, North-West University, Potchefstroom, South Africa

Ensovoort volume 36 (2016), number 10: 1.

Research

Corresponding Author:
Prof Dr Gabriel Louw
Focus Area Social Transformation
Faculty of Arts
Potchefstroom Campus
North-West University, Potchefstroom, South Africa
Email: profgplouw[at]gmail.com
Cell +27 83 626 8005, South Africa

Abstract

Background

The Traditional Health Practitioners Act (Act No 22, 2007) to regulate the traditional health fraternity had been driven since the 1960s and became a reality after the 1994 political change in South Africa. Although the Act was already promulgated in 2007 it is still not active. Certain definitions of the Act seemed to be very controversial; especially the role of the supernatural in healing that could be associated with witchcraft and criminal-related behaviour.

Aims

The aim is to determine if the Witchcraft Suppression Act (Act No 3, 1957) is discriminatory against the traditional healer as well as well as to determine if the Traditional Health Practitioners Act (No 22, 2007) and the traditional healer are contravening the regulations of Act No 3 (1957).

Methods

The exploratory and descriptive method was used to evaluate and to reproduce any research data. This method offered information to compare the two acts in their functioning with each other.

Results

From the data extracted from various sources it seems as if Act No 22 (2007) was promulgated without in-depth research on the role that the traditional healer may play in witchcraft activities. The aim of Act No 3 (1957) was totally ignored.

Conclusions

Act No 3 (1957) does not discriminate against Act No 22 (2007). Instead, it seems that various stipulations of Act No 3 have been transgressed by the traditional healers without legal action being taken against them.

Keywords

Discriminatory, law-enforcement, partial prosecution, scapegoating, supernatural, traditional philosophy, witch, witchcraft

What this study adds:

1. What is known about the subject?
No in-depth study has so far been undertaken to compare Act No 3 (1957) and Act No 22 (2007) with each other.
2. What new information is offered?
This study clearly reflects that Act No 3 (1957) is not discriminatory against Act No 22 (2007) as the traditional-health fraternity often tries to project.
3. What are the implications for research, policy, or practice?
That Act No 22 (2007) indeed holds intentions that may be associated with witchcraft and criminality.

Background

With the promulgation of the Traditional Health Practitioners Act (Act No 22, 2007), the South African lawmakers, activists and the traditional-healing fraternity established the statutory status of the traditional health practitioner and traditional healing as a health profession, totally and blindly ignoring the existence of the Witchcraft Suppression Act (Act No 3, 1957).

This erring seems to have serious implications for the traditional healer’s future ways of diagnosis, treatment as well as training. The supernatural, witchcraft, wizardry, etc. seem to be part of the traditional healer’s practice, activities which are illegal in terms of Act No 3 (1957). It seems also in terms of Act No 3 (1957)’s regulations as if some aspects of Act No 22 (2007)’s practice definitions are possibly illicit.

Act No 3 (1957) triggered much criticism by the traditional-healing fraternity. Already enacted in 1957 it went fairly unnoticed until 1994, seemingly because it was enacted by the apartheid regime and fitted in well with its legal and governmental thinking and rulings up to the new political dispensation of 1994. Opposition to it by dissidents were not possible or allowed. The Constitution of 1996 and the Bill of Rights brought the opportunity to object freely to any supposed human-rights violation. After 1996 opposition to the Act by individuals, human-rights activists, the neo-pagans and the traditional healers, became more demanding. Especially their agitation in terms of Section 5 of the Civil Union Act (No 17, 2006) and support by outsiders like the Lawyers for Human Rights (LHR) put them in the foreground. 1, 2, 3, 4, 5

The aim of this study is to determine if Act No 3 (1957) is discriminatory against the traditional healer as well as to determine if the Traditional Health Practitioners Act (No 22, 2007) and its traditional healer, are contravening the regulations of Act No 3.

Methods

Research information and other literature on the legal standing of Act No 3 (1957) are very limited, besides the information published on the websites, journals and other publications by the neo-pagans, traditional healers and some individuals, reflecting their opinions, viewpoints, statements and own findings. This research strongly relied on this information, especially publications and appeals aimed at the South African Law Reform Commission (SALRC) to get the Act repealed.

In the light of the above information shortage, the exploratory and descriptive research method was used. It offered the researcher the opportunity to review and to consider new information as the research progressed. The narrative form was used to reflect the findings. 6, 7

Results

The traditional healer

Of all the role players that object in some way to Act No 3 (1957) the traditional healers seem to be the protagonists, based on the intentions of Act No 22 (2007) versus Act No 3 (1957) and the possible interrelation and conflict between these two Acts to regulate the traditional healer’s diagnosis, treatment and training.

In the following discussion the intentions of Act No 3 (1957) will be compared with that of Act No 22 (2007). Further, the diagnosis, treatment and training practices of the traditional healer as bestowed on and allowed by Act No 22 (2007) will be evaluated against the regulations of Act No 3 (1957) to see if it is legally correct or illicit.

The 1957 scapegoating of the witch and neo-pagans

In contrast to some individuals and the neo-pagans who want Act No 3 (1957) to be repealed as a whole without any further type of witchcraft legislation to replace it, the traditional-health fraternity is far more radical and wants Act No 3 (1957) to be replaced by a new but stricter law that strikes a balance between protecting innocent people accused of witchcraft and punishing those found guilty of practising witchcraft. 8

This inclination brings conflict between the South African Pagan Council (PCSA/SAPC) which sees witchcraft as a “noble practice” and the Traditional Healers Organisation (THO) which distances them from wizardry and who argues that witches and witchcraft should be punished with the full severity of the law. 9

The hostile and snobbish attitude and dissociation from the so-called “witch” and “witchcraft” (including thus neo-paganism) by the traditional-health fraternity, has a long history. It was created in 1957 by Act No 3 (1957) itself with its specific scapegoating of the witch (“wizard”) as the only criminal entity that commits witchcraft-related crimes, such as muthi, ritual, religious, cultural and other crimes (including murder), and thus the identity which can and must be prosecuted by a court of law. The viewpoint was sensationalised and driven over the years by the media, opportunistic religious and governmental groups and internalised in the minds of the public, notwithstanding if these assumptions were true or false. Through Act No 3 (1957)’s rule of law the “bad witch” was totally isolated as a stand-alone social, health, religious and cultural figure and a criminal-orientated practitioner that only intends to harm the innocent.ref]The 1957 Witchcraft Act. Available from http://www.quackdown.info/article/1957-witchcraft-act/ (accessed 19/10.2014).[/ref]

The 1957 scapegoating declared the traditional healer unofficially as “good” or “bad” or a “witch”, distracting any attention from the traditional healer whose role in past, present and future could have negative connotations. The deviation between the other regulated health practitioners as “good” and the “witch” on the other hand as “bad” was grabbed and exacerbated by the opportunistic traditional healers; especially after the promulgation in 2007 of Act No 22 (2007). 10, 11, 12, 13

The possibility of conflict between Act No 3 (1957) against Act No 22 (2007)

The present legal setup of the traditional healer sanctioned and certified as able by Act No 22 (2007) as a statutory healthcare practitioner, will be evaluated using the rules of Act No 3 (1957), specifically to see if there are cohesion and/or contradiction between the two Acts. For this it is important to state again the main aims of Act No 3 (1957), namely:

  • To prevent any person or a community to identify a specific person (notwithstanding his position or doing, to justify such an identification) to be a “”wizard”” through witch-finding;
  • To prevent that this identified person (“wizard”) is harmed (threatened, terrorised, victimised or even murdered) in anyway by the “witch-finder” or the community;
  • To prevent a person to call himself a ‘wizard’ by prohibiting such self-naming / declaration as a crime, with the sole aim to safeguard him against harm by his own wrongdoing, to be identified as a ‘wizard’ by the ‘witch-finder’ and the community [see (a)]. [For full text see Section 1(a) to (f) (i) – (iv)].

Comparing the two Acts to determine if Act No 3 (1957) has negative effects on the activities of the traditional healer, two sets of data can be used: i) the witchcraft statistics of 1994 to 2004 of the 2006 Report of the South African Parliament and ii) the six descriptions of witchcraft offences in terms of Act No 3 (2007). These six offences are reflected later in Table 1.

The 2006 Parliamentary Report

The statistics of the 2006 report of the South African Parliament reflected that in 1994 only 13 persons were convicted on the accusation of having identified another person as a “wizard” and/or of actions to harm such an identified person as a “wizard”. In 2004, 10 years later and with seemingly a more strict implementation of the Act, these convictions rose to 345 cases (a rise of 332 or 96,2% in cases) [Officially the SAPS does not keep statistics specific to muthi or ritual assaults and murders; this limited an in-depth study on the matter, stretching from 1957 to the present. It forced thus the use of a few studies (like the 2006 report of Parliament)]. 14, 15, 16

The 2006 report shows that in 1994 only 10 cases of withdrawals, with nil acquittals, occurred; in 2004 there were as much as 567 cases of withdrawals and 141 of acquittals. (In the withdrawn cases the rise was 557 or 98,2% and in the acquittal cases the rise was 141 or 100%). 17, 18

It is also argued that the dramatic rise in the total registration of witchcraft-related cases in a period of 10 years – from only 23 (10 withdrawals, 14 convictions and nil acquittals) in 1994 to 1 053 (567 withdrawals, 345 convictions and 141 acquittals) in 2004 — by law-enforcement agencies like the South African Police Services (SAPS) and the National Prosecution Authority (NPA), that Act No 3 (1957) is an effective and working piece of legislation. Also, it is argued that these statistics, together with the law-enforcement bodies involved, confirms that Act No 3 (1957) is at all time in use. 19, 20, 21, 22

The opinion is that Act No 3 (1957) is not aimed at doing any harm or injustice to the law-abiding citizen, even when he transgresses some of the regulations of the Act, knowingly and wilfully. The Act is only focussed and applied in terms of its main aims: to prosecute only the individual with criminal intent who would normally be prosecuted under any of the other criminal codes for serious law-breaking. In terms of Act No 3 (1957) the context of the focus is the person who names, identifies and sniffs out any other person as a wizard and who intends to do or is involved in doing such person harm in some or other way. 23, 24, 25, 26, 27

The opinion is also that only certain sub-rules of the prescribed rule 1(a) to 1(f) are really implemented to prosecute: meaning that Act No 3 (1957) regulations are only partially executed to make prosecutions. To determine the true impact of this assumed executing of Section 1(a) to 1(f), is very difficult; seemingly governmental agencies do not refer specifically to witchcraft-related crime statistics or other research outcomes. The only guide to review the use of Act No 3 (1957) is the writings and appeals of the neo-pagans, individual objectors and other interest groups that are focussing their writings on the repeal of the Act, or who are doing research on the Act’s benefits and shortcomings. 28, 29, 30, 31, 32

In the evaluation in Table 1 the six main offences, as described by Section 1(a) to 1(f) of Act No 3 (1957), were compared with the statistics on witchcraft convictions of the 2006 report of Parliament for the period 1994 to 2004. 33, 34, 35, 36 These outcomes are reflected in Table 1:

Table 1: Six offences relating to witchcraft versus types of witchcraft-related convictions for the period 1994 to 2004:

Description of Offences

Convictions

1

Any person who imputes to any other person the causing, by supernatural means, of any disease in or injury or damage to any person or thing or who names or indicates any other person as a wizard

Convictions

2

Any person who in circumstances indicating that he professes or pretends to use any supernatural power, witchcraft, sorcery, enchantment or conjuration, imputes the cause of death of, injury or grief to, disease in, damage to or disappearance of any person or thing to any other person

None

3

Any person who employs or solicits any witchdoctor, witch-finder or any other person to name or indicate any person as a wizard

Convictions

4

Any person who professes a knowledge of witchcraft, or the uses of charms, and advises any person how to bewitch, injure or damage any person or thing. or supplies any person with any pretended means of witchcraft

None

5

Any person who on the advice of any witchdoctor, witch-finder or other person or on the ground of any pretended knowledge of witchcraft, uses or causes to be put into operation any means or process which, in accordance with such advice or his own belief, is calculated to injure or damage any person or thing

Convictions

6

Any person who for gain pretends to exercise or use any supernatural power, witchcraft, sorcery, enchantment or conjuration, or undertakes to tell fortunes, or pretends from his skill in or knowledge of any occult science to discover where and in what manner anything supposed to have been stolen or lost may be found

None

Table 1 reflects that regarding three of the six types of offences (defined by Section 1 as law-breaking), convictions occurred. This brings to the foreground that not more than 50% of the prescribed offences have been activated to be prosecuted and thus that the opinion that Act No 3 (1957) is indeed only partially implemented, is correct.

The traditional healers can surely not object that Act No 3 (1957) is discriminatory. It can thus be concluded that the traditional healer’s practice is undisturbed by the Act.

The outcomes of Table 1 are vague and not fully informative about the alleged partial prosecution approach of the law-enforcement agencies. A more detailed analysis is needed. In this context it must be noted that the six offences, reflected in Section 1 of Act No 22, are compiled and described by the incorporation of different offence descriptions to obtain the six descriptions. These incorporated descriptions can lead to an over-simplifying interpretation about the partial or full-executing approach of Act No 3 (1957).

The re-written fourteen single offences

To obtain a more precise profile of a specific offence relating to a specific conviction, the above six offence descriptions were separated from each other where they are unrelated in terms of legal meaning. The offences were re-written to reflect specific (single) offences only. With this focussed approach 14 single offences, relating to the practice of witchcraft, were identified and described. In Table 2 these 14 offences relating to witchcraft were compared with the witchcraft statistics of the 2006 Parliamentary Report for the period 1994 to 2004. 37, 38, 39, 40, 41, 42

To put into perspective the rules of Act No 3 (1957) and Act No 22 (2007) with each other, Section 1 (Offences relating to the practice of witchcraft and similar practices) of Act No 3 (1957) is again, as was done in Table 2, reproduced for clarity hereunder in 14 sub-descriptions. In terms of Section 1(a) to 1(f) an offence will be committed by any person who: 43, 44

  • Imputes to any other person the causing, by supernatural means, of any disease in or injury or damage to any person or thing;
  • names or indicates any other person as a wizard;
    in circumstances indicating that he professes any supernatural power, witchcraft, sorcery, enchantment or conjuration;
  • in circumstances indicating that he pretends to use any supernatural power, witchcraft, sorcery, enchantment or conjuration;
  • imputes the cause of death of, injury or grief to, disease in, damage to or disappearance of any person or thing to any other person;
  • employs or solicits any witchdoctor, witch-finder or any other person to name or indicate any person as a wizard;
  • professes a knowledge of witchcraft, to bewitch, injure or damage any person or thing;
    advises any person with any pretended means of witchcraft;
  • supplies any person with any pretended means of witchcraft;
  • on the advice of any witchdoctor, witch-finder or other person uses or causes to be put into operation any means or process which, in accordance with such advice or his own belief, is calculated to injure or damage any person or thing;
  • on the ground of any pretended knowledge of witchcraft, uses or causes to be put into operation any means or process which, in accordance with such advice or his own belief, is calculated to injure or damage any person or thing;
  • for gain pretends to exercise or use any supernatural power, witchcraft, sorcery, enchantment or conjuration;
  • for gain undertakes to tell fortunes;
  • for gain pretends from his skill in or knowledge of any occult science to discover where and in what manner anything supposed to have been stolen or los may be found.

Table 2: Fourteen offences relating to witchcraft versus types of witchcraft-related convictions for the period 1994 to 2004:

Description of Offences

Convictions

1

Any person who imputes to any other person the causing, by supernatural means, of any disease in or injury or damage to any person or thing

None

2

Any person who names or indicates any other person as a wizard

Convictions

3

Any person who in circumstances indicating that he professes any supernatural power, witchcraft, sorcery, enchantment or conjuration;

None

4

Any person who in circumstances indicating that he pretends to use any supernatural power, witchcraft, sorcery, enchantment or conjuration;

None

5

Any person who imputes the cause of death of, injury or grief to, disease in, damage to or disappearance of any person or thing to any other person;

None

6

Any person who employs or solicits any witchdoctor, witch-finder or any other person to name or indicate any person as a wizard;

Convictions

7

Any person who professes a knowledge of witchcraft, to bewitch, injure or damage any person or thing;

None

8

Any person who advises any person with any pretended means of witchcraft

None

9

Any person who supplies any person with any pretended means of witchcraft

None

10

Any person who on the advice of any witchdoctor, witch-finder or other person uses or causes to be put into operation any means or process which, in accordance with such advice or his own belief, is calculated to injure or damage any person or thing

Convictions

11

Any person who on the ground of any pretended knowledge of witchcraft, uses or causes to be put into operation any means or process which, in accordance with such advice or his own belief, is calculated to injure or damage any person or thing

None

12

Any person who for gain pretends to exercise or use any supernatural power, witchcraft, sorcery, enchantment or conjuration

None

13

Any person who for gain undertakes to tell fortunes

None

14

Any person who for gain pretends from his skill in or knowledge of any occult science to discover where and in what manner

None

 

Table 2 reveals only three offences with convictions out of the 14 offences, meaning so much as 78.5% of the regulations were apparently not use in law-enforcement. This is in line with the opinion obtained in Table 1 that concludes that Act No 3 (1957) is only partially applied to make prosecutions and to obtain convictions. It again confirms that Act No 3 (1957) is not discriminating against the traditional healer.

It seems from the outcomes of this sub-division that Act No 3 (1957) benefits society and the individual specifically, overshadowing its prejudice. The view that the Act is only in part applied and then only to bring true criminality to book, supports the opinion that the constitutional rights of the individual or even the group are not transgressed. These outcomes seem to declare why the South African Law Reform commission (SALRC) and the government itself are hesitating to repeal it, seeing that the Act fulfils its main aims to protect the individual.

Act No 22 (2007) and criminal intentions in perspective

With reference to Act No 22 (2007)’s rules, the practice of the traditional healer is determined in terms of two definitions, namely the definitions of traditional health practice and traditional philosophy in Chapter 1 of the Act. Traditional health practice means the following: “The performance of a function, activity, process or service based on a traditional philosophy that includes the utilisation of traditional medicine or traditional practice”, while traditional philosophy incorporates the following sub-definitions:

  • indigenous African techniques;
  • indigenous African principles;
  • indigenous African theories;
  • indigenous African ideologies;
  • indigenous African beliefs;
  • indigenous African opinions;
  • indigenous African customs;
  • (i) The uses of traditional medicine communicated from ancestors to descendants, or (ii) from generations to generations, with or without written documentation, whether supported by science or not.

It is clear, although it is not verbally described as such, that the supernatural plays a dominant role in the traditional health practice as the reference “communicated from ancestors to descendants” in the definition clearly indicates a traditional philosophy. This masked role of the supernatural in the practice of the traditional healer is specifically supported by the definitions of indigenous African theories, ideologies, beliefs, principles, opinions and customs as described in the traditional philosophy. The reference to “the existence of traditional medicine without written documentation, whether supported by science or not”, brings the presence of occult science in the traditional practice of the traditional healer to the foreground.

The healer’s activities in perspective

Act No 22’s (2007) definitions of traditional health practice and traditional philosophy fail to offer formal, in-depth descriptions on the diagnosis and treatment processes of the traditional healer and thus any doings that can be in conflict with Act No 3 (1957).To over-come this lack in information and to can reflect on the diagnosis and treatment processes of the traditional healer, the descriptions offered by thirteen independent researchers and experts on the traditional healer’s practice in South Africa, were compiled. Here-through it was possible to profile the true diagnosis and treatment of the traditional healer and to can use it as a guideline to evaluate the possibility of the transgressing of the regulations of Act No 3 (1957).This profile of the thirteen researchers (identified by names) is reflected later in Table 3.

Possible supernatural practice activities and legal transgressing by the traditional healer of the rules of Act No 3 (1957)

To obtain a decision if the traditional healer’s diagnoses, treatment and training practices contravene the fourteen offence-rules of Section 1 of Act No 3 (1957), these fourteen offences are reflected under in Table 3 (see also Table 2) against the specific descriptions by the thirteen researchers.15-27 The researchers’ names were reflected in Table 3 when they referred to processes that correlate to the actions of the traditional healer. 45, 46, 47, 48, 49, 50, 51, 52, 53, 54, 55, 5615-27

Table 3: Fourteen offences relating to the practice of witchcraft versus the diagnosis, treatment and training processes of the traditional healer for the period 1994 to 2004, as identified by thirteen independent researchers :

Table 3: Fourteen offences relating to the practice of witchcraft versus the diagnosis, treatment and training processes of the traditional healer for the period 1994 to 2004, as identified by thirteen independent researchers :

Description of Offences

Names of Researchers

1

Any person who imputes to any other person the causing, by supernatural means, of any disease in or injury or damage to any person or thing

Essien, 2013; Hofstatter, 2014; “Traditional African medicine”, 2014; Truter, 2007

2

Any person who names or indicates any other person as a wizard

None

3

Any person who in circumstances indicating that he professes any supernatural power, witchcraft, sorcery, enchantment or conjuration

Gumede, 1990; Mbiti, 1991; Pretorius, 1999; Rheeder, 2012; “South African Traditional”, 2014; “Traditional healers of”, 2014; Truter, 2007

4

Any person who in circumstances indicating that he pretends to use any supernatural power, witchcraft, sorcery, enchantment or conjuration

Mbiti, 1991; Onwuanibe, 1979; “South African Traditional”, 2014; “Traditional African Medicine, 2014; “Traditional healers of”, 2014; Truter, 2007

5

Any person who imputes the cause of death of, injury or grief to, disease in, damage to or disappearance of any person or thing to any other person

Hofstatter, 2014; Truter, 2007

6

Any person who employs or solicits any witchdoctor, witch-finder or any other person to name or indicate any person as a wizard

None

7

Any person who professes a knowledge of witchcraft, to bewitch, injure or damage any person or thing

Hofstatter, 2014; “Traditional African medicine”, 2014; Truter, 2007

8

Any person who advises any person with any pretended means of witchcraft

None

9

Any person who supplies any person with any pretended means of witchcraft

Hofstatter, 2014; Truter, 2007

10

Any person who on the advice of any witchdoctor, witch-finder or other person uses or causes to be put into operation any means or process which, in accordance with such advice or his own belief, is calculated to injure or damage any person or thing

None

11

Any person who on the ground of any pretended knowledge of witchcraft, uses or causes to be put into operation any means or process which, in accordance with such advice or his own belief, is calculated to injure or damage any person or thing

Hofstatter, 2014; “Traditional African medicine”, 2014; Truter, 2007

12

Any person who for gain pretends to exercise or use any supernatural power, witchcraft, sorcery, enchantment or conjuration

Gumede, 1990; Hofstatter, 2014; Holland, 2005; Peters, 2013; Pretorius, 1999; “Traditional African medicine”, 2014; “Traditional healers of”, 2014; Truter, 2007

13

Any person who for gain undertakes to tell fortunes;

Essien, 2013; “South African Traditional”, 2014

14

Any person who for gain pretends from his skill in or knowledge of any occult science to discover where and in what manner

South African Traditional”, 2014; “Traditional healers of”, 2014; Truter, 2007

From Table 3 it is clear that regarding only four out of fourteen (28.5%) offences the traditional healers are not implicated, namely regarding the offence to indicate another person as a “wizard” (no. 2), employs or solicits a witch, witch-finder, etc., to name or to indicate another person as a “wizard” (no. 6), advises another person to bewitch, injure or damage another person (no. 8), and the use of advice by a witchdoctor, witch-finder, etc. to injure or to damage any other person (no. 10).

