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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.

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11. 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).
12. 10 Terrifying facts about witches that wil 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).
13. Witchcraft Suppression Amendment Act of 1970, No 50. Republic of South Africa. Pretoria: Government Printers: 1970.
14. Mpumalanga Witchcraft Suppression Bill (2007). Available from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mpumalanga_Witchcraft_Suppression_Bill (accessed 11/11/2014).
15. Essien ED. Notions of healing and transcendence in the Trajectory of African Traditional Religion: Paradigm and strategies. Inter Review Mission, 2013 Nov; 102(2): 236-48. Available from http://dx.doi:10.1111/ivom12026 (accessed 23/10/2014).
16. Gumede MV. Traditional healers: A medical doctor’s perspective. Johannesburg; Blackshaws; 1990.
17. Hofstatter S. Dark magic takes on Kalashnikovs. Sunday Times, 2014 Apr 13; p. 18.
18. Holland H. African magic. Johannesburg: Penquin: 2005.
19. Mbiti JS. Introduction to African Religion, 2nd Ed. Johannesburg: Heineman; 1991.
20. Onwuanibe, RC.The Philosophy of African Medical Practice. J Opinion (African Studies Association), 1979; 9(3): 25-8. Available from http://www.jstor.org/stable/1166259 (accessed 17/11/2014).
21. Peters M. Sickening blow for alternative medicines. Health Systems Trust, 2014. Available from http://www.hst.org.za/news/sickening-blow-alternative-medicines (accessed 31/07/2014).
22. Pretorius E. Traditional healers. In: Crisp N, Ntuli A, eds. S Afr Health Review, 1999: 249-256. Available from http://www.hst.org.za/uploads/files/chapter18_99.pdf (accessed 23/11/2014).
23. Reeder M. A sangoma’s story: The calling of Elliot Ndlovu. Rosebank: Penquin; 2012.
24. Traditional healing: What we do. Available from http://www.fnha.ca/what-we-do/traditional-healing (accessed 09/02/2014).
25. Ludsin H. Cultural Denial: What South Africa’s Treatment of Witchcraft Says for the Future of Customary Law. Berkeley J Inter Law, 2002; 21(1): 63-110.
26. Traditional healers of South Africa. Wikipedia Free Encyclopaedia. Available from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Traditional_Healers_of_South_Africa (accessed 02/02/2024).
27. Truter I. African traditional healers: Cultural and religious beliefs intertwined in a holistic way. SA Pharm J, 2007; 7(8): 56-60.
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).
  16. 10 Terrifying facts about witches that wil 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).
  17. Witchcraft presents puzzle. Sunday Times, 2014 Oct 19; p. 10.
  18. 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).
  19. The Witchcraft Suppression Act of 1957, No 3. Republic of South Africa. Pretoria: Government Printers: 1957.
  20. Witchcraft presents puzzle. Sunday Times, 2014 Oct 19; p. 10.
  21. 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).
  22. Witchcraft Suppression Amendment Act of 1970, No 50. Republic of South Africa. Pretoria: Government Printers: 1970.
  23. The Witchcraft Suppression Act of 1957, No 3. Republic of South Africa. Pretoria: Government Printers: 1957.
  24. Witchcraft presents puzzle. Sunday Times, 2014 Oct 19; p. 10.
  25. 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).
  26. Witchcraft Suppression Amendment Act of 1970, No 50. Republic of South Africa. Pretoria: Government Printers: 1970.
  27. Mpumalanga Witchcraft Suppression Bill (2007). Available from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mpumalanga_Witchcraft_Suppression_Bill (accessed 11/11/2014).
  28. The Witchcraft Suppression Act of 1957, No 3. Republic of South Africa. Pretoria: Government Printers: 1957.
  29. Witchcraft presents puzzle. Sunday Times, 2014 Oct 19; p. 10.
  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 19/10/2014).
  31. Witchcraft Suppression Amendment Act of 1970, No 50. Republic of South Africa. Pretoria: Government Printers: 1970.
  32. Mpumalanga Witchcraft Suppression Bill (2007). Available from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mpumalanga_Witchcraft_Suppression_Bill (accessed 11/11/2014).
  33. The Witchcraft Suppression Act of 1957, No 3. Republic of South Africa. Pretoria: Government Printers: 1957.
