Rights of witches ‘violated’
13 July 2012 | ILSE DE LANGE
JOHANNESBURG - Damon Leff, director of the alliance, said even though the Witchcraft Suppression Act was originally drafted against traditional healers and some traditional practices and not actual witches, the existence of the Act institutionalised prejudice against witchcraft per se.
“The Act makes possessing knowledge, or professing to possess knowledge of ‘witchcraft’ illegal, and by its title, seeks to suppress witchcraft. It also prohibits divination, a practice shared by both traditional healers who identify as iZangoma, and Pagans who identify as witches.
“Actual witches, members of largely Pagan organisations such as Sapra and the South African Pagan Council, are already a visible religious minority in South Africa. We regard Witchcraft as a bona fide religion.
“Stereotypical African cultural beliefs about ‘witchcraft’ do not recognise Witchcraft as a Constitutionally protected religion.
“Customary beliefs about witchcraft remain wholly prejudicial to actual witches, and witches are viewed as being responsible for misfortune, illness or untimely death.
“Traditional beliefs do not assume that a witch may be innocent of such accusation because it is believed that such criminal acts are in keeping with the nature of the practice of Witchcraft.
“The alliance has advocated against witch hunts and accusations of witchcraft since 2007. Our annual campaign focuses on research, advocacy and education.
“We believe that accusations of witchcraft cannot be legislated away.
“The Act has been in existence since 1957 but it failed dismally to quell violent accusations in the 1980s, and it continues to fail to prevent present-day witch-hunts.
“We must identify accusations of witchcraft for what they are – untested hearsay based on fear, ignorance and superstition.
The accused remain innocent of any wrong-doing,” he said.
Calls by Sarpa for a review of the Act contributed to the Justice Minister’s decision in 2010 for a review of present witchcraft legislation.
Leff strongly believes that muti murderers should not be tried under Witchcraft legislation as he believes they have nothing to do with witchcraft.
“Despite accusations of witchcraft in relation to the so-called muti- murders, actual evidence shows that the muti murderers themselves are not Witches, but are most often paid by unscrupulous so-called traditional healers to harvest human body parts and tissue for sale, for use in alleged magic.
“Those found guilty in courts of law have not identified themselves as Witches, but as traditional healers.
Witchcraft must not be associated in any way with human mutilations or the trade in human body parts,” he said.
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