As to the correlations between the offences and the descriptions of researchers as reflected by Table 3, as much as 71,4% of the descriptions indicate that there can be or are transgressions of Act No 3 (1957)’s fourteen criteria for offences. All thirteen the researchers reproduce in their descriptions in some way an overlapping between the practice processes of the traditional healer and the offences of Section 1 of Act No 3 (1957).

Discussion

The traditional healer’s image of himself as only “good” against the witch as only “bad”, mistakenly created by Act No 3 (1957) in 1957, is wrong and opportunistic. Evidence is overwhelming that his practice processes are based on the supernatural, that he professes and indicates himself that he uses supernatural powers, that he does fortune-telling, occult science, supplies in certain circumstances his clients with means of witchcraft and that he intends to harm, injure and even kill other people. The 1957 identification of the witch as a sole entity and as a reality is thus incorrect. There is no guarantee whatsoever that the traditional healer is not involved in witchcraft-related crimes, like ritual, muthi, religious, cultural and revenge murders. The pointing out by researchers of the traditional healer, with elements in the police, politics, religion, as the real culprits who are committing witchcraft crimes, is thus not far-fetched. 57, 58, 594,11,28

It is clear that Act No 22 (2007) was promulgated without an in-depth understanding of the already fixed offences of Act No 3 (1957). Basically  this makes Act No 3 (1957), as confirmed by this research (see Table 3), Act No 22 (2007) null and void. It is time that the lawmakers revisit Act No 22 (2007) to look to its legitimacy as a law.

Act No 3 (1957) is of cardinal importance to counteract the dangers of the traditional healer’s practice processes. It is an important criminal law, constitution-friendly and thus cannot be repealed. Indeed, it can be made more comprehensive to combat the criminal intention of the traditional healer. In comparison Act No 22 (2007) is an improper Act that offers opportunities for criminal behaviour and must be repealed because it is in conflict with Act No 3 (1957).

It is clear that Act No 22 (2007) was meant for an established healthcare profession, one with clearly defined, legallly correct practice processes. In contrast, the traditional healers failed all the standard rules required by a statutory healthcare profession. It interferes with the privileges and rights of the already-registered health professions. The Act also confirms that the traditional healer’s entrance into the established health facilities of the country and to practice a health service he is not trained for or capable of executing, was a mistake.

Act No 3 (1957) reflects further shortcomings in relation to Act No 22 (2007) and the doubtful status of the traditional healer as a “good” health practitioner. It indeed confirms that certain of the beliefs and activities of the traditional healer are based on the supernatural, future-telling and even occult science, etc., all outcomes that are illicit in terms of Act No 3 (1957).

Strength and limitations

The exploratory and descriptive research approach of this study successfully built a viewpoint on the positive role of Act No 3 (1957) in combatting witchcraft in South Africa. This research approach also helped to position for the first time Act No 22 (2007) versus Act No 3 (1957).

The well-established position of Act No 22 (2007), based on “African Culture”, politically favoured since 1994 and the successful “scape-goating” of Act No 3 (1957) as a pre-1994 discriminatory piece of legislation, is going to mute the findings of this study.

Conclusions

Act No 3 (1957) is not discriminatory against the practice behaviour of the traditional healer or the regulations of Act No 22 (2007) which determined the professional status of traditional healing in South Africa. On the contrary, Act No 3 (1957) is very accommodating of the misbehaviour and malpractice of the traditional healer.

Some of Act No 22 (2007)’s regulations seem to stand in conflict with certain of the regulations of Act No 3 (1957), while the traditional healer’s practice activities seem also to violate extensively some of the regulations of Act No 3 (1957) which determine criminal behaviour.

Act No 22 (2007) is an improper Act, an unacceptable reality in modern-day South Africa and must be repealed and not Act No 3 (1957). Act No 22 (2007) seems to be a true dolus eventualis case for the South African Constitutional Court in the near future.

References

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2. The Witchcraft Suppression Act of 1957, No 3. Republic of South Africa. Pretoria: Government Printers: 1957.
3. The Traditional Health Practitioners Act of 2007, No 22. Republic of South Africa. Pretoria: Government Printers; 2007.
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28. Mazibila S. Leaders behind ritual murders. Sowetan 2014 July 28; p.5.

Confict of interest

The author does not have any financial or personal conflict of interest to declare.

Declaration

All the information contained in this manuscript has not been presented elsewhere.

Sources of support

All costs incurred in the cause of the study were borne by the author.

Word count: Abstract 244, Contents 4 845

Notes:

  1. Neo-paganism in South Africa. Available from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Neopaganism_in_South_Africa (accessed 25/11/2014).
  2. The Witchcraft Suppression Act of 1957, No 3. Republic of South Africa. Pretoria: Government Printers: 1957.
  3. The Traditional Health Practitioners Act of 2007, No 22. Republic of South Africa. Pretoria: Government Printers; 2007.
  4. South African Pagan Rights Alliance (SAPRA). Review of Witchcraft Suppression Act: Update. Available from http://www.paganrightsalliance.org/review-of-witchcraft-suppression-act-update/ (accessed 19/10/2014).
  5. Witchcraft Suppression Act, 1957. Available from http://www.justice.gov.za/legislation/acts/1957-003.pdf (accessed 19/10/2014).
  6. Bless C, Higson-Smith C. Fundamentals of Social Research Methods. An African Perspective, 2ned. Kenwyn: Juta; 1995.
  7. Louw GP. A guideline for the preparation, writing and assessment of article-format masters dissertations and doctoral theses. Faculty Education: Mafikeng Campus: North-West University; 2013.
  8. Witchcraft presents puzzle. Sunday Times, 2014 Oct 19; p. 10.
  9. ibid.
  10. South African Pagan Rights Alliance (SAPRA). Review of Witchcraft Suppression Act: Update. Available from http://www.paganrightsalliance.org/review-of-witchcraft-suppression-act-update/ (accessed 19/10/2014).
  11. The 1957 Witchcraft Act. Available from http://www.quackdown.info/article/1957-witchcraft-act/ (accessed 19/10.2014).
  12. Witchcraft. Available from http://www.encyclopedia.com/topic/witchcraft.aspx (accessed 19/10/2014).
  13. Women, witchcraft and the struggle against abuse. Stop violence against women. Available from http://www.parliamentofreligions.org/content/women-witchcraft-and-struggle-against-abuse (accessed 19/10/2014).
  14. Witchcraft presents puzzle. Sunday Times, 2014 Oct 19; p. 10.
  15. Women, witchcraft and the struggle against abuse. Stop violence against women. Available from http://www.parliamentofreligions.org/content/women-witchcraft-and-struggle-against-abuse (accessed 19/10/2014).
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Is the Witchcraft Suppression Act (No 3 of 1957) a medieval throwback to the Dark Ages for South Africans? Think again!

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Gabriel Louw 1, Andrè Duvenhage 2

Ensovoort volume 36 (2016), number 9: 2.

Abstract

Background

The Witchcraft Suppression Act (Act No 3, 1957) seems to have been totally ignored since 1994 as an old apartheid law by the new political dispensation. The question is: Why is this happening and can the Act can be seen as pre-modern and discriminatory to South Africans?

Aims

The aim of the study was thus to determine what effect the Act has or can have in the future on the constitutional rights of the individual as well as groups and why the post-1994 government has kept it on the law books until now.

Methods

The exploratory and descriptive research method, in line with the modern-day historical research approach to the investigation and reviewing of information, was used. Emphasis was on the use of primary research resources, like news papers, reports and articles, to reflect on present life situations, thinking, opinions, trends and activities around witchcraft. Research was also focussed on putting into perspective the future status of the Witchcraft Suppression Act in South Africa. The findings were offered in narrative form.

Results

The putative error in keeping the Act on the statute books may have serious implications for every citizen, at present and in future. Agitation in public and in courts of law by certain individuals and groups, like the neo-pagans, traditional healers and human-rights activists that the Act is in conflict with the human-rights code of the Constitution, have become very intense and demanding. Pleas are heard that it must be repealed.

Discussion

It seems that various other role-players can be identified, apart from the general opposition to the Act, who are backing it. It is specifically argued that the Act is successfully combatting serious crimes, such as murder and that it is not indiscriminately applied by law-enforcement authorities.

Conclusions

Although Act No 3 of 1957 may be defined as a law with negative political and emotional connotations, six decades after its promulgation it is still working and may only be repealed if a better alternative can be put in place. Such an alternative has so far not been offered.

Keywords

Afterlife, human rights, neo-pagan, opinion, witch-finder, witch-hunting, wizard

What this study adds

1. What is known about the subject?

Act No 3 has become a central and prominent point of discussion by the neo-pagans and the traditional healers.

2. What new information is offered by this study?

Other than the neo-pagan and the traditional healer’s one-sided arguments to prevent possible wrong-doing by them and to have Act No 3 repealed, this study offers objective reasons and views about the need to keep the Act on the statute books.

3. What are the implications for research, policy, or practice?

The constant efforts to repeal Act No 3 must be resisted. The Act is applied at present with justice and wisdom by the authorities to the benefit of the law-abiding citizen.

Background

The Witchcraft Suppression Act (Act No 3, 1957), after 60 years of existence, has started to trigger much criticism by opponents with different agendas and intentions. 3

Already instituted in 1957, it went fairly unnoticed up to 1994, seemingly because it was enacted by the apartheid regime and fitted well in their legal and governmental thinking which held sway until the new political dispensation. Opposition up to 1994 by dissidents was just not possible and hardly tolerated. The Constitution of 1996 and the Bill of Rights brought the opportunity to object freely to any supposed human-rights violation. After 1996, opposition to the Act by individuals, human-right activists and groups, especially the neo-pagans and the traditional healers, became more assertive. Specifically their agitation in terms of Section 5 of the Civil Union Act (No 17, 2006) and supported by the Lawyers for Human Rights (LHR), placed them in the foreground. This is well-illustrated by the various pleas since 2007 (2007, 2010, 2014) to the South African Law Reform Commission (SALRC) and the government to repeal it. Specific bodies in leading this appeal are the South African Pagan Rights Alliance (SAPRA), the Traditional Healers Organization (THO) and the Pagan Council of South Africa (PCSA/SAPC). 4, 5, 6, 7, 8

The aim of the study was to determine the possible discriminatory and criminalising effects of Act No 3 (1957) as to the constitutional rights of the individual as well as groups.

Methods

Research information and other literature on the legal standing of Act No 3 (1957) are very limited. This study therefore strongly relied on the exploratory and descriptive approach, used in modern-day historical research, to obtain information and to reflect on the everyday thinking, opinions, trends and activities around witchcraft in South Africa. To obtain these outcomes, the research starts from the ground level, using primary resources. The focus of the study was information as published in daily newspapers, limited articles by researchers as well as information published on the websites and in the publications of the neo-pagans, traditional healers and some individuals, reflecting their opinions, viewpoints, statements and findings on witchcraft. There was also a strongly reliance on the appeals and motivations directed at the South African Law Reform Commission (SALRC) to get the Act repealed. Subjective and one-sided literature on witchcraft by religious institutions and groups, were critically reviewed. The research findings were presented in narrative form. 9, 10

Results

History

Act No 3 (1957), as amended, is based on the Witchcraft Suppression Act of 1895 that was applicable to the British Colony of the Cape of Good Hope. This early Act, it seems, was in turn based on the archaic Witchcraft Act of 1753 of Great Britain (that was repealed in 1951 and replaced by the Consumer Protection Regulations in the United Kingdom of Great Britain). 11, 12, 13, 14

Various other territorial laws in South Africa preceded Act No 3 (1957), namely Act No 24 (1886): The Black Territories’ Penal Code (Cape of Good Hope), Act No 2 (1895): The Witchcraft Suppression Act (Cape of Good Hope, Law No 19 (1891): Natal Code of Black Law (Natal), Ordinance No 26 (1904): The Crimes Ordinance (Transvaal) and Proclamation No 11 (1887): Laws and Regulations for the Government of Zululand (Zululand). 15, 16, 17

Act No 3 (1957) was enacted by the pre-1994 regime and came into force on 22 February 1957. It was amended in 1970 by the Witchcraft Suppression Amendment Act (No 50, 1970), which added one new offence (purporting to use supernatural powers to accuse another person of causing death, injury or damage) and which also converted fines, denominated in Pounds, into Rands. The maximum fines of the Act were fixed in 1991 by the Adjustment of Fines Act (No 101, 1991). In 1997 the Act’s operation was also made uniform across the former homelands by the Justice Laws Rationalisation Act (No 18, 1996). The Act was again amended in 1997 by the Abolition of Corporal Punishment Act (No 33, 1997), which abolished the use of whipping to punish offenders. This amended Act of 1957 (1970, 1991, 1997) is currently in force. 18, 19, 20, 21, 22, 23, 24

Perspectives on Act No 3 (1957)

Literature still shows some support for the retention of the Act. On the other hand, opposition to Act No 3 (1957) seems to be growing. In this respect the opinions, statements, beliefs, viewpoints and arguments from both sides were considered, and compared and analysed to obtain insight into the moral dilemma around the issue of the supernatural, witchcraft, dissident religions and the use of law to combat such.

Supporting opinions for Act No 3 (1957)

It seems that there is still a group of people in the government, public professions and the law fraternity who see the Act as workable (notwithstanding its negative political and emotional connotations at present). For its supporters, change to the Act or its repeal, should only occur when a better alternative is put in place. Notwithstanding the strong opposition to the Act, they would be in favour of its retention.

The opinion is held that the Act’s main aims, namely to prevent witch-finding and harm to innocent people under the pretence that they are wizards, are noble, focussed and successfully executed. These main aims are:

    1. to prevent any person or a community to identify a specific person (notwithstanding his position or conduct which may justify such an identification) as a “”wizard”” through witch-finding;
    2. to prevent that this identified person (“wizard”) be harmed (threatened, terrorised, victimised or even murdered) in any way by the “witch-finder” or the community; and
    3. to prevent a person to call himself a “wizard” by prohibiting such self-naming / declaration as a crime, with the sole aim of safeguarding him from harm through his own misdemeanour or self-description, to be identified as a “wizard” by the “witch-finder” and the community.

Various outcomes were identified to conclude that the Act is achieving its aims and therefore must be kept for the near future. Especially the statistics of the 2006 report of the South African Parliament are used in this context. Specifically the rise in convictions from 1994 to 2004 is stated as evidence of the Act’s effectiveness. The report reflected that in 1994 only 13 persons were convicted on the accusation of identifying another person as a “wizard” and/or of actions to harm such an identified person as a “wizard”. In 2004, 10 years later and with seemingly a more strict implementation of the Act, these convictions rose to 345 cases (a rise of 332 or 96,2% in cases) [Officially the SAPS does not keep statistics specific to muthi or ritual assaults and murders; this limited an in-depth study on the matter, stretching from 1957 to the present. It necessitated the use of limited  studies (like the 2006 report of Parliament)].

The rise in the total number of cases investigated and prosecuted (including withdrawals and acquittals) is also viewed as a re-affirmation that the Act has been effecitve, both in the past and in the present, in its aims to combat the illicit activities of “witch-finders” and to safeguard the innocent from harm in witch-hunting. In this respect the 2006 report shows that in 1994 only 10 cases of withdrawals, with nil acquittals, occurred; in 2004 there were as many as 567 cases of withdrawals and 141 of acquittals. (In the withdrawn cases the rise was 557 or 98.2% and in the acquittal cases the rise was 141 or 100%).

It is also argued that the dramatic rise in the total registration of witchcraft-related cases in a period of 10 years – from only 23 (10 withdrawals, 14 convictions and zero acquittals) in 1994 to 1,053 (567 withdrawals, 345 convictions and 141 acquittals) in 2004 – by law-enforcement agencies like the South African Police Services (SAPS) and the National Prosecution Authority (NPA), may be seen as a motion of confidence by the SAPS and NPA that Act No 3 (1957) is an effective and working piece of legislation. Also, it is argued that these statistics, together with the law-enforcement bodies involved, confirm that Act No 3 (1957) is still active and in use. 25, 26, 27, 28

The opinion is further that Act No 3 (1957) is not aimed to cause any harm or injustice to the law-abiding citizen, even when he transgresses some of the regulations of the Act, knowingly and wilfully. The Act is only focussed and applied in terms of its main aims: to prosecute only the criminally-intended individual who would normally be prosecuted under any of the other criminal codes for serious law-breaking. In terms of Act No 3 (1957) the context of the focus is specifically the person who names, identifies and sniffs out any other person as a wizard and who intends to do or is involved in doing such a person harm in one way or another. 29, 30, 31, 32, 33

The opinion is that only certain sub-rules of the prescribed rule 1(a) to 1(f) are really implemented to prosecute: meaning that Act No 3 (1957)’s regulations are thus only partially executed to make prosecutions. To determine the true impact of this assumed execution of Section 1(a) to 1(f), is very difficult, given that governmental agencies do not refer specifically to witchcraft-related crime statistics or other research outcomes. The only guide to reviewing the use of Act No 3 (1957) is mainly the writings and appeals of the neo-pagans, individual objectors and other interest groups that are focussing their writings on the repeal of the Act, or who are doing research on the Act’s benefits, shortcomings, etc. 34, 35, 36, 37, 38, 39

In Table 1 below 40 the six main offences, as described by Section 1(a) to 1(f) of Act No 3 (1957), were compared with the statistics on witchcraft convictions in the 2006 parliamentary report for the period 1994 to 2004. 41, 42, 43 These outcomes are reflected in Table 1:

Table 1: Six offences relating to witchcraft versus types of witchcraft-related convictions for the period 1994 to 2004: 44, 45, 46

Description of Offences

Types of Convictions

1

Any person who imputes to any other person the causing, by supernatural means, of any disease in or injury or damage to any person or thing or who names or indicates any other person as a wizard

Conviction

2

Any person who in circumstances indicating that he professes or pretends to use any supernatural power, witchcraft, sorcery, enchantment or conjuration, imputes the cause of death of, injury or grief to, disease in, damage to or disappearance of any person or thing to any other person

None

3

Any person who employs or solicits any witchdoctor, witch-finder or any other person to name or indicate any person as a wizard

Conviction

4

Any person who professes a knowledge of witchcraft, or the uses of charms, and advises any person how to bewitch, injure or damage any person or thing. or supplies any person with any pretended means of witchcraft

None

5

Any person who on the advice of any witchdoctor, witch-finder or other person or on the ground of any pretended knowledge of witchcraft, uses or causes to be put into operation any means or process which, in accordance with such advice or his own belief, is calculated to injure or damage any person or thing

Convictions

6

Any person who for gain pretends to exercise or use any supernatural power, witchcraft, sorcery, enchantment or conjuration, or undertakes to tell fortunes, or pretends from his skill in or knowledge of any occult science to discover where and in what manner anything supposed to have been stolen or lost may be found

None

Table 1 shows that on three of the six types of offences (reflected by Section 1 as law-breaking), convictions occurred. This underlines that not more than 50% of the prescribed offences are activated to prosecute and thus that the opinion that Act No 3 (1957) is indeed only in part implemented, seems to be correct.