  34. Witchcraft presents puzzle. Sunday Times, 2014 Oct 19; p. 10.
  35. 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).
  36. Witchcraft Suppression Amendment Act of 1970, No 50. Republic of South Africa. Pretoria: Government Printers: 1970.
  37. The Witchcraft Suppression Act of 1957, No 3. Republic of South Africa. Pretoria: Government Printers: 1957.
  38. 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).
  39. Witchcraft presents puzzle. Sunday Times, 2014 Oct 19; p. 10.
  40. Witchcraft. Available from http://www.encyclopedia.com/topic/witchcraft.aspx (accessed 19/10/2014).
  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 19/10/2014).
  42. Witchcraft Suppression Amendment 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. 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).
  45. Essien ED. Notions of healing and transcendence in the Trajectory of African Traditional Religion: Paradigm and strategies. Inter Review Mission, 2013 Nov; 102(2): 236-48. Available from http://dx.doi:10.1111/ivom12026 (accessed 23/10/2014).
  46. Gumede MV. Traditional healers: A medical doctor’s perspective. Johannesburg; Blackshaws; 1990.
  47. Hofstatter S. Dark magic takes on Kalashnikovs. Sunday Times, 2014 Apr 13; p. 18.
  48. Holland H. African magic. Johannesburg: Penquin: 2005.
  49. Mbiti JS. Introduction to African Religion, 2nd Ed. Johannesburg: Heineman; 1991.
  50. Onwuanibe, RC.The Philosophy of African Medical Practice. J Opinion (African Studies Association), 1979; 9(3): 25-8. Available from http://www.jstor.org/stable/1166259 (accessed 17/11/2014).[/ref, 60Peters M. Sickening blow for alternative medicines. Health Systems Trust, 2014. Available from http://www.hst.org.za/news/sickening-blow-alternative-medicines (accessed 31/07/2014).
  51. Pretorius E. Traditional healers. In: Crisp N, Ntuli A, eds. S Afr Health Review, 1999: 249-256. Available from http://www.hst.org.za/uploads/files/chapter18_99.pdf (accessed 23/11/2014).
  52. Reeder M. A sangoma’s story: The calling of Elliot Ndlovu. Rosebank: Penquin; 2012.
  53. Traditional healing: What we do. Available from http://www.fnha.ca/what-we-do/traditional-healing (accessed 09/02/2014).
  54. Ludsin H. Cultural Denial: What South Africa’s Treatment of Witchcraft Says for the Future of Customary Law. Berkeley J Inter Law, 2002; 21(1): 63-110.
  55. Traditional healers of South Africa. Wikipedia Free Encyclopaedia. Available from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Traditional_Healers_of_South_Africa (accessed 02/02/2024).
  56. Truter I. African traditional healers: Cultural and religious beliefs intertwined in a holistic way. SA Pharm J, 2007; 7(8): 56-60.
  57. 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).
  58. 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).
  59. Mazibila S. Leaders behind ritual murders. Sowetan 2014 July 28; p.5.

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.

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.
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  7. Kors AC, Peters E. Witchcraft in Europe 1100 – 1700. A Documentary History. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press; 1992.
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  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.
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  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.
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  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).
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  39. Prince L. Moetie sou ons beskerm. Rapport, 2014 June 22; p. 8.
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  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.
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  46. Cannon M. This calls for a sangoma. Sunday Times, 2015 June 21; pp. 6-7.
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  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).
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  58. South African Statistics South Africa.Pretoria: Government Printers; 2012.
  59. ibid.
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  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.
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  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).