The outcomes of Table 1 are vague and not fully informative as to the alleged “in part prosecution approach” of the law-enforcement agencies. A more detailed analysis is needed. In this respect it must be noted that the six offences, reflected in Section 1, are compiled and described by incorporating different offence descriptions, to obtain the six descriptions. These incorporated descriptions can lead to an over-simplification of the interpretation of the partial or full execution approach of Act No 3 (1957). 47, 48, 49

To obtain a more precise profile of a specific offence relating to a specific conviction, the above six offence descriptions were separated from each other where clearly unrelated to each other in terms of legal meaning. The offences were re-written to reflect specific (single) offences only. With this focus approach 14 single offences, relating to the practice of witchcraft, were identified and described. In Table 2 the 14 offences relating to witchcraft, were compared with the witchcraft statistics of the 2006 parliamentary report for the period 1994 to 2004. 50, 51, 52, 53, 541,4,10,14,16,18

Table 2: Fourteen offences relating to witchcraft versus types of witchcraft-related convictions for the period 1994 to 2004: 55, 56, 57

 

Description of Offences

Types of Convictions

1

Any person who imputes to any other person the causing, by supernatural means, of any disease in or injury or damage to any person or thing

None

2

Any person who names or indicates any other person as a wizard

Conviction

3

Any person who in circumstances indicating that he professes any supernatural power, witchcraft, sorcery, enchantment or conjuration;

None

4

Any person who in circumstances indicating that he pretends to use any supernatural power, witchcraft, sorcery, enchantment or conjuration;

None

5

Any person who imputes the cause of death of, injury or grief to, disease in, damage to or disappearance of any person or thing to any other person;

None

6

Any person who employs or solicits any witchdoctor, witch-finder or any other person to name or indicate any person as a wizard;

Conviction

7

Any person who professes a knowledge of witchcraft, to bewitch, injure or damage any person or thing;

None

8

Any person who advises any person with any pretended means of witchcraft

None

9

Any person who supplies any person with any pretended means of witchcraft

None

10

Any person who on the advice of any witchdoctor, witch-finder or other person uses or causes to be put into operation any means or process which, in accordance with such advice or his own belief, is calculated to injure or damage any person or thing

Conviction

11

Any person who on the ground of any pretended knowledge of witchcraft, uses or causes to be put into operation any means or process which, in accordance with such advice or his own belief, is calculated to injure or damage any person or thing

None

12

Any person who for gain pretends to exercise or use any supernatural power, witchcraft, sorcery, enchantment or conjuration

None

13

Any person who for gain undertakes to tell fortunes

None

14

Any person who for gain pretends from his skill in or knowledge of any occult science to discover where and in what manner

None

Table 2 reveals only three offences with convictions out of the 14 offences, meaning so much as 78; 5% of the regulations were apparently not use in law enforcement. This is in line with the opinion obtained in Table 1 that alleges that Act No 3 (1957) is only partially applied to make prosecutions and to obtain convictions. 58, 59

It seems from the outcomes of this subdivision that Act No 3 (1957) benefits society and the individual specifically, overshadowing its prejudice. The view that the Act is only in part applied and then only to bring true criminality to book, supports the opinion that the constitutional rights of the individual are not transgressed. These outcomes seem to reveal why the SALRC and the government itself are hesitant to repeal it, seeing that the Act fulfils its main aims to protect the individual.

General opposing views on Act No 3 (1957)

There is also strong opposition in general to the future existence of Act No 3 (1957) as a criminal law. Opinions, viewpoints, meanings, statements and arguments vary from the Act being ineffective, undefined and un-African, to specifically violating the Constitution.

Act No 3 (1957) is an Undefined Act

The opinion is put forward that the Act’s definitions of whom a “wizard” really is and what “witchcraft” really means are incomplete and poorly formulated. This, it is argued, creates serious legal-interpretation problems for the SAPS to register a charge and the NPA to prosecute such a charge. Its exclusive focus on “pretence” and “accusations” of “witchcrafts” led to the failure to acknowledge the existence of “real, true witchcraft” and thus to criminalize such assumed witchcraft practices effectively. In this context the only description that is allocated to the “wizard” is that he/she is an unspecified misdemeanant, a person that practises unspecified activities called “witchcrafts”. 60, 61

The name “wizard”, the identity under whom a person can be prosecuted in terms of Act No 3 (1957), also implicates the names of “witchdoctor”, “witch-finder”, “occult-scientist”, “fortune-teller” and “witch”. It seems that the word “witch” is the most used name in South African literature and by the public. It was used as an alternative to “wizard” in this research. 62

Legal uncertainties in the Act’s definitions, it is argued, may lead to a person being seen as transgressing the law through thoughtless and ill-considered use of the name “wizard” or actions/deeds that may be associated with “witchcraft” but who is not really guilty of practising witchcraft. As such he/she can, in terms of “pretence” and “accusation”, be convicted and sentenced. This is indeed evidence for instance in the listed offences in Subsection 1(f) of the Act, as quoted beneath, and such a person becomes an offender with a stiff sentence for harmful practices or pretence thereof, namely: 63

“To gain, pretend, to exercise or use any supernatural power, witchcraft, sorcery, enchantment or conjugation, or knowledge of any occult science to discover where and in which manner anything supposed to have been stolen or lost may be found”.

The above unjust criminalisation of innocent people, simply because Act No 3 (1957) fails to distinguish successfully between true or false accusations, and thus to evaluate accusations in their true context, make it easy for a false “victim” to successfully frame an innocent person of being the practitioner of witchcraft and/or related practices; even to label that person as delinquent and to obtain a conviction against such an innocent person. 64

The findings of ritual/muthi murders are escalating. From 2010 to 2012 there were 50 recorded murders in this context. This supports the opinion that the Act fails to safeguard the lives of the innocent against witch sniffing and hunting, and thus fails in its aims. 65, 66, 67

The opinion that the Act can falsely criminalise the innocent, is strengthened by the dramatic rise in the cases of withdrawals and acquittals between 1994 and 2004. For instance in 1994 only ten cases were withdrawn, but in 2004 this number increased to 567. This rise is not seen as a result of better policing, but as a direct negative outcome of the opportunity that the Act offers for false “victims” to misuse it for their sole, own benefits. From 1994 to 2004 the acquittals also rose from zero to 141. Again, as in the cases of withdrawals, the view is that it results because of the injustice of the Act, with its inability to discriminate effectively in terms of the law between innocent persons and delinquents. 68, 69

The intense inability of the Act to draw the line between rightful and wrongful conduct is also argued when it comes to the ratio between the dismissals of cases and convictions. For instance in 2004, 567 cases were withdrawn and 141 acquitted against 345 convictions. This reflects an outcome ratio of possible false/unsubstantiated accusations against convictions, of 2:1, meaning that for every two cases reported, as much as one was dismissed outright. 70, 71

The outright dismissal ratio is much worse when the total statistics for 1994 to 2004 are calculated: a total of 2 976 cases were withdrawn, 1 303 cases convicted and 946 cases were acquitted. When these withdrawals and acquitted cases are compared against the convictions, the ratio is as high as 3: 1 (3 992: 1 303), meaning that for every three cases charged by the SAPS, only one is convicted. Here it must be mentioned that there is an opposing opinion about this “two out of three victims who are falsely accused”, namely that most of them are guilty but escape conviction because of incompetent investigations by the SAPS and poor NPA prosecutions. 72, 73

The view that the innocent is at risk to be identified or falsely accused as a witch and for witchcraft-related crime, because of Act No 3 (1957)’s incomplete and insufficiently formulated definitions, seems to hold some substance.

Act No 3 (1957) is an ineffective Act

It is argued that the 2006 report to Parliament, as used by the backers of Act No 3 (1957) as a positive outcome of the Act, reflects just the opposite of what is alleged. The true fact is that witchcraft-related murders are still rampant, as the online archive of the SAPRA confirms the murder of at least 50 innocent persons killed as “witches” between 2010 and 2012. (This number excludes muthi or ritual murders.) Research shows the above numbers are a total underestimation and that the yearly number can be more than 300. 74, 75, 76

The fact that various counter-interventions also had to be made between 1996 and 2014 to combat witchcraft-related crime, like the Commission of Enquiry into Witchcraft Violence and Ritual Murders (Ralushai Commission of 1996), the Commission for Gender Equality’s National Conference on Witchcraft Violence (1998), the Thohoyandou Declaration on Ending Witchcraft Violence (1998) and the Mpumalanga Witchcraft Suppression Bill (2007), as well as three Ritual Murder Summits between 2000 and 2014, strengthens the opinion of the ineffectiveness and failure of Act No 3 (1957) in achieving its main aims. 77, 78, 79, 80, 81

Another point of difference is that of the so-called noble intention that the Act is only partially implemented to prosecute hard-core crimes related to witchcraft. Here the question is asked that if merely three of the offences as described by Section 1 of the Act are activated, why are the 11 so-called “dead law” regulations of the Act still being kept on the statute books (See Tables 1 and 2).

The view is that the Act is still left with the power to be fully implemented, and if the other 11 offences are prosecuted it could serve to misuse the Act in doing injustice and harm to the falsely accused and innocent victims. Specifically the neo-pagan, whose practice rituals can flow into the transgressions of the 14 offences, is at risk. 82, 83, 84, 85, 86

Un-African inclinations of Act No 3 (1957)

A prominent viewpoint of Act No 3 (1957) is that it is extremely hostile to and destructive of the indigenous African culture and religion. The opinion is that the colonial and pre-1994 regimes had the aim to terminate all uniquely African habits, customs and lifestyles with the Act and that it, as one of the last remnants of apartheid, must be repealed. 87, 88, 89, 90

The contrary to this viewpoint seems to be true. The African post-1994 government could already in 1994 have repealed it, because they are the outright rulers in South Africa. They did not do so because it is not a politically orientated law, as is argued. It is a true African law, a successful legal instrument to prevent ritual, muthi and so-called “witch” murders and crimes, and to save the lives of innocent and vulnerable people who are often harmed or murdered for various reasons under the pretence of “witchcraft” and “witch” murders. 91, 92

The present activities by the South African Police Service (SAPS) to appoint 40 members specifically to deal with so-called witchcraft, reaffirms the need for laws like Act No 3 (1957). This SAPS-intention to combat so-called masked supernaturally-related crimes is also echoed by various governmental agencies, ministers from the cabinet, and even the South African Teachers Union (SADTU) for instance. 93, 94

Furthermore, it seems that arguments of a uniquely African culture and religion in which the traditional healer as a witch-finder and witchcraft-related conduct may play a role, do not hold any value in the modern South Africa. For instance, indigenous and/or traditional African religions represent only 0.35% of the total Black population. This evidence contradicts the alleged exclusive existence of an African “religious” culture. 95

To address abhorrent behaviour, like witchcraft-crimes reflected by the underdeveloped section of society effectively with Act No 3 (1957), is not un-African. It is needed to safeguard the community against malevolent individuals. 96, 97, 98, 99, 100, 101, 102, 103, 104, 105

The viewpoint that witchcraft crimes must be handled by tribal leaders because the community is “African”, is inapplicable and insignificant to combat witchcraft crime. The South African legal system is more than competent enough to handle witchcraft-related crimes. The Constitution does not allow any transfer of its legal powers to quasi-courts to make criminal convictions. South Africa’s experience of street and bundu law and the barbaric kangaroo courts of townships in the 1960s is more than enough evidence that tribal or community courts do not have a place in the legal system. It cannot replace Act No 3 (1957) at all, as alleged. 106, 107, 108

Individual-rights viewpoint

Individual objections are based on the viewpoint that every South African citizen should be totally free in terms of the Constitution and its Bill of Rights and Sections 5(1) and 5(2) of the Civil Union Act No 17 of 2006 to believe, to choose and to practice his culture and religion unobstructed. 109 The view is that the State does not have the right to discriminate against or to criminalise an embedded cultural and religious belief and practice system, as it is argued that Section 1 of Act No 3 of 1957 does that specifically. The opinion is that Section 1 places an ipso facto assumption of criminality upon the individual, which can affect his ethnic status, his cultural grouping and limit his right to equality, freedom of association, choice of occupation or profession, and as already mentioned, his freedom to choose and to practise a religion or culture falling outside the mainstream.

This discrimination in terms of Act No 3 (1957) has been alluded to in more than 11 clauses of Chapter 2 of the Constitution and its Bill of Rights (as well as Section 5 of the Civil Union Act of 2006). The opinion is that Act No 3 (1957) in this context bears a negative classification because of official stereotyping and stigmatising. This means an innocent person can be projected as malevolent in the eyes of the public, purely on grounds of his religion, culture or lifestyle. 110, 111, 112, 113

With reference to religious inheritance, the opinion is argued that Section 1 strikes into the heart of the individual Hindu believer’s, traditional healer’s and neo-pagan’s practices of divinations, charms and fortune-telling. 114

The above belief in the supernatural and superstition (as defined by Section 1 of Act No 3 of 1957 as a legal transgression), is clearly also fully applicable to the other traditional South African religions, Christians (main South African religious group), as well as the Muslim and Jewish groups. This truth is well-confirmed by the following comment: 115, response 5:

“If you can believe in an invisible man in the sky that will burn you if you do bad things, then I say you can believe in witchcraft. I find witchcraft no more ludicrous than Christian, Jewish or Muslim beliefs and if you outlaw the one, you may as well outlaw the lot.”

Therefore to identify a single culprit practising the supernatural or to prosecute only the “witch”, the neo-pagan or the religious dissident, as Act No 3 (1957) initially undoubtedly intended in 1957 to do, will be an injustice. If the neo-pagan and the “witch” are prosecuted, the same must be done with the Christian, the Muslim, the Jew (for all of them the universal basis is the afterlife and its corollaries with the living). The rigid opinion held is that it is impossible to meaningfully outlaw the supernatural and superstition. This seems to be confirmed by the unofficial inclination of the South African criminal justice system and law-enforcing agencies to uphold only in part Act No 3 (1957) regulations to fight witchcraft and related crimes (and other occult crimes reflected as witchcraft) like murder. 116

In studying Section 1 of the Act’s interpretations and description of the supernatural, the impression is left of it as real (concrete) behaviour that can be scientifically tested (the same for instance, as occult science). The SAPS’s own admittance that they believe there is something “real” that is supernatural – or as they describe it as “handlings and activities of a spiritual nature – things outside the physical sphere” (bedrywighede of aktiwiteite van spirituele aard – dinge buite die fisieke sfeer), 117, brings only further confusion for the individual.

It forces to the foreground possible discrimination of his civil right to believe in a specific culture or religion and to practise it, notwithstanding that he is a neo-pagan, Christian, Muslim or Jew. In this context of conflict and confusion, the opinion is that the individual is more than enough justified to doubt the legality of Section 1 of Act No 3 of 1957 in terms of the Constitution. 118, 119, 120, 121, 122, 123

In contrast to the belief by individuals in their total freedom of behaviour that they demand in terms of the Constitution (as can be reflected by the above), it is important to note that the Constitution is designed and enacted to safeguard also the individual rights of other citizens, not only that of the alleged deprived individual, a neo-pagan, a traditional healer, a Hindu-believer, a Christian or a Muslim. The Constitution clauses as a whole guarantees that it will not be misused by individuals or groups to serve selfish and sometimes, masked dangerous needs and aims.

In terms of the Constitution only rights will be bestowed on an individual when his newly demanded or deprived former rights do not infringe on the rights of other individuals (and of cause the state per se). This is the reason why the Constitution was not activated and not used to interfere for instance between 1994 and 2004 with Act No 3 (1957) actions when more than 1 300 cases of witch-sniffing and -hunting were successfully prosecuted (and, surely many witch murders prevented). It allowed that 2 976 cases were initially registered for criminal activities but dismissed and a further 946 cases were acquitted for the period 1994 to 2004; this confirms the trust in Act No 3 (1957) and that it is not unconstitutional as certain sectors in society alleged. 124, 125

Discussion

With reference to the legal status of Act No 3 (1957) as a law, the opinion cannot be ignored that although no one can doubt that South Africa has one of the most progressive Constitutions in the world and possesses a complex democratic machinery to manage its legal system, it still has three levels of social development: a developed, a developing and underdeveloped sectors of civil society. It is especially the underdeveloped level that still believes in witchcraft and is guided in daily life and decision-making by it. In this tier of underdevelopment there still exists a kind of primitive savagery reminiscent of medieval times; a paradigm where culture and religion are misused to mask needs (but also as an excuse) and to express and live out abhorrent behaviour, such as ritual and muthi murders and personal revenge. 126, 127, 128, 129

South Africans are at the moment still just too unequal for the Constitution to fit and to fix the rights of everyone; other pieces of legislation, like Act No 3, are needed to safeguard and to execute these rights, together with the Constitution. 130, 131, 132, 133

Act No 3 (1957) can surely be described as a medieval throwback to the Dark Ages, but at present it excellently serves the innocent individual (victim) against the criminal behaviour of the witch-sniffer and witch-hunter, as well as against the evil-inclined community of whom he may be a member. The SALRC’s various refusals since 1994 to have Act No 3 of 1957 repealed, confirms the opinion of the benefits of the Act on the one hand. 134, 135, 136, 137, 138

On the other hand it also reflects the Constitution’s guarantee that law-abiding behaviour must be kept up by the prosecution of any wrongdoer. Both the pre-1994 apartheid and the post-1994 anti-apartheid regimes have kept Act No 3 (1957) undisturbed now for a period of six decades because it serves the Constitution and the country’s citizens in an exemplary fashion. 139, 140, 141

The finding in principle by the SALRC more recently, after years of constant appeals by the traditional healers and other objectors that certain sections of the Act can be unconstitutional, does not mean that it is going to be repealed or be changed immediately. 142The Parliament and its lawmakers must first consider the matter. 143

Strength and limitations

This study offers a strong argument, based on sound research findings, for the indefinite keeping of Act No 3 to counter witchcraft-related behaviour. It seems at the moment to be the only legal instrument left to oppose the future wrongdoings of the traditional health practitioner and the potential excesses of the Traditional Health Practitioners Act (Act No 22, 2007).

In the present climate of political correctness that sanctions and exaggerates the individual’s rights, notwithstanding that his behaviour may be criminal like that of the traditional healer, the positive arguments and findings of this study may be controversial or may even be minimised.

Conclusions

Notwithstanding the opinion against it, there is no evidence that the Act discriminates in criminalising the law-abiding citizen who declared himself a “witch”, even after making such a foolish confession in public. Nor does it interfere with the lifestyles of the individual engaged in supernatural practices, as long as he does not contravene a focussed criminal law and/or endanger or threaten the life of other people in terms of subsection 1(a), (c) and 1(e). 144, 145, 146, 147, 148

The opinion that Act No 3 (1957) is only partly implemented to fight witchcraft-related crimes, seems to be correct. The aim of the Act, as indicated, is not blind prosecution, but only the prevention of well-identified, specifically dangerous witchcraft crimes and actions. The Act is thus not a medieval throwback to the Dark Middle Ages. It follows that we should think again before repealing the Act at this stage.

Notes:

  1. Research Associate, Focus Area 7.2 Social Transformation , Faculty of Arts, Potchefstroom Campus, North-West University, Potchefstroom, South Africa
  2. Research Director, Focus Area 7.2 Social Transformation, Faculty of Arts, Potchefstroom Campus, North-West University, Potchefstroom, South Africa
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  133. Witchcraft Suppression Act of 1957, No 3. Republic of South Africa. Pretoria: Government Printers; 1957.
  134. Neo-paganism in South Africa. Available from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Neopaganism_in_South_Africa (Accessed 20/08/ 2014).
  135. The Traditional Health Practitioners Act of 2007, No 22. Republic of South Africa. Pretoria: Government Printers; 2007.
  136. South African Pagan Rights Alliance (SAPRA).Available from http://www.paganrightsalliance.org/about-sapra/ (Accessed 20/02/2016).
  137. Witchcraft Suppression Act, 1957. Available from http://www.justice.gov.za/legislation/acts/1957-003.pdf (Accessed 19/10/2014).
  138. Witchcraft Suppression Act of 1957, No 3. Republic of South Africa. Pretoria: Government Printers; 1957.
  139. Witchcraft Suppression Act, 1957. Available from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Witchcraft_Suppression_Act,_1957 (Accessed 20/92/2016).
  140. Abolition of Corporal Punishment Act of 1997, No 33. Republic of South Africa. Pretoria: Government Printers; 1997. 151Wiechers M. Nog van koers af ondanks goeie wet Rapport, 2014 Sept 9; p.13.
  141. South African Law Reform Commission (SALRC). The Review of the Witchcraft Suppression Act 3 of 1957. Department of Justice and Constitutional Development, Issue Paper 29, Project 135. Pretoria: Government Printers; 9 Sept 2014. Available from http://www.justice.gov.za/salrc/ipapers/ip29-prj135-Witchcraft-2014.pdf (Accessed 26/02/2016).
  142. Ward TP. South Africa’s Witchcraft Suppression Act ruled unconstitutional. Available from http://www.wildhunt.org/2016/01/south-africa’s-witchcraft-suppression-act-ruled-unconstitutional.html (Accessed 26/02/2016).
  143. Witchcraft Suppression Act of 1957, No 3. Republic of South Africa. Pretoria: Government Printers; 1957.
  144. Witchcraft Suppression Act, 1957. Available from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Witchcraft_Suppression_Act,_1957 (Accessed 20/92/2016).
  145. Witchcraft Suppression Act, 1957. Available from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Witchcraft_Suppression_Act,_1957 (Accessed 20/92/2016).
  146. Adjustment of Fines Act of 1991, No 101. Republic of South Africa. Pretoria: Government Printers; 1991.
  147. Justice Law Rationalisation Act of 1996, No 18. Republic of South Africa. Pretoria: Government Printers; 1996.

How and why bewitching and wickedness are created and maintained within small, specific segments of the South African population

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Gabriel Louw 1, Andrè Duvenhage 2

Ensovoort volume 36 (2016), number 9: 1.

Abstract

Background

Beliefs in the supernatural are maintained by strengthening the evils which the witch or the bewitched person can do to his or her fellows. This system is perpetuated by the repetition of stories of how the witch may target the individual as well as why the witch is assumed to be capable of this kind of behaviour. Myths become truths in the minds of economically, educationally and socially deprived persons. Specifically members of poor rural populations seem to fall into this category.

Aims

The aim of the study was to reflect on how and why some South Africans still believe in witchcraft.

Methods

Literature on the subjects of bewitching and wickedness in the South African context is limited. This shortcoming regarding applicable information was overcome through the use of contemporary communications like newspapers and reports. This approach was realised via the use of the exploratory and descriptive method where objective viewpoints became possible as the research developed. Conclusions could be drawn so as to reflect on the role-players and determinants that are maintaining the concepts of witchcraft and bewitching in South Africa. The findings were offered in narrative form.

Results

The insights into the role-players and determinants that perpetuate beliefs in supernatural events, the upholding of this system and the selection of certain victims as well as a clientele making use and misuse of witchcraft, were indicated.

Conclusions

Witchcraft, a Dark Age remnant, is clearly still an active part of a specific segment of South African society. It is seen in community folklore as factual and thus well-exploited by the traditional healer to ensure a need for his services while other role-players also support it for personal interest and for pecuniary reasons.

What this study adds

What is known about the subject?

Little research with a focus on the maintenance of supernatural rituals and beliefs has so far been done in South Africa.

What new information is offered by this study?

Various role-players, specifically the traditional healer, misuse the fear and insecurity of a segment of under-developed South Africans to establish a belief system in bewitching and to enrich themselves.

What are the implications for research, policy, or practice?

The traditional healer’s formal recognition as a health practitioner in the New South Africa holds serious consequences for the healthcare sector.

Background

Traditional healers are business people: they buy and sell commodities and their trade is facilitated by the use of the postal services, motor vehicles and cell phones. Their instrument of choice is the “scalpel” rather than the spear. Among their most prized clientele are themselves business people seeking advantage over competitors, success in new ventures or a widening of their customer base. Traditional health services, in common with many other features of South Africa’s occult economy, can thus be understood as an attempt to re-create a sense of orderliness and predictability in an unruly post-apartheid, late-capitalistic world of rapidly changing markers of identity, failed political expectations, massive economic deprivation amidst the sudden and conspicuous enrichment of the few, and rampant criminality. 3, 4

This incitement to make money goes much deeper; namely the superficial maintaining of a self-fulfilling reputation of evil-diagnosis and -treatment by the traditional healer, solely for the purpose of of more moneymaking. Thus, the role of the “good” traditional healer that the Traditional Health Practitioners Act (Act No 22, 2007) tries so hard to profess, can change very easily and fast from a person who endorses morality and doing kind, “to a charismatic charlatan who, through clever manipulation of his so called esoteric knowledge, makes total misuse of anxiety-ridden people”. 5, p5.

Thus the money-making intention – above morality and integrity – and the resorting to the manipulation and the abuse of the uninformed and the undereducated, even resorting to criminal acts to other people if necessary, becomes the obvious choice of behaviour for some traditional healers.

The aim of this study is to describe the role-players in the maintenance of a belief system in bewitching and wickedness by certain segments of the South African population.

Methods

The South African literature on witchcraft, bewitching and wickedness is scarce. To obtain an objective insight in the research matter, this shortcoming was overcome by the use of the modern-day historical approach in which contemporary sources like daily rapports, overviews, communication and newspapers are consulted and analysed. For this approach the exploratory and descriptive method was the most appropriate. Data could be reflected on as the research progress and viewpoints developed. Objective conclusions were assured, reflecting the present role-players and determinants in the maintenance of supernatural beliefs. The findings were offered in narrative form. 6, 7

Results

To understand the phrase “credulous and anxiety-ridden people” in the maintenance of the traditional healer position and practice in the exploitation of superstition within a small but specific segment of the South African population, it is important to understand how and why bewitching and wickedness are created and maintained within this segment of the population. 8

Established belief system in witchcraft and superstition

Descriptions like 9, p. 6 “the witch’s most fearsome power in African minds is her ability to harm people, she is the opposite of good – the personification of evil or the evil of witchcraft attacks the living, causing people on earth to suffer and die”, bring to the foreground an established belief system in witchcraft and superstition. The most influential are the so-called causes of bewitching and remedies to alleged bewitching – that was indoctrinated as real from an early childhood in a certain societal sector in South Africa. 10

It reflects a pre-modern social discourse where there is still an absence of scientific education and socio-economic upliftment as well as the presence of politically misleading doctrines, especially in this pre-modern thinking and living environment, mostly a poverty-stricken and under-developed one. Under such conditions, there is a daily life struggle to survive and a direct threat of serious personal or community misfortunes, disasters and illnesses, believed to be either the result of the ire of angered or jealous ancestral spirits or the evil-doing of other persons, like the witch. It is the belief in the alleged agency of the latter that evokes and strengthens the use of the traditional healer to identify, to blame and to punish someone for such putative deeds. This unlucky person is the witch. 11, 12, 13, 14, 15, 16, 17, 18, 19

In witchcraft accusation in pre-modern society – the belief that everyone in the community is at all times exposed to bewitching – forms the basis of the reasoning that if unexplained and unexpected misfortunes occur, which is believed not to be the result of ancestral spirits’ ire, then someone specific (who must be a witch), is responsible for the disturbance of the complainant’s or community’s harmony. Hence a witch must be identified and be punished with measures as serious as murder. 20, 21, 22, 23, 24

The evil of a central right to equality

Reasons for the accusation directed against a person or persons of being a witch and of practising witchcraft are sometimes very complex and contradictory among believers in witchcraft. Central to these reasons is the belief that each member of a community has an equal right to the community’s prosperity – the same right that one community has in relation to another community. When this right seems to be denied or is not experienced by a member in his daily life, especially over a long period, accusations of witchcraft – and a person to be blamed for economic, personal and social misfortunes and dilemmas – come to the fore. 25, 26, 27

Origin of accusations

The origin of accusations can take various forms – it can vary from simple neighbourhood strife to personal arguments, bad business deals to jealousy about another’s prosperity and wealth, up to a community’s displeasure at the moral behaviour of a specific person, such as adultery and the alleged desire for someone’s wife or husband or other community-dividing behaviour. It seems, especially, to be the person who prospers beyond the others’ level in his community that falls prey to being named a witch, or to attract and be attacked by the so-called witch and his bewitching because of the witch’s jealousy of this person’s prosperity. The fundamental reasoning is that, to be richer and more prosperous than the rest of the community, this prosperous person must use witchcraft or is a witch with the power to impoverish others. 28, 29, 30, 31

In other cases, contrary to the rich-victim-identification, it is the poorest in the community who is blamed of being a witch because it is believed that this deprived person is jealous of and hates others due to their better position and belongings and uses witchcraft to harm them. How imbalanced these allegations of witchcraft are, is reflected by the fact that most complainants who say they are bewitched by a person, are older, less successful persons who have reached a life stage where the ability to prosper is absent, or who, over a long period of continuous efforts, failed to obtain success through their own shortcomings. An individual is then identified, accused and blamed for these life dilemmas and inequalities. 32, 33, 34, 35

Personal conflict, tension and especially meanness in daily life, as said, play a strong role in allegations of bewitching. Private scores are to be settled this way, while selfish motives to cover up own wrong-doing, are often the basis for these fraudulent accusations and blaming other individuals of being dishonest and mean. The community as a whole is also sometimes involved in stirring up accusations of witchcraft and identifying an individual to be blamed of being a witch in times of large community disasters, such as protracted droughts, death by epidemics and death as a result of disasters like earthquakes. Even the reinforcement and maintenance of moral values, customs, beliefs and the habits of a community are abused by communities, leaders and individuals to accuse others. Because their “unsocial” behaviour, it is believed, they have invoked or are going to invoke harm from the ancestral spirits. 36, 37, 38, 39

The handicapped as a victim

It frequently seems to be the emotional, cognitive and mentally handicapped individual, who is less capable of defending himself, that is picked as victim and branded a witch by the “good” traditional healer. These unfortunate people are indoctrinated over time to believe not only that they are “witches”, but that they even believe that they did transgress when they are in fact not really guilty. Such an “identified witch” confesses: 40, p. 58 “I do not remember doing it, but I believe I was the cause”.

Physical torture, as part of this indoctrination to break them into their role as a witch and bewitching by the “good” traditional healer with the community’s cooperation, is also evident:

“The child’s family accused me. The village elders decided we should visit a famous witch-finder in Mozambique. The journey was long, five days, and the diviner immediately knew that I was the one. On the journey back they made me carry a large rock as punishment and they beat me with a stick the whole way. I fainted. They gave me water and made me carry on. They tried to make me ride on the back of a dog. Then they filled my blanket with sand and made me carry it”. 41

Witchcraft beliefs offer a catharsis to assuage fear

In short, Holland 42, p. 16 describes the dangerous aims and intentions of witchcraft beliefs and practices, in which the traditional healer plays a dominant role, when she concludes: “Witchcraft beliefs offer a kind of catharsis to assuage fear, the need for revenge feelings of jealousy in the face of disparity of circumstances, and the misery of inexplicable misfortune. They provided society with scapegoats”.

Discussion

The diagnosis of assumed supernatural phenomena, like witchcraft, is fraudulent and without any scientific basis to support it. It is clear that the traditional healers and the local culture of societies are responsible for the creation and the maintenance from generation to generation of the belief system of bewitching and wickedness. Here the healer stands central in his manipulation and management of the supernatural solely for his benefit. His witch-hunting and -finding leads to harming others’ lives, property, personal, social and economic rights; he brings immense hardship to many through his false and malevolent practice in his self-promotion for status and money. 43, 44, 45, 46, 47, 48

Strength and limitations

Enough research evidence was available to reflect the dynamics that perpetuate and maintain witchcraft in South African society, although the phenomenon is limited to a small segment of the population.

There was in the past and there still is today a very low interest in the activities surrounding and role-players involved in witchcraft. This study’s informative impact on witchcraft will be limited in light of the official status that was awarded in 2007 to the South African traditional healer and which canonises him as a proper health practitioner.

Conclusions

It is time to stop romanticising the evils and the misdemeanours of the traditional healer: only in this way will society, the law, religion, politics, culture and health be free from the tyranny of superstition, witchcraft, religious dogmas, occultism and paganism that are such an inherent part of the traditional healer’s practice. 49

Notwithstanding the auspices of the Traditional Health Practitioners Act (Act No 22, 2007) and the scape-goating of the witch as the sole practitioner of ritual, occult and muthi murders by the Witchcraft Suppression Act (Act No 3, 1957), parliamentarian sympathy and conferring an “African Science” label on traditional healing, the door must be closed in South Africa for the traditional healer to misuse the insecure, under-educated and to commit improper and criminal conduct to ensure an income and maintain personal power. He is a true Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde. 50, 51, 52, 53

Notes:

  1. Research Associate, Focus Area 7.2 Social Transformation , Faculty of Arts, Potchefstroom Campus, North-West University, Potchefstroom, South Africa
  2. Research Director, Focus Area 7.2 Social Transformation, Faculty of Arts, Potchefstroom Campus, North-West University, Potchefstroom, South Africa
  3. Roelofse C. Rituals and muthi murders amongst the vha-Venda people of South Africa: An ethno-criminological assessment of the phenomenon and development of a new typology. Available from http://www.researchgate.net/publication/273382950_Ritual_muti-murders_amongst_the_vha_Venda_people_of_South_Africa_An_ethno-criminological_assessement_of_the_phenomenon_and_development_of_a_typology (Accessed 18/11/2014).
  4. Vincent L. Muthi murders in democratic South Africa. Tribes and Tribals (Special Volume), 2008; 2: 45-53.
  5. Holland H. African Magic. Johannesburg: Penguin; 2005.
  6. Bless C, Higson-Smith C. Fundamentals of Social Research Methods. An African Perspective. 2nd ed. Kenwyn: Juta; 1995.
  7. Louw GP. A guideline for the preparation, writing and assessment of article-format masters dissertations and doctoral theses. Faculty Education, Mafikeng Campus: North-West University; 2013.
  8. Holland H. African Magic. Johannesburg: Penguin; 2005.
  9. Holland H. African Magic. Johannesburg: Penguin; 2005.
  10. ibid.
  11. Vincent L, op.cit.
  12. Holland H, op.cit.
  13. Simelane LC. Witchdoctors raze church of rival. The Star 2014 Aug 5; p. 4.
  14. Gumede MV. Traditional healers: a medical doctor’s perspective. Johannesburg: Blackshaws; 1990.
  15. Govender S. Varsities cast recruiting nets wide Sunday Times 2014 Oct 5; p 10.
  16. Mbiti JS. 2nd Ed, Introduction to African Religion. Johannesburg: Heinemann; 1991.
  17. Petersen M. Comment. In: Wilkinson K. Do 80% of South Africans regularly consult traditional healers? The claim is false. AFP Foundation, Africa Check: 2013 July 3; 1-13. (Electronic copy on Africa Check web-site: https://africacheck.org/reports/do-80-of-s-africans-regularly-consult-traditional-healers-the-claim-is-false/3).
  18. Tlhabi R. Ours is a country of saints, brutal mobs and short memories. Sunday Times 2015 Sept 20; .p. 18.
  19. Wilkinson K. Do 80% of South Africans regularly consult traditional healers? The claim is false. AFP Foundation, Africa Check: 2013 July 3; 1-13. (Electronis copy on Africa Check web-site: https://africacheck.org/reports/do-80-of-s-africans-regularly-consult-traditional-healers-the -claim-is-false/3).
  20. Vincent L, op.cit.
  21. Holland H, op.cit.
  22. Gumede MV, op.cit.
  23. Mbiti JS, op.cit.
  24. 10 Terrifying facts about witchcraft that will make you believe they actually exist. Available from http://thoughtcatalog.com/james-b-barnes/2014/10/10-terrifying-facts-about-witches-that-will-make-you-believe-they-actually-exist/ (Accessed 26/02/2016).
  25. Vincent L, op.cit.
  26. Holland H, op.cit.
  27. Gumede MV, op.cit.
  28. Vincent L, op.cit.
  29. Holland H, op.cit.
  30. Gumede MV, op.cit.
  31. Mbiti JS, op.cit.
  32. Vincent L, op.cit.
  33. Holland H, op.cit.
  34. Gumede MV, op.cit.
  35. Mbiti JS, op.cit.
  36. Vincent L, op.cit.
  37. Holland H, op.cit.
  38. Gumede MV, op.cit.
  39. Mbiti JS, op.cit.
  40. Terrifying facts about witchcraft that will make you believe they actually exist. Available from http://thoughtcatalog.com/james-b-barnes/2014/10/10-terrifying-facts-about-witches-that-will-make-you-believe-they-actually-exist/ (Accessed 26/02/2016).
  41. ibid.]
  42. Holland H, op.cit.
  43. Mpumalanga Suppression Bill of 2007. Available from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mpumalanga_Witchcraft_Suppression_Bill (Accessed 19/08/2007).
  44. Witchcraft Suppression Act of 1957, No 3. Republic of South Africa. Pretoria: Government Printers; 1957.
  45. Witchcraft Suppression Act of 1970, No 50. Republic of South Africa. Pretoria: Government Printers; 1970.
  46. The Traditional Health Practitioners Act of 2007, No 22. Republic of South Africa: Pretoria; Government Printers; 2007.
  47. South African Pagan Rights Alliance (SAPRA). Review of Witchcraft Suppression Act Updated. Available from http://www.paganrightsalliance.org/review-of-witchcraft-suppression-act-update/ (Accessed 19/10/2014).
  48. Witchcraft Suppression Act, 1957. Available from http://www.justice.gov.za/legislation/acts/1957-003.pdf (Accessed 20/02/2016).
  49. Ashforth A. Witchcraft, violence and democracy in South Africa. Chicago: University of Chicago Press; 2005.
  50. Witchcraft Suppression Act of 1957, No 3. Republic of South Africa. Pretoria: Government Printers; 1957.
  51. Witchcraft Suppression Act of 1970, No 50. Republic of South Africa. Pretoria: Government Printers; 1970.
  52. The Traditional Health Practitioners Act of 2007, No 22. Republic of South Africa: Pretoria; Government Printers; 2007.
  53. Ashforth A., op.cit.

Did muthi, ritual and witchcraft murders happen only in the Dark Medieval Ages of South Africa? Think twice!

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Gabriel Louw 1, Andrè Duvenhage 2

Ensovoort volume 36 (2016), number 8: 2.

Abstract

Background

Muthi, ritual and witchcraft murders seem to be inherent pathologies of a certain section of the South African population. Various determinants contribute to the generation and endurance of such behaviour. These murders are part of a bigger picture in which constantly created fear as well as ancient embedded fear, insecurity and poverty play a strong role.

Aims

The aim is to determine if muthi, ritual and witchcraft murders are still committed in present-day South Africa.

Methods

The exploratory and descriptive approach was used to obtain and to present the research findings and objective conclusions. This method afforded an excellent way to build new viewpoints as research developed. The findings were offered in narrative form.

Results

It seems that various determinants are the causes for the muthi, ritual and witchcraft murders. Rather than witchcraft on its own, material greed and pre-modern selfish customs constitute motivations to commit or to instigate these murders. Efforts to control and to fight it over the years have been largely unsuccessful.

Conclusions

The traditional healer seems to be a prominent role player in muthi, ritual and witchcraft murders. It is clear that the lifestyles of some South Africans still contain pre-modern remnants of the Dark Ages. The issue of witchcraft-related murders is very controversial, given that the finger is also pointing to the possible involvement of politicians as well as governmental officials.

What this study adds

1. What is known about the subject?
There exists a lack of trustworthy information on the matter.
2. What new information is offered by this study?
The study has successfully integrated various findings and facts pertaining to the subject into a single informative description.
3. What are the implications for research, policy, or practice?
It seems that muthi, ritual and witchcraft murders are more frequent in South Africa than the information reflected in the daily news and other media reporting.

Background

The existence of muthi, ritual and witchcraft-related murders is confirmed by various research findings and court cases in South Africa. Court cases (especially within the post-1994 dispensation), are sparse, but since the 1980s until now muthi, ritual and witchcraft murders have still been widely practised in South Africa. Role players are traditional healers, priests, politicians, tribal leaders and even police officers; indeed, the scapegoat “witch” is far from being the culprit. Evidence suggests that this kind of murder activity is on the increase, especially in the Limpopo and Mpumalanga provinces. 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14, 15, 16

Gumede. 17 and Vincent 18 said that, owing to the aura of fear of revenge, witnesses do not come forward to report on muthi, ritual and witchcraft murders. In the end, due to a lack of evidence, the perpetrators go free and the phenomenon does not elicit any real interest from the authorities or the media. Gumede 19 mentioned that what surfaces in these cases is usually the tip of the iceberg with an unreported factor of 95%. In Venda in the 1980s it was estimated that at least 75 muthi murders were committed every year, but that only one to two prosecutions resulted. It is not only murders for muthi that play a central role here, but also the gruesome summary executions of persons, not always muthi-related, after being smelt out as “bewitched” by traditional healers and witch finders. These “smelling-outs” are often the result of complainants having a personal score to settle or suffer from jealousy in relation to the innocent victim, or because of an interest in the human body parts trade, which is also tied up with witchcraft. 20, 21, 22, 23, 24, 25

Methods

This research used the exploratory and descriptive method. The emphasis was on contemporary research matter, like newspapers and other documentation to obtain new argumentation, information and viewpoints as the research process developed. These outcomes allowed the researchers to make conclusions applicable to the past and present, as well as to put the future of muthi, ritual and witchcraft murders in perspective. The contents were offered in the narrative form. 26, 27

Results

The counties Venda (Limpopo) and Mpumalanga are South Africa’s main battlegrounds for witchcraft-related crimes

The extent to which muthi , ritual and witchcraft murders occur in the regions Venda, Limpopo and Mpumalanga, South Africa, has been well-documented by various research and legal publications since 1996 alone. There was a Commission of Enquiry into Witchcraft Violence and Ritual Murders (Ralushai Commission), in 1996, as well as the National Conference on Witchcraft Violence (The Thohoyandou Declaration on Ending Witchcraft Violence) in 1998. A workshop of the South African Council of Churches at Thohoyandou took place in 2006. 28, 29, 30, 31, 32, 33, 34, 35 36, 37

Furthermore, there was the Mpumalanga Witchcraft Suppression Bill of 2007 (this Bill was withdrawn in 2008 after opposition to it by the pagan healers and traditional healers). Also, three Ritual Murder Summits were held in the Limpopo province, namely in 2000, 2006 and 2014, to plan some action to stop ritual murders. Although it is a widely-held opinion that muthi and ritual murders are rural phenomena, it is also observed, to a limited extent, in urban areas. In 2000 a commission of inquiry into witchcraft, violence and ritual murders was set up after a spate of murders in Soweto of young boys. 38, 39, 40, 41, 42, 43, 44, 45, 46, 47, 48

Incomplete statistics

Reliable figures on muthi and ritual murders are elusive because the SAPS does not officially register these types of murders separately to the other homicides. Further, South Africa’s 47 murders per day also make the recognition of these types of murders difficult. Separate guidelines must be used to get a picture. In Limpopo, for instance, six muthi-related murders were reported between April 2013 and June 2014. Fifty murders had been reported in Limpopo for the period 2010 to 2013. But these statistics are only the tip of the iceberg. Indeed, hardly a week passes in South Africa without a report related to muthi murders. Dr Gerard Labuschagne of the SAPS’s Investigative Psychology Unit estimates that muthi murders total about 300 per year in South Africa (meaning just less than one person per day or 2,12% of the total daily murders). 49, 50, 51, 52, 53, 54, 55, 56

Regarding the trade in human body parts, research by the Mozambique Human Rights League and Childline South Africa indicates that one out of five people in rural South Africa has had first-hand experience of human body parts harvesting involving a family member after a muthi murder, while in 2010 more than 1 000 families countrywide reported the harvesting of a family member’s body parts, either by grave robbing or stealing/buying from hospitals or mortuaries. In addition, 350 cadavers in Limpopo and 210 cadavers in Mpumalanga have been mutilated for parts. 57, 58, 59, 60, 61, 62, 63, 64, 65, 66

Human body parts are a lucrative commodity

With reference to these muthi murders, two lecturers from the University of Venda (Univen], Prof. Vohani Netshandama and Dr Tsoaledi Thobejane, have emphasised that the main aim is the harvesting of human body parts, believed to give supernatural powers. These parts are sold for between R50 000 and R100 000 (in 2006 it was reported that a set of female genitalia could fetch up to R30 000). The trade in human body parts has clearly become a lucrative commodity, with parts much higher on the price list than rhino horns. It is scary to note that over 32 years the unit price of a hand rises annually with R1 450, from R500 in March 1983 to R 50 000 in July 2014 (a 10 000% increase). 67, 68, 69, 70

About the use of specific human parts in muthi to obtain specific outcomes, Radford 71, par 5 writes: “Just as different ingredients in a recipe are used for different purposes, certain body parts are used for particular goals. For example, eyes may be stolen and used in a magic ritual to help restore a client’s failing eyesight, whereas severed hands are used to assure business success, and genitals are believed to attract luck”.

Some of the uses of body parts Holland 72 emphasises are still in existence today, notwithstanding the post-1994 so-called socio-political progress and various governmental interventions since 1996 to combat muthi and ritual murders.

The two academics of Univen write about the use of body parts: 73, p. 5
“Hands: it is believed that burying a hand on the doorstep of a business can miraculously bring in customers in large numbers.
Eyes: they hold supernatural powers to see where the money is.
Noses: can smell where the money is.
Lips: enable good communication with the ancestors for success.
Human fat: can improve image, esteem and reputation if smeared on the body.”

Elaborating on the above, Vincent 74 writes that it is common for human skulls to be buried in the foundations of new buildings to ensure that business conducted there thrives, or for body parts to be buried on farms to ensure good harvests and for severed hands to be built into shop entrances to beckon to prospective clients. A human head is sometimes prescribed for a failing business.

The traditional healer a prominent role player in human body parts harvesting

About the specific role of the traditional healer in this barbaric harvesting, Holland 75, p. 13 reports: “The herbalist coordinates the crime, identifying the body parts required as well as the type of victim whose flesh will yield the best results.”

The above coordinating role or link of the traditional healer to muthi murders and the obtention of human body parts for the making of “strong” muthi is confirmed by Vincent. 76He wrote that the traditional healer will place an “order” with a killer to harvest specific human parts. Vincent is of the opinion that murder gangs specialise in muthi murders, specific to the traditional healer’s orders.

Vincent 77, 78, 79

Role of the Witchcraft Suppression Act No 3 (1957) in preventing witchcraft-related murders

These findings and indications show clearly the necessity for a law such as the Witchcraft Suppression Act (No 3, 1957) which has existed since 1957 in South Africa to combat witchcraft-related crimes and regulate the chief associate in these crimes, the traditional healer. Guarantees by traditional-healing umbrella movements, like the SADC Unified Ancestors Traditional Practitioners’ Association and the Traditional Healers Organization (THO), that their members are not involved in muthi-related crimes or that they combat these types of crimes, are not legally enforceable and mean nothing. Other constructive legal interventions and action by the South African Police Services (SAPS) and the National Prosecution Authority (NPA), based on Act No 3 (1957), are needed. To repeal the Act will be a mistake. 80, 81, 82, 83, 84, 85

The Act (No 3, 1957) on combating witchcraft and related practices is not un-African as suggested by some, neither can it be allowed that the traditional healer and the traditional leader together with traditional courts, become the sole adjudicator of African issues like witchcraft allegations in the community, under the auspices of “African justice”. It is tantamount to “bush and street law”. The issue of witchcraft allegations and crimes can only by dealt with by proper legislation and courts, specifically in terms of criminal laws like Act No 3 (1957). 86, 87, 88, 89

Misdoings resulting from Act No 22 (2007) in the future may be plentiful

But the key to the capacity for misconduct in the future by some traditional healers and other criminally-minded individuals may not only be attributed to the Traditional Health Practitioners Act (Act No 22, 2007) that recklessly bestows almost unlimited legal power on the traditional healer to practise a religious dogma as medicine. It is also emanates from the opportunity the Act affords the traditional healer in his newly-privileged position to make unscrupulous money out of uneducated people in awe of the supernatural.

Holland 90, p.227 illustrates this very well: “Belief in witchcraft obviously relied on a parallel acceptance of traditional healers and magic. The victim of misfortune sought the aid of a diviner in formulating an accusation, and a self-fulfilling prophecy ensued. It was in the diviner’s interest to identify a suspect because he or she had a near-monopoly of witchcraft remedies, and made a living by dispensing them. Since the diviner’s reputation relied on a diagnosis plausible to the victim, confirmation of the suspicions already present in the client’s mind produced the best results.”

The role of South Africa’s greed culture in murders

Vincent 91 is of the opinion that the traditional healer’s intention to make money at all times, can be seen in the present “greed culture” of South Africans, starting in 1994. Muthi murders became a prominent feature of the present period of free-wheeling “capitalism”, exemplified by various forms of money-making, ranging from pyramid schemes, cadre appointments, tenders and contracts, prosperity gospels that pledge to deliver immense immediate wealth, to supernatural means, like strong muthi, to bring this prosperity. The pre-1994 anti-capitalism of the so-called liberation movements has been replaced by economic empowerment bringing wealth and success for a select few. Those trapped in mass unemployment, poverty, poor health and educational prowess, homelessness and inequality, witness the splendour of the elite, which reinforces their belief that bad magic and supernatural means may correct their shortcomings. It follows that muthi murders and witchcraft-related crime became a logical outcome of the present economic structure in South Africa which favours a politically connected elite. To fight it with interventions like Act No 3 of 1957 is thus not a wayward throwback to a dark and savage past, but a necessary intervention within the new reality. Witchcraft and the supernatural offer hope to the unlucky and unsuccessful individual on the one hand, and on the other, the opportunity for the traditional healer to make profit out of the travails and gullibility of the believer in the supernatural. 92, 93, 94

Muthi murdering goes deeper: it is not only limited to so-called community or acceptable murdering, or the individual side-lined by the post-1994 economicopolitical system where insecurity in daily life, revenge, jealousy, etc. are drivers, but it becomes a commercial way of life. Stripped of any supernatural beliefs by the killer, greed becomes the ultimate driver, or to make money out of the existing murderous system. This greed intention in muthi murders has been confirmed by the study of Roelofse 95 that found that out of 138 cases, only one was driven by revenge; the other 137 (99,2%) cases were solely driven by money-making in a system wherein the life of the individual counts little and where victims are easily available (specifically the poor, the elderly, the female, the child). The fact that in South Africa the prosecution of serious crimes is very low, makes muthi murdering a very attractive business opportunity for the criminal, knowing he can mostly get off scot-free. 96, 97

Two mutually supportive forces are thus active here: a group of people still believing that the supernatural and witchcraft can bring prosperity for them and the willingness to buy muthi for this purpose, in addition to a group of cold-blooded criminals (without real belief in the supernatural and the working of muthi on life-outcomes) who use the system to meet the believers’ needs for supernatural intervention, in turn fulfilling their own financial needs through muthi killings and the trade in human body parts.

A strong contributor to the growth in muthi murders seems to be the well-off. Vincent 98 found that many muthi murders are ordered and paid for by individual businessmen, syndicates and political hopefuls seeking their own individual success, people who are still convinced of the efficacy of magical cults. The individuals, mostly male and from the older generation with strong “traditional” inclinations and beliefs in the supernatural, are already prosperous and powerful and often formally educated, as Vincent 99, p. 46 describes: “They straddle both realms of knowledge – educated enough to be economically successful and able to command or pay for labour including killing and knowledgeable enough in the sphere of witchcraft to deal in muthi.”

The role of the traditional healer, either as a direct killer or the initiator of such a killing for human muthi parts or the indirect buyer of human parts, is obvious here, notwithstanding Act No 22 (2007)’s noble profile of the traditional healer as a person with “clean” hands.

Vincent 100 and Holland 101 stated already very well the money-making intentions of the traditional healer in today’s setup, supported by Act No 22 (2007)’s impact. Vincent 102, p.52 writes as follows about the traditional healer’s business skills and intentions in the muthi trade: “Sangomas are business people: they buy and sell commodities and their trade is much facilitated by the use of the postal services, motor vehicles and cellphones. Their instrument of choice is the scalpel rather than the spear. Among their most prized clientele are themselves business people seeking advantage over competitors, success in new ventures or a widening of their customer base. Muthi murders in common with many other features of South Africa’s occult economy can thus be understood as an attempt to re-create a sense of orderliness and predictability in an unruly post-apartheid, late capitalist world of rapidly changing markers of identity, failed political expectations, massive economic deprivation amidst the sudden and conspicuous enrichment of the few, rampant criminality”.

How extremely high the incomes of traditional healers can be, is well-illustrated by the case of the “herbalist,” “Michael” of KwaZulu-Natal. He claims to make between R15 000 and R20 000 per day from his concoctions (R450 000 to R600 000 per month). His randela outfit is pinned with R100 and R200 notes. He is so financially successful in his practice that he employs several bodyguards, a person to pin the money onto his clothes, six people to help with the products as well as entertainers. 103

This incitement to make money goes much deeper; namely the superficial maintenance of a self-fulfilling reputation of evil-diagnosis and treatment by the traditional healer, solely for the upkeep of more moneymaking. Thus, the role of the “good” traditional healer that Act No 22 (2007) tries so hard to profess, can very easily and very fast change from a person who endorses morality and doing kind 104, p. 5 “to a charismatic charlatan, coercing others through clever manipulation of his esoteric knowledge granted inappropriate worth by a credulous and anxiety-ridden people”.

This money-making intention – above morality and integrity – and resorting to criminality, were well illustrated recently by the actions of a group of traditional healers in Swaziland when a Christian church was burnt down because it lured away their clients and thus income. Jabu Ndwandwe, a traditional healer, obfuscated the criminality of traditional healers as follows: 105, p. 1 “We were losing customers because the people are flocking to be cured with the miracle power of the prophetess instead of relying on our magical potions. Our magic is (founded) on the ancestors and is tried and true. But people always like new things. We had to destroy that church to save our practices.”

Discussion

In the foreground here, we find an established belief system in witchcraft and superstition, with members of some South African ethnic groups indoctrinated from early childhood into believing in the so-called causes of bewitching and remedies for alleged bewitching. It reflects a pre-modern form of socialisation where there is still an absence of scientific education and socio-economic upliftment against the presence of politically misleading doctrines and unstable cultural and religious leadership. In this pre-modern thinking and living environment where the traditional healer has a free pass as a priest to practise supernatural actions, customs and other witchcraft-related behaviours, Act No 22 (2007) brings the traditional healer and his doubtful medical practice inside the ambit of official healthcare. This intensifies the practice of witchcraft, sorcery, wizardry, quackery, witch-hunting, murders and the trade in human body parts.

Strength and limitations

This research successfully incorporated and summarised various findings on the practising of muthi, ritual and witchcraft murders, and the causes of it, in South Africa.

The failure since the 1950s to mobilise governmental and social intervention to erase muthi and related occult murders and criminality, creates some doubt if this study will attract attention from the law-makers drafting laws on traditional healing. Also, the formal recognition of the traditional healer in the future healthcare sector makes any criticism of him unacceptable.

Conclusion

A certain section of the South African population has never progressed from what might be termed the Dark Ages; it seems as if for this section of the population the insatiable barbaric bond to murder and horror is unbreakable, also between their present and their past. This country is emotionally, socially, politically, economically and culturally much more complex than what it appears on the surface. Muthi, ritual and witchcraft murders can only be understood and combated in this context. This is exactly what the South African authorities have been doing since 1957 with the Witchcraft Suppression Act (Act No 22, 1957). However, it seems as if this Act was promulgated in vain with the creation of Act No 22 (2007) which contradicts it in various respects and has conferred the imprimatur of respectability on the traditional healer.

Notes:

  1. Research Associate, Focus Area 7.2 Social Transformation , Faculty of Arts, Potchefstroom Campus, North-West University, Potchefstroom, South Africa
  2. Research Director, Focus Area 7.2 Social Transformation, Faculty of Arts, Potchefstroom Campus, North-West University, Potchefstroom, South Africa
  3. Gumede MV. Traditional healers: A medical doctor’s perspective. Johannesburg: Blackshaws; 1990.
  4. Holland H. African magic. Johannesburg: Penquin: 2005.
  5. Louw-Carstens M. Man vas na moord op twee meisies, drie vroue. Beeld, 2014 July 24; p. 4.
  6. Mazibila S. MEC calls for action against killings. Sowetan, 2014 July; p. 5.
  7. Mazibila S. Leaders behind ritual murders. Sowetan, 2014 July 28; p. 5.
  8. Mbiti JS. Introduction to African Religion, 2nd ed. Johannesburg: Heinemann; 1991.
  9. Mkize V. Sex potency pills up for sale in Soweto. The Star, 2014 Aug 5: p. 9.
  10. Mkize V. Street stimulants unregulated and potentially lethal. The Star, 2014 Aug 5: p. 9.
  11. Mkize V. Fake online pharmacies raising risks of men buying impotence “cures”. The Star, 2014 Aug 5; p. 9.
  12. Mkize V. Use of street products can result in date rape. The Star, 2014 Aug 5; p. 9.
  13. Women, witchcraft and the struggle against abuse.Stop violence against women. Available from http://www.parliamentofreligions.org/content/women-witchcraft-and-struggle-against-abuse (Accessed 02/02/2016).
  14. Rautenbach C. Some comments on a new legislative framework for female traditional healers in South Africa. Academia edu, 2014: 113-32. Available from http://www.academia.edu/4007428/Some_Comments_on_a_new_Legislative_Framework_for_Female_Traditional_Healers_in_South_Africa (assessed 19/02/2014).
  15. Sangoma vas oor vrou se lyk. Beeld, 2014 July 4; p. 5.
  16. Swanepoel E. Mynstakers sny vermoorde wagte vir moetie. Beeld, 2014 July 18; p. 4.
  17. Gumede MV. Traditional healers: A medical doctor’s perspective. Johannesburg: Blackshaws; 1990.
  18. Vincent L. Muti murders in democratic South Africa.Tribes and Tribals, 2008 (Special) 2: 45-53.
  19. ibid.
  20. Gumede MV. Traditional healers: A medical doctor’s perspective. Johannesburg: Blackshaws; 1990.
  21. Mbiti JS. Introduction to African Religion, 2nd ed. Johannesburg: Heinemann; 1991.
  22. Sangoma vas oor vrou se lyk. Beeld, 2014 July 4; p. 5.
  23. Swanepoel E. Mynstakers sny vermoorde wagte vir moetie. Beeld, 2014 July 18; p. 4.
  24. 10 terrifying facts about witches that will make you believe they actually exist. Available from http://thoughtcatalog.com/james-b-barnes/2014/10/10-terrifying-facts-about-witches-that-will-make-you-believe-they-actually-exist (Accessed 26/02/2016).
  25. Mthethwa B. Villages burn with anger over muti church killing. Sunday Times, 2014 July 13; p. 12.
  26. Bless C, Higson-Smith C. Fundamentals of Social Research. An African Perspective. Kenwyn: Juta; 1995.
  27. Louw GP. A guideline for the preparation, writing and assessment of article-format masters dissertations and doctoral theses. Faculty Education, Mahikeng Campus: North-West University; 2013.
  28. Mazibila S. MEC calls for action against killings. Sowetan, 2014 July; p. 5.
  29. Mazibila S. Leaders behind ritual murders. Sowetan, 2014 July 28; p. 5.
  30. Women, witchcraft and the struggle against abuse.Stop violence against women. Available from http://www.parliamentofreligions.org/content/women-witchcraft-and-struggle-against-abuse (Accessed 02/02/2016).
  31. Vincent L. Muti murders in democratic South Africa.Tribes and Tribals, 2008 (Special) 2: 45-53.
  32. 10 terrifying facts about witches that will make you believe they actually exist. Available from http://thoughtcatalog.com/james-b-barnes/2014/10/10-terrifying-facts-about-witches-that-will-make-you-believe-they-actually-exist (Accessed 26/02/2016).
  33. Leaders behind ritual murders. Study fingers police, politicians and healers for deaths. Sowetan, 2014 July 28; p. 5.
  34. Roelofse C. Ritual and muti murders amongst the vha-Venda People of South Africa: An ethno-criminological assessment of the phenomenon and development of a new typology. Available from http://www.researchgate.net/publication/273382950_Ritual_and_muti_murders_amongst_the_vha_Venda_people_of_South_Africa_An_ethno-criminological_assessment_of_the_phenomenon_and_development_of_a_new_typology (Accessed 26/02/2016).
  35. Witchcraft: facts and information. Available from http://www.encyclopedia.com/topic/witchcraft.aspx (assessed 21/07/2014).
  36. Ludsin H. Cultural Denial: What South Africa’s Treatment of Witchcraft Says for the Future of its Customary Law. Berkeley J Inter Law, 2003; 21(1): 63-110.
  37. Witchcraft Suppression Act, 1957. Available from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Witchcraft_Suppression_Act_1957 (assessed 19/10/2014).
  38. Mazibila S. MEC calls for action against killings. Sowetan, 2014 July; p. 5.
  39. Devenish G. Chief Justice would better service law by keeping faith to himself. Sunday Times, 2014 June 8; p. 20.
  40. Mazibila S. Leaders behind ritual murders. Sowetan, 2014 July 28; p. 5.
  41. Women, witchcraft and the struggle against abuse.Stop violence against women. Available from http://www.parliamentofreligions.org/content/women-witchcraft-and-struggle-against-abuse (Accessed 02/02/2016).
  42. Vincent L. Muti murders in democratic South Africa.Tribes and Tribals, 2008 (Special) 2: 45-53.
  43. 10 terrifying facts about witches that will make you believe they actually exist. Available from http://thoughtcatalog.com/james-b-barnes/2014/10/10-terrifying-facts-about-witches-that-will-make-you-believe-they-actually-exist (Accessed 26/02/2016).
  44. Leaders behind ritual murders. Study fingers police, politicians and healers for deaths. Sowetan, 2014 July 28; p. 5.
  45. Roelofse C. Ritual and muti murders amongst the vha-Venda People of South Africa: An ethno-criminological assessment of the phenomenon and development of a new typology. Available from http://www.researchgate.net/publication/273382950_Ritual_and_muti_murders_amongst_the_vha_Venda_people_of_South_Africa_An_ethno-criminological_assessment_of_the_phenomenon_and_development_of_a_new_typology (Accessed 26/02/2016).
  46. Witchcraft: facts and information. Available from http://www.encyclopedia.com/topic/witchcraft.aspx (assessed 21/07/2014).
  47. Ludsin H. Cultural Denial: What South Africa’s Treatment of Witchcraft Says for the Future of its Customary Law. Berkeley J Inter Law, 2003; 21(1): 63-110.
  48. Witchcraft Suppression Act, 1957. Available from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Witchcraft_Suppression_Act_1957 (assessed 19/10/2014).
  49. Mkize V. Sex potency pills up for sale in Soweto. The Star, 2014 Aug 5: p. 9.
  50. Mkize V. Street stimulants unregulated and potentially lethal. The Star, 2014 Aug 5: p. 9.
  51. , 106Women, witchcraft and the struggle against abuse.Stop violence against women. Available from http://www.parliamentofreligions.org/content/women-witchcraft-and-struggle-against-abuse (Accessed 02/02/2016).
  52. Vincent L. Muti murders in democratic South Africa.Tribes and Tribals, 2008 (Special) 2: 45-53.
  53. 10 terrifying facts about witches that will make you believe they actually exist. Available from http://thoughtcatalog.com/james-b-barnes/2014/10/10-terrifying-facts-about-witches-that-will-make-you-believe-they-actually-exist (Accessed 26/02/2016).
  54. Leaders behind ritual murders. Study fingers police, politicians and healers for deaths. Sowetan, 2014 July 28; p. 5.
  55. Witchcraft: facts and information. Available from http://www.encyclopedia.com/topic/witchcraft.aspx (assessed 21/07/2014).
  56. Radford B. Hospital sells body parts for magic. Available from http://www.livescience.com/40355-hospital-sells-body-parts-for-magic.html (assessed 23/11/2014).
  57. Mazibila S. MEC calls for action against killings. Sowetan, 2014 July; p. 5.
  58. Devenish G. Chief Justice would better service law by keeping faith to himself. Sunday Times, 2014 June 8; p. 20.
  59. Mazibila S. Leaders behind ritual murders. Sowetan, 2014 July 28; p. 5.
  60. Women, witchcraft and the struggle against abuse.Stop violence against women. Available from http://www.parliamentofreligions.org/content/women-witchcraft-and-struggle-against-abuse (Accessed 02/02/2016).
  61. 10 terrifying facts about witches that will make you believe they actually exist. Available from http://thoughtcatalog.com/james-b-barnes/2014/10/10-terrifying-facts-about-witches-that-will-make-you-believe-they-actually-exist (Accessed 26/02/2016).
  62. Leaders behind ritual murders. Study fingers police, politicians and healers for deaths. Sowetan, 2014 July 28; p. 5.
  63. Roelofse C. Ritual and muti murders amongst the vha-Venda People of South Africa: An ethno-criminological assessment of the phenomenon and development of a new typology. Available from http://www.researchgate.net/publication/273382950_Ritual_and_muti_murders_amongst_the_vha_Venda_people_of_South_Africa_An_ethno-criminological_assessment_of_the_phenomenon_and_development_of_a_new_typology (Accessed 26/02/2016).
  64. Witchcraft: facts and information. Available from http://www.encyclopedia.com/topic/witchcraft.aspx (assessed 21/07/2014).
  65. Ludsin H. Cultural Denial: What South Africa’s Treatment of Witchcraft Says for the Future of its Customary Law. Berkeley J Inter Law, 2003; 21(1): 63-110.
  66. Witchcraft Suppression Act, 1957. Available from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Witchcraft_Suppression_Act_1957 (assessed 19/10/2014).
  67. Gumede MV. Traditional healers: A medical doctor’s perspective. Johannesburg: Blackshaws; 1990.
  68. Roelofse C. Ritual and muti murders amongst the vha-Venda People of South Africa: An ethno-criminological assessment of the phenomenon and development of a new typology. Available from http://www.researchgate.net/publication/273382950_Ritual_and_muti_murders_amongst_the_vha_Venda_people_of_South_Africa_An_ethno-criminological_assessment_of_the_phenomenon_and_development_of_a_new_typology (Accessed 26/02/2016).
  69. What body parts are used for…Sowetan, 2014 July 28; p. 5.
  70. Witchdoctors and politicians intertwined. Spiro News 2010 Jan 13.
  71. Radford B. Hospital sells body parts for magic. Available from http://www.livescience.com/40355-hospital-sells-body-parts-for-magic.html (assessed 23/11/2014).
  72. Holland H. African magic. Johannesburg: Penquin: 2005.
  73. What body parts are used for…Sowetan, 2014 July 28; p. 5.
  74. Vincent L. Muti murders in democratic South Africa.Tribes and Tribals, 2008 (Special) 2: 45-53.
  75. Holland H. African magic. Johannesburg: Penquin: 2005.
  76. Vincent L. Muti murders in democratic South Africa.Tribes and Tribals, 2008 (Special) 2: 45-53.
  77. ibid.[/ref.], p. 43 writes: “Sangomas seldom do the killing themselves. The order will include not only the specifications as to which particular body part or parts are required – testicles for virility purposes, fat from the breast or abdomen for luck, tongues to smooth the path to a lover’s heart – but the very specific manner in which they are to be collected.”

    The above transgressions by traditional healers in muthi murders in the Limpopo Province and the authorities’ failure to stop it, was also acknowledged by the MEC of Limpopo, Mapula Mokaba-Phukwana in July 2014. It was again echoed in August 2014 at a police gathering at the Thomo settlement near Giyani in Limpopo by the previous Chief of the SAPS, General Riah Phiyega, when she voiced her concern about the ongoing and rising ritual and muthi murders, specifically in Limpopo. 107Mazibila S. MEC calls for action against killings. Sowetan, 2014 July; p. 5.

  78. 10 terrifying facts about witches that will make you believe they actually exist. Available from http://thoughtcatalog.com/james-b-barnes/2014/10/10-terrifying-facts-about-witches-that-will-make-you-believe-they-actually-exist (Accessed 26/02/2016).
  79. Louw-Carstens M. Polisiehoof kap die geweld in Limpopo. Beeld, 2014 Aug 26; p. 12.
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  81. Mpumalanga Witchcraft Suppression Bill of 2007. Available from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mpumalanga_Witchcraft_Suppression_Bill_of_2007 (assessed 19/08/2014).
  82. Witchcraft Suppression Act of 1957, No 3. Republic of South Africa. Pretoria; Government Printers; 1957.
  83. Witchcraft Suppression Amendment Act of 1970, No56. Republic of South Africa. Pretoria: Government Printers; 1970.
  84. South Africa Law Reform Commission Annual Report, No36. Republic of South Africa. Pretoria: Government Printers; 2009.
  85. Smith JL. Whether imagined or real, God is good for you. Sunday Times, 2014 June 29; p. 15.
  86. Hund J. Witchcraft and accusations of witchcraft in South Africa: Ontological denial and the suppression of African justice. Comp and Inter Law J SA, 2000: 33(3): 366-89.
  87. Make witchcraft a criminal offence. Available from http://thoughtleader.co.za/traps/2010/01/13/make-witchcraft-a-criminal-offence/ (assessed 2014 Oct 19).
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  89. South African Pagan Rights Alliance (SAPRA). Review of Witchcraft Suppression Act Updated. Available from http://www.paganrightsalliance.org/review-of-witchcraft-suppression-act-update (assessed 19/10/2014).
  90. Holland H. African magic. Johannesburg: Penquin: 2005.
  91. Vincent L. Muti murders in democratic South Africa. Tribes and Tribals, 2008 (Special) 2: 45-53.
  92. ibid.
  93. Roelofse C. Ritual and muti murders amongst the vha-Venda People of South Africa: An ethno-criminological assessment of the phenomenon and development of a new typology. Available from http://www.researchgate.net/publication/273382950_Ritual_and_muti_murders_amongst_the_vha_Venda_people_of_South_Africa_An_ethno-criminological_assessment_of_the_phenomenon_and_development_of_a_new_typology (Accessed 26/02/2016).
  94. Crotty A. Inequality is making the world ill, says Rupert. Sunday Times, 2014 Nov 30; p. 5.
  95. op. cit.
  96. Vincent, L., op. cit.
  97. Roelofse, C., op. cit.
  98. op. cit.
  99. ibid.
  100. op. cit.
  101. op. cit.
  102. op. cit.
  103. Pillay T. “Healer” lets his money do the talking. Sunday Times, 2014 Nov 30; p. 11.
  104. Holland, H. op. cit.
  105. Simulane LC. Witchdoctors raze church of rival. The Star, 2014 Aug 5; p. 1.

Do many South Africans still believe today in the supernatural, bad magic, witchcraft, witches and evil demons?

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Gabriel Louw 1, Andrè Duvenhage 2

Ensovoort volume 36 (2016), number 8: 1.

Background

The main definition of the Traditional Health Practitioners Act (Act No 22, 2007) clearly reveals a mindset, upheld by certain segments of the population as well as official thinking, that the supernatural is real and an important part of their daily life. This belief system needs support in the form of diagnosis and treatment in which the traditional healer is the main service-giver. Belief in the supernatural is centuries old, but was mostly phased out as citizens of countries started to develop scientifically and enlightened governments took their peoples into the Modern Age. Indeed, laws were even sometimes promulgated to curb and fight the supernatural and its witchcraft, like the Witchcraft Suppression Act (Act No 3, 1957) of South Africa.

Abstract

Aims

The aim of the study is to determine if a significant number of South Africans believe in the supernatural.

Method

The exploratory and descriptive method was used to research the belief system regarding the supernatural, bad magic, witchcraft and demons. The findings were offered in narrative form.

Results

It seems as if the New South Africa has indeed embraced the upholding of beliefs in the supernatural, witchcraft and evil demons as encapsulated in Act No 22, which includes the official management and practices around such phenomena in South African daily life by the main role player, the traditional healer (statutorily to be known in future as “traditional health practitioner”).

Conclusions

There is an established community of believers in the supernatural in South Africa. With Act No 22 this community will be assured of support as well as the opportunity to promote such beliefs as a health science.

What this study adds

  1. What is known about the subject?
    Very little is known about the total amount of believers in the supernatural in the RSA.
  2. What new information is offered by this study?
    It shows that 21% of the county’s population believe in the negative impact of the supernatural on their daily lifes in some way.
  3. What are the implications for research, policy, or practice?
    It clearly shows that the traditional healer’s practice of witchcraft and quackery can be popular with a large section of the population still.

Background

Do South Africans continue to believe in the supernatural, bad magic, witchcraft and witches, as well as evil demons? Yes, they do believe, and that is official as Act No 22 (2007) reflects traditional African philosophy very well in its definition in Section 1. This definition means that indigenous African techniques, principles, theories, ideologies, beliefs, opinions and customs and uses of traditional medicines communicated from ancestors to descendants or from generations to generations, with or without written documentation, whether supported by science or not, and which are generally used in traditional health practice, are true parts of the belief- and thinking-foundation of South Africans and are guiding them daily in every making of a decision. 3

This belief system is also further described in the Act in terms of the pre-modern diagnosis, treatment and training of the traditional healer. There are thus no counter-arguments to say that the supernatural, bad magic, witchcraft and demons do not form a foundation for many of the traditional healers’ diagnoses, treatments and muthis. Besides the so-called “normal” needs for the traditional healer and his muthi to treat “traditional” ailments as a result of everyday and afterlife fears by a certain population group, there is, opposite it, the hidden fear of the traditional healer as a person that has extraordinary powers. This tends to reinforce the supernatural beliefs in him, as well fears for him among his customers in a section of South African society. 4, 5, 6, 7, 8

The aim of this research was to determine if a significant number South Africans believe in the supernatural.

Methods

There exists a paucity of research material on the activities around the supernatural, witchcraft, bad magic and demons in the New South Africa. This lack of information has necessitated a specific research approach in gathering and analyzing information. The aim of this study was to build from the ground up a viewpoint de novo, based on information as it appeared during the evolving research. This method of research allowed the use of various contemporary sources like articles and newspapers to reflect past as well as present thinking around the supernatural, witchcraft and bad magic.

To obtain the above outcome the exploratory and descriptive research approach was used. The findings were offered in narrative form. 9, 10

Results

An early-history perspective

Notwithstanding South Africa’s modern way of life, scientific and health-care development, as well as more and more financial and democratic empowerment leading to a higher lifestyle for its people, it seems that beliefs in the supernatural, bad magic, witchcraft, witches and demons, are still resonating very strongly and powerfully in the minds of some of its people. On the other hand, the belief in the supernatural and its contributions is not unique to South Africa. It is a worldwide phenomenon, in the European, Western as well as the African and Eastern world, in the past and present. For instance in Europe, after the Dark Ages and the start of centuries of dynamic intellectual experimentation – the Renaissance, the Reformation and even after the 17th-century Age of Reason and the Age of Scientific Revolution – Europeans still believed in the supernatural. 11, 12, 13

The Bible and its stories also strengthen the idea of the supernatural with its struggle between good and evil, between God and the devil. In early Europe misfortune was not seen simply as accident, but as either a divine punishment or the ill-will of a human enemy. Priests, local wizards and wise men were found everywhere, passing on herbal or magical remedies for illnesses, finding thieves or lost property and the identification of the source of a spell or bewitchment. 14, 15, 16, 17

Witch-hunts and witch-finders were all overactive in early Europe. In Lancaster, UK, ten persons were hanged as witches in 1612, with the last hanging in 1722; thousand of persons accused of witchcraft were hanged between 1560 and 1670 in France, while more thousands of women were burnt in Germany on charges of witchcraft. The last witches to be legally burnt in Europe were as late as the 1780s. This belief situation and support for witchcraft misdemeanours forced Louis XIV of France to edict in 1682 a royal ordinance, treating witchcraft solely as a matter of fraud or imposture, nothing more. It was especially the French medical doctors of that time that helped to phase out beliefs in the supernatural, witches, witchcraft and bad magic, explaining it as a mixture of ignorance, superstition, imposture and mental illness. 18, 19, 20

In the Western world mass beliefs in the supernatural and its attributes dissipated mostly with time, but today it is still strong in India where the role of bad magic, built into the customs, beliefs and rituals of certain religious groups, still play a role. Even today the UK and the USA are sometimes still plagued by forms of witchcraft practices. The “Satanic Panic” of the 1980s in America, when it was believed that thousand of cults were conducting satanic rituals that involved the sacrificial mutilation of animals and the sexual abuse of children, is a good example. Also the so-called “recovered memory movement” in America from 1980 onwards, was nothing else than a Western parallel to medieval witchcraft. 21, 22, 23

Africa, as a whole, is still caught up in beliefs regarding bad magic, the supernatural, superstition, witches, sorcerers, demons and witchcraft. South Africa is even today not free from witchcraft. It is alleged that more than 300 persons (or 2% of the total murdered victims) are annually murdered for muthi (medicine), while the killing of persons, alleged to be witches, is also common. The resulting crimes were such that the various South African governments were forced to introduce legislation from 1957 to fight witchcraft. Today witchcraft and the ritual-related murders that go with it, are still active, but well hidden from the authorities. 24, 25, 26, 27

Here, in contrast to France in the 1800s, it seems that the wise diagnosis and advice of the 1800s French medical doctors on the supernatural per se, are ignored by the present-day government and, contrary to Louis XIV’s actions in disarming it, the present government is actively promoting beliefs in bad magic, the supernatural, witchcraft and witches with Act No 22 (2007) and the traditional healer. 28, 29, 30, 31, 32, 33, 34, 35, 36, 37, 38, 39, 40, 41, 42, 43, 44

The supernatural in the New South Africa

The question is thus not if there is a strong belief in the supernatural among South Africans because there is clearly such a belief among some people, but the questions are:

  1. The frequency of beliefs in the supernatural; and
  2. are beliefs in the supernatural only Black-orientated as Act No 22 (2007) seems to indicate, especially with its definition of traditional philosophy?

To give a direct answer to the above question is very difficult. Statistics show that Blacks consult traditional healers at a rate of 1,4% to 11,2%, but such data lack any indication if these consultations were driven by the need to be treated, or fear of the supernatural and bad magic or not. Research offers some indication to illustrate that 89,7% of consultations can be for non-physical/cultural/religious needs (meaning that it can be for the treatment of the supernatural). On the other hand, available data suggest that Whites also consult non-medical facilities up to 1,5% of the population, that may or may not include traditional healers and the treatment of fear for the supernatural. 45, 46, 47, 48

The best answer to the above questions seems to be an Ipsos poll, done in April 2014 on 2 129 registered voters (all races) in South Africa. Two questions were put to the 2 129 participants, namely: 49
(a) Some people say a lot of the problems and hardships people face in their communities are caused by bad magic and that witches and demons are responsible for bad luck, against
(b) Other people say there is no such thing as magic and poor service delivery and weak government are responsible for the problems people experience.

The following outcomes (in percentage), reflecting a belief in bad magic and that witches and demons exist and are responsible for bad luck, were obtained, broken down into regional areas in South Africa: 50

A:

Average

21%

B:

Provincial

34%

KwaZulu Natal

32%

North-West

24%

Limpopo

20%

Gauteng

19%

Northern Cape

12%

Mpumalanga

11%

Western Cape

5%

Eastern Cape

It seems to be KwaZulu-Natal (34%), North-West (32%) and Limpopo (24%) that are above the average of 21%, with Mpumalanga (12%), Western Cape (11%) and Eastern Cape (5%) in the lower rankings. One fact is clear: the belief in bad magic exists in all provinces of South Africa. 51

With regard to race, the following outcomes (in percentage), reflecting a belief in bad magic and that witches and demons are responsible for bad luck, were: 52

A: Average

15%

B: Ethnic

25%

Blacks

19%

Indians

10%

Whites

5%

Coloureds

It seems from the above that Blacks believe the most in bad magic, witches and demons (25%), with Indians in the second place (19%). In this regard, Whites and Coloureds were both under the average (15%).

A challenge for Act No 22 and its supernatural intentions

The above finding seems to put Act No 22 (2007) in a very challenging and favourable position against its critics, with its legal condonation of the supernatural, because it incorporatres the possibility that the traditional healer represents a religious/cultural identity, one that is specifically, intensely and exclusively needed by Blacks. It seems specific to those living in KwaZulu-Natal, Northwest, and Limpopo who are in need for treatment for their fears of devils, witches, witchcraft and bad magic. 53

But the contrary is true. First, there is no indication by the Ipsos poll of 2014 that the participants (specifically Blacks) needed any help in the form of the traditional healer to treat their fears of the supernatural. Secondly, all South African races show some fear of demons, the devil, witchcraft and witches (with an average of 15%). 54

Thirdly, traditional healers (specifically the diviners and spiritualists) treat only between 1,4% and 11,2% of the total South African population, which does not reflect a pressing need for their services. 55, 56, 57

Fourthly, indigenous African religions (including the old traditional African religions in which the traditional healers had played a prominent role in the pre-1900s) only have a membership of more or less 0,35% of the total Black population. In comparison, nearly 92% of South African Blacks belong to Christianity and Christian-African Religions. 58

Fifthly, if there is a need to exorcise the devil and demons, the preachers of the Christian churches can surely do it as well as the traditional healers for their church members, seeing that both are spiritualists. In this case the ratio (in terms of church and religious membership) of the Christian preachers versus the traditional healers will be 210:1. 59, 60

Sixthly, references to concepts like afterlife, God versus Devil, Angels versus Demons, Science versus Witchcraft, that are alleged to be unique to the traditional healer, is in reality also part of Christianity and the Biblical doctrines of modern times. The Christian preacher sometimes, as mentioned, also exorcises devils, demons and witches. 61, 62, 63, 64, 65

The new South African socio-eco-political order with its own, unique supernatural beliefs

There is no evidence that the selected 2 129 participants in the Ipsos poll are only from poor, undeveloped and underdeveloped areas. The belief in bad magic, witches and demons goes much further; it also penetrates and encircles, although a small section only, all modern South African people. These are people living a modern lifestyle, with good training and status in life, but people who nevertheless believe in the supernatural and who are practising it. 66

Pumza Fihlani 67 of the BBC News Johannesburg, reports well on this belief in and practice of the supernatural (so-called “psychic traits” or neo) that spread into all the social, economic and academic levels of the South African population hierarchy, with her description of a traditional healer working in Johannesburg’s business district, a modern person, who dresses in smart tailored clothes, has manicured nails and long, sleek hair extensions.

Fihlani 68, par. 19 writes: “She lets out a piercing cry, her body starts shaking violently, her hands are clapping to the rhythm of large African drums – she is calling out to her ancestors. Thabiso is a traditional healer, known in South Africa as a sangoma. The 24-year-old is not your typical sangoma though – she is also a corporate administrator at Bidvest Bank, one of South Africa’s best-known and most prestigious institutions and has dreams of becoming a successful businesswoman”.

About these psychic traits of the traditional healer (or so-called traditional healer’s “calling”) Fihlani 69 reports that the mentioned healer has three ancestors inhabiting her: par. 19 “My great-aunt, uncle and grandfather live in me. When they take over I lose all control of my body, I am aware of my surroundings but I have no control over what I say or do. They completely consume you and in that moment I am their messenger”.

Such alleged possession by the ancestral and spiritual powers of an individual and the calling to traditional healing that may be found in all socio-economic classes of South African Society, are reaffirmed by an intern-journalist and traditional healer, working at a well-known Sunday newspaper, when she concludes: 70, p. 6 “Nothing is different about us. We are a modern family, made up of politicians, engineers, medical students and IT specialists. We are the ideal township family – people look up to us because we are all educated and self-supporting and not one of us is a thug – but we have the gift”.

These words strongly suggest the possibility of the presence of a mental impairment that not only leads to beliefs in the supernatural by individuals in society, but that may also call them to practise supernatural rituals, either as a believer or a traditional practitioner. 71, 72, 73, 74

Beliefs in the supernatural, demons, witches and bad magic are even to be found among ministers of the present Zuma cabinet. In 2013 a well-educated and notable minister referred extensively to the role of witches and demons in the political life of South Africans. 75, 76 More recently, a senior minister, in his divorce case, accused his ex-wife of trying to harm him with witchcraft and muthi. In one of his affidavits he writes: 77 “[She] wanted to cause [me] harm by endeavouring to cause unknown substances to be placed in my food and beverages. There were various instances where [she] practised witchcraft whereby she took my shirts to her sangoma and further she requested that the child minder sprinkle substances into my food; [She] has been practising witchcraft to my detriment.”

The president of the cabinet of the South African government, Mr. Jacob Zuma, himself seemingly claims the ability to know God’s Will, together with the ability to interpret it for the living, that he is in touch with his ancestors (afterlife) and can also understand and advocate their wishes to the common folk. He also prescribed muthi for the problematic behaviour of boys. His supernatural traditional-practice belief-system reveals itself well in the way it has been infused into his private life and behaviour. 78

Van Onselen 79, p. 19 reports: “Prior to the ANC’s 2007 Polokwane conference, Zuma went to Impendle in KwaZulu-Natal to be “cleansed”. It was reported that a bull was slaughtered and its head thrown into the Inzinga River, after which some 50 virgins washed their hands in the bull’s blood. That is one of many such ceremonies in which he has taken part. Constantly, he seeks to appease the traditional forces that he believes exist on the other side of the mortal curtain.” This was followed in 2012 by the slaughter of 12 cows at Nkandla for his further cleansing. 80

Discussion

The fact that only 79% South Africans do not believe in bad magic, witches and demons, is cause for concern. It seems that Europe’s Renaissance, Reformation, Age of Reason and Age of Scientific Revolution have still not reached 21% of South Africans and that they are cognitively tied to the supernatural, witches, demons and bad magic. The same need to modernise exists for the South African traditional healers who serve with their occult rituals certain segments of society that belong to both the Dark Ages and our modern world. 81

It is clear that, to put a modern health-care system and its epistemological models in place in South Africa, individual and group beliefs, customs, habits and needs, must be understood and researched in depth before any hasty decision can be made. Only after the necessary information has been obtained, may educational, cognitive, financial and social uplifting be implemented. Only then may persuasion be started and mind-set changes be contemplated. What may be preferred and lived by one group (21%) such as the rights to believe in and to practise witchcraft bestowed upon them by Act No 22 of 2007, may be devastating for the personal and medical life of the majority group (79%). Such rights may also be in conflict with the Constitution and Act 3 (1957) on witchcraft practices. 82

These were considerations that politicians, activists, healthcare planners and developers did not take note of with the implementation of Act No 22 (2007). Available information was also misused to politicize and superficially culturize the role of the traditional healer. The fact that political heavy-weights in South Africa support the role and working of the supernatural, demons and muthis in daily life, shows that the traditional healer, Act No 22 (2007) and its traditional philosophy and traditional medicine are going to be with South Africans for a long time. It is clear that the broad public’s education on sound health-care and abnormal thinking on specific or general illnesses have also been left totally uncared for since 1994. 83, 84, 85, 86

A general belief in the supernatural is an interracial phenomenon in South Africa and not an exclusive part of Black thinking or culture. One the other hand, there is evidence of the use of the traditional healers’ services by the Black population, which can vary from 1,4% to 11,2% in certain areas. The fact that nearly 90% of these consultations seem not to be for medical assistance (buying of concoctions) but exclusively for cultural and religious needs that may indicate a supernatural substructure, together with the Ipsos Poll of 2014 showing that 25% of Blacks (10% higher than the average of the country) believe in the supernatural, witchcraft, bad magic, witches and evil demons, can thus not be ignored. These findings, on the other hand, do not indicate an exclusive need from the Black population in general for the traditional healer and his supernatural medicines or that they require Act No 22 (2007). 87, 88, 89, 90

These beliefs in the supernatural – and thus a need for traditional healing assistance to treat it – seem to be limited to certain segments of the Black population. This can surely include poor groups in rural areas, but on the other hand it seems to include also small segments of well-educated, financially rich and politically empowered individuals. It is also important to note that persons in political and financial high offices are not afraid anymore to make known their beliefs in the supernatural in the New South Africa. 91, 92, 93, 94

It must be appreciated that the treatment of fear for the devil, demons, witches, witchcraft and bad magic is not exclusive to the practice of the traditional healer, but inclusive to all religious practitioners in modern-day South Africa. From the nearly 50 million Christians so much as 7,5 million Christians may be, in terms of the findings of the Ipsos poll of 2014, be caught up in the angst and fear of the supernatural, witchery and demons in their daily lives. 95

There are only at most 124 946 believers in Indigenous African Religion that may need the exclusive help of the more or less 4 000 bona fide traditional healers. This number (124 946) represents only 0,35% of the total Black population and reaffirms again the minimal role that the traditional healer plays in the treatment of the supernatural beliefs of the South African population. In this respect, it seems that the ministers of the Christian Faith must be especially concerned about the high levels of belief in the supernatural and witchery of their church members in the provinces of KwaZulu Natal (34%) and the North West (32%). 96

Strength and limitations

The existence of witchcraft and the belief in the supernatural in present-day South Africa are well-illustrated by this study, even that such practices are supported by the socio-political leadership.

The impact of the study is going to be limited as a result of legal instruments such as Act No 22 (2007) which is promoting the belief in the supernatural, witchcraft and evil demons amongst the population.

Conclusions

A significant number of South Africans still believe in the supernatural, bad magic, witchery, witches and evil demons. That is a fact. How much we want to argue around or against it, the definition of traditional philosophy in Act No 22 (2007), notwithstanding its unscientific and psycho-pathological mindedness, is endorsed by 21% of the population: It does not matter if they are followers of the traditional healer or are Muslims, Hindus, Christians, Blacks, Coloureds, Indians or Whites.

Notes:

  1. Research Associate, Focus Area Social Transformation , Faculty of Arts, Potchefstroom Campus, North-West University, Potchefstroom, South Africa
  2. Research Director, Focus Area Social Transformation, Faculty of Arts, Potchefstroom Campus, North-West University, Potchefstroom, South Africa
  3. The traditional Health Practitioners Act of 2007, No22. Republic of South Africa. Pretoria: Government Printers; 2007.
  4. Boon M. The African Way: The power of interactive leadership. Sandton: Zebra Press; 1996.
  5. Briggs R. Early modern France: 1560 – 1715. Oxford: Oxford University Press; 1998.
  6. Gumede MV. Traditional healers: A medical doctor’s perspective. Johannesburg: Blackshaws; 1990.
  7. Kors AC, Peters E. Witchcraft in Europe 1100 – 1700. A Documentary History. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press; 1992.
  8. Mbiti JS. Introduction to African Religion. Johannesburg: Heinemann; 1991.
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  10. Louw GP. A guideline for the preparation, writing and assessment of article-format masters dissertations and doctoral theses. Faculty Education: Mahikeng Campus: North-West University; 2013.
  11. Briggs R. Early modern France: 1560 – 1715. Oxford: Oxford University Press; 1998.
  12. Kors AC, Peters E. Witchcraft in Europe 1100 – 1700. A Documentary History. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press; 1992.
  13. Divine intervention in a spooky realm. Sunday Times, 2014 Aug 24; p. 14.
  14. Boon M. The African Way: The power of interactive leadership. Sandton: Zebra Press; 1996.
  15. Briggs R. Early modern France: 1560 – 1715. Oxford: Oxford University Press; 1998.
  16. Kors AC, Peters E. Witchcraft in Europe 1100 – 1700. A Documentary History. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press; 1992.
  17. Mbiti JS. Introduction to African Religion. Johannesburg: Heinemann; 1991.
  18. Briggs, op. cit.[/ref.], 97Kors, Peters, op. cit.
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  20. Witches cleared in retrial 400 years to late. Lancaster Evening Post, Free Republic, Cape Town, 2014 May 6. Available from http://freerepublic.com/tag/witches/index (accessed 06/05/2014).
  21. Kors, Peters, op. cit.
  22. Satanic ritual abuse. Available from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Satanic_ritual_abuse (accessed 27/01/2016).
  23. Satanic Panic. Available from http://rationalwiki.org/wiki/Satanic_Panic (accessed 27/01/2016).
  24. 10 terrifying facts about witches that will make you believe they actually exist. Available from http://www.thoughtcatalog.com/james-b-barnes/2014/10/10-terrifying-facts-about-witches-that-will-make-you-believe-they-actually-exist/ (Accessed 26/02/2016).
  25. Leaders behind ritual murders. Study finger police, politicians and healers for deaths. Sowetan, 2014 July 28; p. 5.
  26. Women, witchcraft and the struggle against abuse: Stop violence against women. Available from http://www.parliamentofreligions.org/content/women-witchcraft-and-struggle-against-abuse (accessed 19/10/2014).
  27. Mpumalanga Witchcraft Suppression Bill. Available from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mpumalanga_Witchcraft_Suppression_Bill (accessed 11/11/2014).
  28. Boon M. The African Way: The power of interactive leadership. Sandton: Zebra Press; 1996.
  29. Briggs R. Early modern France: 1560 – 1715. Oxford: Oxford University Press; 1998.
  30. Gumede MV. Traditional healers: A medical doctor’s perspective. Johannesburg: Blackshaws; 1990.
  31. Kors AC, Peters E. Witchcraft in Europe 1100 – 1700. A Documentary History. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press; 1992.
  32. Mbiti JS. Introduction to African Religion. Johannesburg: Heinemann; 1991.
  33. Women, witchcraft and the struggle against abuse: Stop violence against women. Available from http://www.parliamentofreligions.org/content/women-witchcraft-and-struggle-against-abuse (accessed 19/10/2014).
  34. Mpumalanga Witchcraft Suppression Bill. Available from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mpumalanga_Witchcraft_Suppression_Bill (accessed 11/11/2014).
  35. Carstens ML. Man betrap met dele van manslywe in sak. Beeld, 2014 June 27; p. 6.
  36. Latif SS. Integration of African traditional health practitioners and medicine into the healthcare management system in the Province Limpopo. Masters dissertation. Stellenbosch: Stellenbosch University; 2010.
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  38. Holland H. African magic. Johannesburg: Heinemann; 2005.
  39. Prince L. Moetie sou ons beskerm. Rapport, 2014 June 22; p. 8.
  40. Rautenbach C. Some comments on a new legislative framework for female traditional healers in South Africa. Academia edu, 2014:113-132. Available from http://www.academia.edu/4007428/Some_Comments_on_a_new_LegislativeFramework_for_Female_Traditional_Healers_in_South-Africa (accessed 19/02/2014).
  41. The Witchcraft Suppression Act of 1957, No 3. Republic of South Africa. Pretoria: Government Printers; 1957.
  42. The Witchcraft Suppression Amended Act of 1970, No 50. Republic of South Africa. Pretoria: Government Printers; 1970.
  43. Witchcraft presents puzzle. Sunday Times, 2014 Oct 19; p. 10.
  44. Witchdoctors and politicians intertwined. Cape Town: Spiro News Free Books; 2010.
  45. African Technology Policy Studies (ATPS). Analysis of traditional healers in Lesotho: Implications on Intellectual Property Systems, 2013. [Pitso Masupha, Lefa Thamae, Mofihli Phaqane]. ATPS Working Paper Series, 2013; No 68: 1-47.
  46. Cannon M. This calls for a sangoma. Sunday Times, 2015 June 21; pp. 6-7.
  47. Petersen L. Comment. In: Wilkinson K. Do 80% of South Africans regularly consult traditional healers? The claim is false. AFP Foundation, Africa Check: 2013 July 3; pp.1-13. (Electronic copy store on Africa Check web-site https://www.africacheck.org/reports/do-80-s-africans-regularly-consult-traditional-healers-the-claim-is-false/3/).
  48. Wilkinson K. Do 80% of South Africans regularly consult traditional healers? The claim is false. AFP Foundation, Africa Check: 2013 July 3; pp. 1-13. (Electronic copy store on Africa Check web-site: http://www.africacheck.org/reports/do-80-of-s-africans-regularly-consult-traditional-healers-the-claim-is-false/3).
  49. Van Onselen G. One in five blames bad magic for their hardship. Sunday Times, 2014 Apr 27; p. 14.
  50. Van Onselen G. One in five blames bad magic for their hardship. Sunday Times, 2014 Apr 27; p. 14.
  51. ibid.
  52. ibid.
  53. ibid.
  54. ibid.
  55. Petersen L. Comment. In: Wilkinson K. Do 80% of South Africans regularly consult traditional healers? The claim is false. AFP Foundation, Africa Check: 2013 July 3; pp.1-13. (Electronic copy store on Africa Check web-site https://www.africacheck.org/reports/do-80-s-africans-regularly-consult-traditional-healers-the-claim-is-false/3/).
  56. Wilkinson K. Do 80% of South Africans regularly consult traditional healers? The claim is false. AFP Foundation, Africa Check: 2013 July 3; pp. 1-13. (Electronic copy store on Africa Check web-site: http://www.africacheck.org/reports/do-80-of-s-africans-regularly-consult-traditional-healers-the-claim-is-false/3).
  57. Scheun CL. Ma besweer smart met Afrika ritueel. Beeld, 2014 July 28; p. 5.
  58. South African Statistics South Africa.Pretoria: Government Printers; 2012.
  59. ibid.
  60. Depressie is g’n bloot duiwelswerk. Beeld, 2014 Oct 2; p. 10.
  61. Wilkinson K. Do 80% of South Africans regularly consult traditional healers? The claim is false. AFP Foundation, Africa Check: 2013 July 3; pp. 1-13. (Electronic copy store on Africa Check web-site: http://www.africacheck.org/reports/do-80-of-s-africans-regularly-consult-traditional-healers-the-claim-is-false/3).
  62. Depressie is g’n bloot duiwelswerk. Beeld, 2014 Oct 2; p. 10.
  63. Dink jy Duiwelspiek se naam moet verander word? Rapport, 2014 June 22; p. 3.
  64. Van Onselen G.The tribal heart that beats in Zuma’s chest. Sunday Times, 2014 May 18; p. 19..
  65. Nienaber M. Christene: Weg met die Bose Duiwelspiek. Beeld, 2014 June 10; p. 1.
  66. Van Onselen G. One in five blames bad magic for their hardship. Sunday Times, 2014 Apr 27; p. 14.
  67. Fihlani P. Witnessing a South African healer at work. Available from http://www.bbc.com/news/world-africa-22306869 (accessed 07/05/2013).
  68. ibid.
  69. ibid.
  70. Koabane R. Our spiritual connections should not be denied. An important psychic gift runs through the generations in her family. Sunday Times, 2014 Sept 21; p. 6.
  71. Gumede MV. Traditional healers: A medical doctor’s perspective. Johannesburg: Blackshaws; 1990.
  72. Koabane, op. cit.
  73. Hofstatter S. Dark magic takes on Kalashnikovs. Sunday Times, 2014 Apr 13; p. 18.
  74. Traditional healers of South Africa.Wikipedia Free Encyclopedia. Available from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Traditional_Healers_of_South_Africa (accessed 02/02/2014).
  75. Van Onselen G. One in five blames bad magic for their hardship. Sunday Times, 2014 Apr 27; p. 14.
  76. 43. Witches want an apology from Mbalula. Available from http://iol.co.za/news/politics/witches-want-an-apology-from-mbalula-1673382 (accessed 19/10/2014).
  77. Joubert P. My ex used muti on me, says minister. Sunday Times, 2014 June 1; pp. 1-2.
  78. Van Onselen, op. cit.
  79. ibid.
  80. Jesus must come back: Zuma. Available from http://www.sowetanlive.co.za/news/2014/09/01/jesus-must-come-back-zuma (Accessed 10/09/2015).
  81. Van Onselen, op. cit.
  82. ibid.
  83. ibid.
  84. Koabane R. Our spiritual connections should not be denied. An important psychic gift runs through the generations in her family. Sunday Times, 2014 Sept 21; p. 6.
  85. Joubert P. My ex used muti on me, says minister. Sunday Times, 2014 June 1; pp. 1-2.
  86. Jesus must come back: Zuma. Available from http://www.sowetanlive.co.za/news/2014/09/01/jesus-must-come-back-zuma (Accessed 10/09/2015).
  87. African Technology Policy Studies (ATPS). Analysis of traditional healers in Lesotho: Implications on Intellectual Property Systems, 2013. [Pitso Masupha, Lefa Thamae, Mofihli Phaqane]. ATPS Working Paper Series, 2013; No 68: 1-47.
  88. Petersen L. Comment. In: Wilkinson K. Do 80% of South Africans regularly consult traditional healers? The claim is false. AFP Foundation, Africa Check: 2013 July 3; pp.1-13. (Electronic copy store on Africa Check web-site https://www.africacheck.org/reports/do-80-s-africans-regularly-consult-traditional-healers-the-claim-is-false/3/).
  89. Wilkinson K. Do 80% of South Africans regularly consult traditional healers? The claim is false. AFP Foundation, Africa Check: 2013 July 3; pp. 1-13. (Electronic copy store on Africa Check web-site: http://www.africacheck.org/reports/do-80-of-s-africans-regularly-consult-traditional-healers-the-claim-is-false/3).
  90. Van Onselen, op. cit.
  91. Fihlani, op. cit.
  92. 40. Koabane, op. cit.
  93. Joubert, P., op. cit.
  94. Jesus must come back: Zuma. Available from http://www.sowetanlive.co.za/news/2014/09/01/jesus-must-come-back-zuma (Accessed 10/09/2015).
  95. Van Onselen, op. cit.
  96. See Petersen, Wilkinson, Van Onselen, as well as South African Statistics South Africa.Pretoria: Government Printers; 2012. Also Fihlani, Koabane, Joubert and: Jesus must come back: Zuma. Available from http://www.sowetanlive.co.za/news/2014/09/01/jesus-must-come-back-zuma (Accessed 10/09/2015).

Sangoma of the silver screen: Jamie Uys as film maker 1950–1964

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Dr. Jan-Ad Stemmet, Department of History, University of the Free State

This article was written with the gracious co-operation of Dr Boet Troskie (founder: Mimosa Films) and Mrs. Mireschen Troskie-Marx (board member: Mimosa Films).

Abstract

It would be no exaggeration describe Jamie Uys as one of the most important role players in the development of the South African film industry. In his career of nearly half a century, he was responsible for more than 40 films: feature films, documentary films and educational short films. His legacy includes South Africa’s single most successful film to date: The Gods must be Crazy. Without any training, his first film, although a blockbuster, was a rickety attempt, but by the sixties Uys became South Africa’s leading expert in filmmaking. In 1966 he teamed up with Mimosa Films, and together they produced a number of international hits. This article provides an overview of Uys’s career from his first film until he joined Mimosa Films (the Mimosa Films period, 1966-1996, will be discussed in a later article). Jamie Uys was an extremely private person, and hence very few (auto) biographies or history books have been published on him. The author was therefore dependent on newspaper and magazine articles, and Mimosa Films granted access to their private archive and history files.

Introduction

In Jamie Uys’s career, spanning almost half a century, he was responsible for more than forty pictures: full-length features, documentaries, and educational shorts. His legacy includes South Africa’s single most successful film to date: The Gods must be Crazy. Having absolutely no training, his first film, although a box-office success, was a rickety affair, but by the 1960s, Uys’s professional and technical know-how was unsurpassed in South Africa. In 1964 he teamed-up with Mimosa Films and together they made one international sensation after another.

This article presents a survey of Uys’s career, from his first picture until the time he joined Mimosa Films.

Jamie Uys was an intensely private individual, and hence very few (auto)biographies, history books, or academic theses, dealing specifically with Uys, have been published. Source material was therefore mostly limited to newspaper and magazine articles, and Mimosa Films allowed access to its private archive. This article takes an historical approach, rather than the more analytical approach taken by Tomaselli (1992) and others.

A profound parvenu: Venturing into films

On 17 October 1888, Thomas Edison patented the Kinetoscope as a device that will do “for the eye what the phonograph does for the ear.” With the outbreak of the Anglo Boer War, one of Edison’s co-workers, William Kennedy Laurie Dickson, clutching the abovementioned apparatus, joined Sir Redvers Buller and set sail for South Africa. Dickson was to document the military struggle on film; in the process founding the country’s film industry. Some thirty-three years later, on 30 May 1921, South Africa’s most successful filmmaker was born: Johannes Jacobus Uys (Mimosa Films 2007). The family’s Boksburg neighbours were Scottish and hence dubbed little Johannes, Jamie (pronounced Dj’ay’me.) (Mimosa Films 2007). Having finished school, Uys enrolled for a B.Sc. degree at the Randse Afrikaanse Universiteit (RAU) and received his Higher Education Diploma from the Pretoria Normal College. His father was a principle and the Uys brothers followed suit. “I don’t think we had a vocation,” Uys later said (Sutton 1983).

Despite his degree, he went to work as a gold miner for two years. In 1945 he married Hettie van Rooyen. After a stint as a school teacher, Uys joined his farther-in-law who farmed near Olifantsdrift, next to the Palala River. He managed his in-laws’ trading posts along the riverbanks and at one stage also acted as Justice of the Peace. An avid filmgoer, Uys dreamt about movies but never dreamt that he would ever actually make one.

After some years on the farm he received a letter from his brother, Jok (Mimosa Films 2007). “I was three years with the trading posts when my brother Jok wrote to me that he could borrow a movie camera. And soon he would be on holiday,” Uys reminisced, “I had to write a story and he would write a story, and then we would choose the best and make a movie of it. Well yes, I wrote a story and it was Daar in die Bosveld [Deep in the Bushveld]. My brother was a school photographer and at least he knew something about snaps, but nothing of movie cameras. But he came and we decided that we were going to make this story…We were raw…” (Barnard 1977:37). Daar in die Bosveld tells the story of a prosperous but befuddled farmer, who was completely out of his depth in courting the new school teacher, but eventually succeeds in winning the lady’s heart (Uys 1951).

Jok Uys, camera-in-hand, visited his brother during the 1949 winter school holidays. The Uys brothers thought that the cinematic exercise would take about fourteen days and would not cost too much (De Villiers 1970:33). They had no idea how to make a film: There was a storyline but no script and no set dialogue, no technical production team, and although they had a lump sum, there was no actual budget. Not a single professional artist was involved; Jamie Uys and his wife portrayed the lead roles, while family, friends, and neighbours played the other roles. The Uys brothers and Hettie Uys took turns in operating the camera, and when everybody had to be in one shot, a small black boy from the farm stood in as cinematographer. The tiny youngster could not see through the lens and either looked over the camera or held it on top of his head and looked in the direction of the action. Nevertheless, he never missed a shot. Because Uys had not written a precise dialogue, at least one actor (Uys’s neighbour) stood around and just opened and closed his mouth – Uys later decided what the character ought to say and, using his own voice, added the appropriate dialogue (Mimosa Films 2007). After weeks of shooting, the filmmakers drove to Johannesburg to develop the few minutes of film. However, the film was old and defective: some of it came out blue and other parts purple (Barnard 1977:37). The holiday was over and Jok had to return to his job, and the camera had to be returned to its owner. Jamie considered whether or not to continue, and with much effort he raised £30 and bought a home movie-like 16mm camera (Meiring 1985). Uys had to reshoot everything from the start, while financial constraints forced him to buy film on the black market. After finishing the film, he relocated to Johannesburg for specialist postproduction treatment. Uys was compelled to sell his farm (his in-laws were selling their land to the government’s homeland development) (Mimosa Films n.d.). What had started as a holiday hobby was now destroying Uys financially. Editing, sound production and distribution cost more than initially envisioned, and the family was experiencing financial difficulties. They rented a small home in Bezuidenhoutvallei as Uys desperately tried to complete the production in its entirety. “Now you’ve got to realize: in those two years there was no income; only expenses. Later we had to borrow everywhere and had to sell our clothes and our vehicle, just to stay alive,” recalled Uys (see Mimosa Films 1977 and Barnard 1977:37).

He might have had a film by now, but the impoverished movie maker still had no knowledge as to how to turn it into a proper feature. Uys did not even realize that something like an editing table actually existed. He figured out that the reels of film had to be spliced together. Laboriously screening rolls and rolls of rough film on a wall, painstakingly scrutinizing the tiny film (damaging his eyes permanently), he cut and pasted the material into a logical whole. This was not only time consuming, but also tense work, since Uys only had one copy of the film; one mistake could mean the end of his first feature before it was even released (Mimosa Films 1986). Once he had finished with the visuals, the problem of the audio came into play. The procedure to create magnetic soundtracks had been discovered earlier and Uys wanted to import it for his picture, but there were however problems with obtaining permits from Pretoria, and the picture’s financial viability had to be assessed first. A small committee of the Federasie van Afrikaanse Kultuurverenigings [The Federation of Afrikaans Cultural Associations] (FAK) was shown the film, and committee members burst out with laughter. However, despite approval, Pretoria was notorious for taking its time with the permits (Anonymous 1986:109).

On advice from his neighbour, Uys held a special screening for the press so as to draw attention to the film (possibly spurring the authorities to grant the permits). Around 200 people showed up but only two newspapermen: a reporter from Die Transvaler and James Ambrose Brown, who worked for the Sunday Times at that stage. Both were apparently impressed by the (as yet unpolished) picture and gave it glowing reviews. Uys sent their newspaper reports to the responsible authorities in Pretoria, and eventually received the official documents. Having received the permits at last, Uys now lacked sufficient funds to import the desired equipment (he never got the magnetic soundtrack). As the South African film industry (more-or-less still undiscovered by the Afrikaners) was run by English executives, the aspirant Afrikaner film maker had to forego investments.

A new film company, Swan Films, had heard of Daar doer in die Bosveld and its determined creator. Uys could work for them and instead of drawing a salary, the company would assist Uys in finishing the picture (Mimosa Films 1973). The arrangement was not without problems though: Swan Films was fundamentally English, and they did not understand the film they had intended to finish. As such, Uys could rely on Swan Films’ technological resources but had to do everything himself. When finally redubbing and synchronizing the soundtrack of the original version, Jamie and Hettie Uys had to stand in for all the voices (luckily the sound quality was of such bad quality that audiences did not notice). Another dilemma was that Swan Films was in the midst of a severe financial crisis, and the production company would not be able to distribute the picture (see Mimosa Films n.d. and Anonymous 1986:109).
Jannie Raath, a wealthy businessman, made arrangements with Swan Films for the movie’s distribution. Raath, who imported opera films from Italy, had the necessary infrastructure, including a couple of projectors, and organised drivers to crisscross South Africa with ten copies of the film. It was shown in every conceivable type and size of venue throughout the country.

Released in 1951, irrespective of its many technical flaws, the popularity of Daar doer in die Bosveld spread like a wildfire, especially in the rural farming areas (Mimosa Films 2007). The picture’s music was composed by Anton de Waal, including the theme song (which shared the film’s title), which turned out to be a big hit (Uys 1951). The Suid-Afrikaanse Akademie vir Wetenskap en Kuns (South African Academy for Science and Art) gave its official praise (Anonymous 1973c).

Instead of the proposed two weeks, the picture had taken two years to make. Instead of being a bit of frivolity during the holidays, it had wrecked the family financially. Instead of costing a few hundred pounds, Daar doer in die Bosveld had cost £3 000 to make. In spite of the picture’s extreme popularity, it was not a financial success (Anonymous 1985). In the end, Uys made a successful debut but his successes, not to mention troubles, were far from over.

Fame without fortune: Searching for producers and protection

An Englishman and an Afrikaner go on a bus tour. They cannot stand each other, but constantly end up involved in each other’s affairs. Eventually they are forced to get along. This was the basis of Uys’s second film, a comedy that was a cross between a road movie and a buddy movie (Uys 1952). In 50/50, South Africa’s first bilingual feature film, Uys tackled the animosity that existed between the Afrikaners and English of that period for the first time (Anonymous 1973b:10). The conflict that had existed between these two groups might have thawed somewhat since the days of Jan Smuts and J.B.M. Hertzog, but there remained a good deal of political animosity and cultural squabbles (see e.g. Giliomee 2004). Throughout the 1950s, Uys would repeatedly return to this theme.

As with his first film, Uys approached the picture as something of a one-man show. He was producer, director, scriptwriter and editor, and he also played the lead role of the Afrikaner character. Hettie Uys once again starred as the love of his life. The film was shot entirely on location; not a single studio-scene. 50/50 was released by Raath Films in 1952, and Uys was so excited about the new film that he and Raath rented Pretoria’s huge Afrikaanse Koffiehuis for the première (it turned out to be a comedy of errors). The fact that cabinet members and other South African luminaries attended, keeping in mind that this was only his second film, illustrates the impact of Daar doer in die Bosveld, but also how quickly Uys was making a name for himself (Joubert 1968:30). Although his second film was another popular success, Uys was still desperately trying to recover from the past few years’ debts. Financial matters and an overactive imagination obligated him to work without rest.

The next feature was somewhat of a sequel to his first. Daar doer in die Stad (Deep in the City), released in 1953, tells of a happy Bushveld family whose lives are turned upside down by the mother’s death. The father, his young daughter, and their pet dog have to move to the city so he can try and patent a bean-machine. The urban world is foreign and foreboding with much danger. The father perseveres, and triumphs in a comical manner. The credits of this film read like a family tree: He starred as the father, his real wife (again) starred as his onscreen wife, his daughter, Marietjie, starred as his onscreen daughter, and even the dog was the Uys’s family dog. It was the first time that Uys worked with a 35mm camera and he eagerly explored its various possibilities. Once more Uys’s cinematic recipe was a success (Anonymous 1973b:10).

Uys made the picture for Killarney Film Studios / African Film Productions. In 1954, Uys was awarded The Schlesinger Drum Award (then the local version of the American Academy Award, or Oscar). The award was named after the Schlesingers who controlled African Film Productions, the first company in South Africa to produce feature films (Le Roux and Fourie 1982:2). Although Uys’s films were increasingly becoming financial successes, the filmmaker still suffered financially. The Schlesinger organisation was paying him (irrespective of the various positions he held when making a film) a flat rate of £100 a month – less then what a professional sound technician was paid. He endured the treatment as the remittance was at least guaranteed, and because he was addicted to his storytelling. Uys’s next film, his second for African Film Productions, was to deal with a traitor during the Anglo Boer War (Mimosa Films n.d.).

The Schlesingers and their board evaluated Hensop and regarded it as too controversial (in other words not financially viable). However, the picture was already past the developmental phase when the Schlesingers summarily halted the production. Uys had had enough. “That’s when I decided to quit and form my own company,” Uys said. He abruptly resigned. The Schlesingers summoned Uys and fiercely berated him for his impertinent resignation, after which Uys stood up and walked away for good. Three months later they tried to entice him back, without success (Mimosa Films n.d.).

Calling his own shots: Jamie Uys Films

As one of the country’s most popular filmmakers, Uys finally launched his own production house. Friends advised that he tie it with his celebrity persona and so the new company was called Jamie Uys Films, and Jok Uys joined his brother’s business venture. Irrespective of its creator’s box office triumphs, Afrikaner consortiums were not interested in backing the new company, since the movie industry was too unpredictable. The Uys bothers ferociously marketed small bundles of shares and begged for investments. Arguably, those that did give money were doing so more for Uys’s cinematic cause and from cultural convictions than for business reasons. The brothers collected about £14 000 and in 1954 Jamie Uys Films Limited was operational (Anonymous 1973a:5).

Jok Uys starred with his brother in the 1954 comedy Geld soos bossies (Money to Burn), which covered the lives of two road workers, also brothers, who are determined to make a fortune and devise a scheme using a chain letter. As usual, Jamie took on various responsibilities, including that of lead actor, scriptwriter, director and producer (Uys 1954). Uys, who later would be disappointed in the film (feeling it was obvious that the picture was a rushed job) made South African history by supplying the film with English subtitles, and it was the first South African-made picture to be sold for overseas distribution (under the name Money to Burn). The movie was screened in Britain and New Zealand. Production costs were covered by local ticket sales, and the R15 000 it made abroad was therefore net profit. Jamie Uys Films used the international earnings to buy cutting-edge cinematic equipment and technology (see Anonymous 1973b:10 and Van Deventer 1985:9).

According to the stipulations of the Entertainment Tax Law, Jamie Uys Films would have to pay R6 000 tax on Geld soos bossies although it cost roughly R10 000 to produce. The system was in effect targeting local films; imported movies were exempt from the particular tax. Uys the activist made an appointment to see the Prime Minister. He held talks with J.G. Strijdom and relevant state officials. The result was a subsidy scheme for home-grown movies. Uys was at once overjoyed and sceptical. He believed (in part correctly) that such a system would trigger opportunists to suddenly enter the industry with second-rate movies just to cash in on the system. Nonetheless, the government subsidies – thanks to Uys’s lobbying – marked a turning-point in the South African film industry. The local film world, in the period after Uys’s change of the legal status quo, would experience vigorous growth (see Mimosa Films n.d. and 1973).

Along with Geld soos bossies, Jamie Uys made a unique (20 minutes long) short film, released in 1954, about South Africa’s distinctive multicultural indigenous music. Jabulani Africa, featured striking visuals and accompanying music – no dialogue whatsoever. South Africa’s Department of Information saw it and took it to the international film industry’s most revered trade show at Cannes, France. The international distributors were impressed, and bought the short for about R12 000. Jabulani Africa was (measured both in popularity and critical acclaim) successfully screened throughout England, France and Germany. Jamie Uys was starting to attract international attention (see Mimosa Films n.d. and 1973). After the success of Jabulani Africa, Uys frequently ventured into making short films. He was also regularly commissioned by various state departments to make educational pictures and documentaries on a remarkably diverse number of topics.

He would go on to make almost 20 short films. This creative avenue allowed Uys to experiment technically and develop his creative flexibility (in his Mimosa Films period, Uys would utilize his documentary-maker skills in making Africa’s most successful pictures). Furthermore, it heightened Uys’s already high profile as film maker, attracted critical acclaim, and supplemented the company’s (usually strapped) finances. As with commercial features, Uys would excel in this cinematic genre. In 1956, tasked by the Department of Information, Uys made The Condemned are Happy (also known as The Urgent Queue). It dealt with a family living amidst squalor in a Port Elizabeth slum. The film was dramatic and its impact effective: The picture was hailed by the jury at the Edinburgh Film Festival as 1956’s Outstanding Film of the Year (Mimosa Films n.d.).

However, Uys in this time not only made films. Amongst the local acting legends that starred in Werner Grünbauer’s Paul Kruger (1955) was André Huguenet, James Norval, Siegfried Mynhardt, and Jamie Uys (Grünbauer 1955). It was exceptionally rare to see Uys in a film he did not make himself. The famed actor-director detested acting even in his own pictures; let alone someone else’s. When Uys started his career, the struggling storyteller could not afford to pay professional actors. Now that he could, Jamie Uys had become such a well known and loved screen personality that commercial logic dictated that he had to act (Van Deventer 1985:9). If he had no choice about acting, then he would rather star in his own films. Jamie and Jok Uys’s next film was a proper remake of Daar doer in die Bosveld – entitled Die Bosvelder (The Bushvelder): Shot in 35mm film, and colour, with decent production facilities, not to mention a proper budget. Tried and tested, South Africans in 1955 once again flocked to see Uys’s fumbling-but-loveable Bushveld farmer (Uys 1955).

As the popularity and critical acclaim, at home and abroad, of his works (of whatever kind) increased, aspiring filmmakers jostled for an opportunity to work with and learn from Jamie Uys. In 1959, Uys gave one aspiring filmmaker such an opportunity: Elmo de Witt (who had joined the Uys team as assistant cameraman in 1954) made his debut as director with Uys’s Satanskoraal (Satan’s Coral). Uys wrote and produced this adventure-drama, which told of illicit coral poaching. Quite a feat for that time was the many underwater scenes, which were shot by cameramen Judex Viljoen and Vincent Cox (De Witt 1959).

After having completed a few documentaries, Uys created one of his most memorable films: Rip van Wyk (Nofal 1960). Based on the folktale of Rip van Winkle, the film tells the story of a farmer who sleeps for a hundred years and wakes to find a vastly different world from the one he fell asleep in: Sasolburg now stands where his tranquil farm had been. The script of this Jamie Uys Films’s production was written by Emil Nofal, who also acted as director, while Van Wyk was played by Uys. The production was exceptional in the sense that it was filmed twice – once in Afrikaans and once in English (Cave 1973). Apart from its local success, the film had a good reception in England, where it was shown at London’s National Film Theatre. The picture was officially heralded at the subsequent London Film Festival as the Outstanding Film of the Year, and awarded the Commonwealth Film Award by the Royal Society of Arts (see Mimosa Films n.d. and Le Roux and Fourie 1982:80).

Decades later, following the astounding worldwide success of The Gods must be Crazy, Uys considered remaking the picture, having been offered a vast Hollywood budget. Instead, by popular demand from the USA, he had to make a sequel to his so-called Coke bottle movie and passed away before he could resurrect his Rip van Wyk (Mimosa Films n.d.).

With an unprecedented upshot in the number of new production houses (wanting to cash in on the lucrative subsidy system), Uys had to be quick in delivering a new picture (Joubert 1968:3). Uys, who financially could not afford to take long pauses pondering new movie concepts, again decided on a remake: Hans en die Rooinek (also released in English as Sydney and the Boer), which was a remake of his earlier 50/50. It premiered in 1960 (Uys 1960).

Having had some success overseas, Uys was contacted by Warwick Films in England, who wanted Uys to make a feature for them. The Hellions (Uys 1961), starring, amongst others, Richard Todd, Ann Aubrey, Patrick Mynhardt and Jamie Uys, was an action-thriller set in the pioneering days of South Africa. The small town of De Wylt is terrorised by a gang of ruffians until some of the townspeople take a stand. Thought to have the potential to be Uys’s overseas breakthrough, the picture, directed by Ken Annkin and co-produced by Jamie Uys Films, almost destroyed the film maker forever: “I suppose I was naïve…They offered me a contract in terms of which they were responsible for above the line expenses (lead actors and producers fees), while I carried the below the line expenses (everything else) – without having any control over what was spent. It looked good to me. I suppose I was flattered, too. So I signed.” (Sutton 1983). Warwick Films made a substantial profit while Uys was left with bills in excess of R250 million. Jok Uys left the uncertain financial world of filmmaking and returned to the corporate world (Mimosa Films n.d.). Jamie – despite his sustained box office hits and across-the-spectrum popularity – once again faced financial ruin.

The Federasie van Afrikaanse Kultuurverenigings (Federation of Afrikaans Cultural Societies or FAK) organised a national festival, Die Wonder van Afrikaans (The Wonder of Afrikaans), commemorating the birth of Afrikaans. Uys was commissioned to make a film on the language’s history. Doodkry is Min (Never say Die) combined weighty history, light-hearted humour, and striking visuals. The open-air premiere on 29 April 1961 was staged at the Voortrekker Monument, where State President C.R. Swart sat next to Uys. Opera diva, Mimi Coertze, sang O Boereplaas to the audience of 50 000 (Breytenbach 1975). The organisation awarded the film maker R20 000 (which he desperately needed), and its Besembos Award for cinematic excellence (Joubert 1968:3).

Lights, camera and (renewed) action: Jamie Uys Films, 1961-1964

Tommie Meyer joined his board, and together with Uys, convinced Afrikaner-dominated consortiums like Bonuskor and Sanlam to invest. “When I was making money they wouldn’t touch me. Now that I was in trouble they had a change of heart,” the film maker recalled (Mimosa Films 2007). In 1962, Uys’s company released what can be described as a Western, set in the immediate aftermath of the Anglo Boer War: Voor Sononder (Before Dusk) starred Vonk de Ridder as the hero and was written and directed by Emil Nofal (Nofal 1962). Uys and Nofal also co-wrote the script and Uys directed Lord Oom Piet (also released as Lord Uncle Piet). Again lampooning the complexities of South Africa’s Afrikaner/English relationships, the story revolves around two affluent farmers. The Afrikaner is a staunch Nationalist (Uys); the Englishman is a staunch United Party supporter (Bob Courtney). They are quarrelsome, neighbours, and fervent opponents in an upcoming election. The Afrikaner learns – to his shock – that he has inherited a British Lordship. At all costs it must remain a secret but, of course, leaks out and so the merriment begins (Uys 1962). At the time, this was the most expensive film made in South Africa to date, costing R70 000 (Oosthuizen 1979:23). The film was a national phenomenon: No other picture had hitherto sold as many tickets in its first month, and within six weeks, more than 50 000 people had seen the film – more than for American films at the time (Oosthuizen 1979:23). Within six months, half a million South Africans saw the film, which was another South African record. English South Africans, in general, did not care for local pictures and certainly not Afrikaans movies. However, they flocked to see this film in record numbers – another South African record (Joubert 1968:4). Oosthuizen (1979:26) argues that, along with Ses Soldate, Lord Oom Piet was an important film from a sociological perspective as well,

Hoewel Lord Oom Piet en Ses Soldate vanuit ‘n suiwer artistieke oogpunt beskou, miskien nie die beste films is wat nog in Suid-Afrika gemaak is nie, het hulle tog ‘n baie belangrike sosiale funksie vervul. Elkeen het op sy eie manier ‘n bydrae gelewer ter bevordering van beter verhoudings tussen Afrikaners en Engelse in Suid-Afrika: die een [Lord Oom Piet] deur op die belaglikheid van die tradisionele konflik tussen die twee bevolkingsgroepe te wys, die ander [Ses Soldate] deur te illustreer hoe alle bevolkingsgroepe saam kan werk in die verdediging van hulle gemeenskaplike vaderland.

[Although Lord Oom Piet and Six Soldiers are, from a purely artistic point of view, maybe not the best films ever made ​​in South Africa, they served a very important social function. Each in its own way made ​​a contribution to promote better relations between the English and Afrikaners in South Africa: the one [Lord Oom Piet] by showing the ridiculousness of the traditional conflict between the two population groups, the other [Ses Soldate] by illustrating how all population groups can work together in defence of their common homeland.]

Jamie Uys and his production house next ventured into musicals. Jim Reeves, the well-known American country singer, played the lead in 1963’s Kimberley Jim. In the pioneering days of Kimberley, two shady card players scam miners and get into trouble. Emil Nofal, assisted by Jans Rautenbach, was scriptwriter, and director. Uys oversaw an elaborate show: a budget of R250 000, some 1 000 period-costumes, and 18 original songs (composed by Nico Carstens, Gilbert Gibson and Anton de Waal) (Le Roux and Fourie 1982:83). After starring in his only musical, Reeves died in 1964, giving the film a certain sentimental appeal. The picture became one of the most successful locally made films of that period and also thrived abroad (Anonymous 1967).

While making The Hellions, Jamie Uys discovered a young black actor: Ken Gampu (Anonymous 1976), and cast the future celebrity in one of the leads in his next movie. The Fox has Four Eyes (a short film Uys made in 1958) served as the basis for Dingaka (Witch Doctor), and tells the story of the murder of a black man’s daughter during a tribal ritual, who subsequently hunts down the killer to take revenge. The father’s quest takes him to the big city where the white man’s ideas of justice clashes with his. Actors included Gordon Hood (farther of Oscar-winner Gavin Hood) and Paul Makgoba. Jans Rautenbach, Ivan Hall, Manie Botha and Elmo de Witt were all involved. Bertha Egnos supplied enthralling traditional music (Uys 1964). Uys wanted the scenery to be green, but it was filmed in winter, and so Uys instructed the extras to paint a koppie green. Once more Hollywood winked: Paramount Pictures and Embassy Pictures managed overseas distribution. The Americans demanded big names, and so Juliet Prowse (then Frank Sinatra’s love interest) and Stanley Baker starred in the lead roles (Le Roux and Fourie 1982:78).

At R975 000 – in 1964 – Dingaka was Uys’s most expensive film (until the Mimosa period). It was regarded as one of the best produced films ever to have come from South Africa. Popularly and critically it fared exceptionally, both locally and abroad. In some overseas countries, Uys was thought to be black, and it was hailed as a bold stand against Apartheid. An international production meant international rates, and although the film was a hit, it would take Uys years to make up the tabs; this was another disappointing international success (see Gibson 1967, Joubert 1968:4 and Mimosa Films 2007). Following the epic, Uys vowed to never again use international stars, arguing that if his cinematic whole could not stand on its own – irrespective of the cast – then it was not worth making. Uys undertook to (and did successfully) write so-called “star proof” scripts (Anonymous 1980:13). Ironically his next film starred one of the most famous individuals of the twentieth century.

All the way to Paris (also known as After you Comrade) was the third remake of 50/50 (Uys 1966). Uys, while in New York, got the idea simply by chance, examining two (ideologically opposed) diplomats trying to avoid each other in an eatery: A Russian (Uys) and an American (Bob Courtney) challenge each other to walk from Greece to Paris. They detest each other but come to a mutual understanding through their ensuing adventure. Uys filmed the picture in almost ten European countries, and the logistics were a nightmare: official permission had to be obtained from Italy to Lichtenstein to Greece, etcetera. Filming in France, the Uys team learnt that before the image of General Charles de Gaulle could be reproduced in a film (as this script called for) it had to be approved by Paris. Somehow the French President got hold of the script. The presidential offices contacted Uys: General Charles de Gaulle would star as General Charles de Gaulle. In the movie, the French legend as well as Prime Minister Georges Pompidou star as themselves (see Le Roux and Fourie 1982:84 and Mimosa Films 2007). Production costs were recovered from the South African box office while it made R200 000 internationally (Mimosa Films n.d.).

Elmo de Witt directed Debbie for Jamie Uys Films. Based on the book, Groen Koring, by Tryna du Toit, it tells of an unwed teenage girl that falls pregnant. The film caused a ruckus as the censors slammed it with a 2-21 age restriction (De Witt 1965). Uys convinced the public and the authorities that the picture was harmless, and the age restriction was subsequently lessened (see Joubert 1968, Van Zyl 1985:19, and Mimosa Films 2007).

And cut: Jamie Uys leaves Jamie Uys Films

While Uys was making or overseeing one after the other hit, a rift was brewing between him and his board. He grew tired of their insistence on productivity, and longed for thorough and intimate processes, which would shift his emphasis from box office successes to high quality. Jans Rautenbach and Emil Nofal had left to make their own brand of films, leaving Uys with more pressure to produce, and in quick succession. The board was unimpressed that he had made All the Way to Paris – an expensive third remake of 50-50. Uys was increasingly upset by the pictures the company was releasing, per implication, under his name – especially Debbie. These were just some of the factors that prompted Uys to resign from his own production company (with the entire staff following suit). As he exited in 1966, Uys demanded that the company drop his name, and so Kavalier Films was born (Mimosa Films n.d.).

In the next three decades, Jamie Uys and his new partners, Boet Troskie and his Mimosa Films, would create the most successful films to come from South Africa.

Uys’s thirty years with dr. Boet Troskie’s Mimosa Films will be dealt with in a follow-up article: Sage and Screen.

That’s a wrap: Conclusion

In the period under discussion, Jamie Uys, having struggled to make his first picture, became one of South Africa’s most productive and prominently popular filmmakers. In itself his original stories and unique cinematic storytelling contributed to the cultural treasure trove of South Africa. In these troublesome but ground-breaking decades he honed his technical expertise and sharpened his creative abilities. With every Uys movie came an increase in the diversity and quality of local films. After joining Mimosa Films, Uys would draw on these pioneering years (both creatively and technically) to make films of global acclaim and worldwide popularity.

He discovered and/or trained some of the country’s best and/or best known actors and filmmakers, including Ken Gampu, Jans Rautenbach, Emil Nofal and Elmo de Witt – a network of professional relationships that is described in detail in Senekal and Stemmet (2014). He staked a claim for Afrikaans speakers in a predominantly English-dominated establishment. Furthermore, Uys’s films inadvertently promoted Afrikaans as cinematic language. Having been the first to sell a South African movie (an Afrikaans one at that) abroad, he proved that although the local industry could not compete with Hollywood’s budgets, its stories were unique enough to attract international audiences. His own international productions proved that the country’s small film industry could facilitate international productions with professional acumen. As documentary maker

Constraints on space prohibited even a thorough list of all his works. he developed the art locally with international success.

The film maker was responsible for Pretoria’s subsidising local films and as such was responsible for the acceleration in the development of the local film industry. Together with Jamie Uys Films, he was responsible for drawing mainstream corporations (specifically Afrikaner-dominated consortiums) into the film world.

Jamie Uys’s favourite theme in this period was throwing together conflicting cultures (in most cases the Afrikaners/English) in difficult scenarios. Side-by-side in bioscopes across South Africa, he brought together (antagonistic) peoples. They laughed at each other – and at themselves – showcasing the power of film (more specifically, humour) in bridging socio-political disparity. As far as filmmaking was concerned, by 1966 Jamie Uys was the local Sangoma of the silver screen. In the next decades he would become South Africa’s Sage of the silver screen.

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