A 58-year-old woman has died at Baragwanath hospital in Johannesburg after being doused with petrol and set alight following accusations that she was a witch.
Jostina Sangweni’s family had taken her to a traditional healer’s home, but she wandered off. According to Sangweni’s son-in-law Jabulani Moagi, she had been diagnosed with schizophrenia after she started to “lose her mind”.
“A couple of weeks after the diagnosis she was still getting worse and one of the elders in the family suggested that she should be taken to a traditional healer.
“We took her to Mapetla in Soweto and that’s where she got lost,” Moagi said.
Moagi said that his mother-in-law was apparently afraid and went into a house nearby to seek help because she was not familiar with the area. That was when she was beaten up and accused of witchcraft.
“When we heard that she was lost, at around 11pm, we tried searching for her.
“But after a while we decided to go to the police station and report her missing.
“We gave the police her description and they immediately searched for her.
“The officer said he had someone who matched the description, who was nearly burnt by an angry mob.
“When we arrived at the crime scene, she was motionless and badly burnt but still alive, so we hurried her to the hospital where she died,” Moagi added.
In a video before she was set alight, Sangweni was seen sitting on the ground looking confused and asking for forgiveness when the perpetrators asked her what she was doing in their house.
Her attackers also kicked her multiple times and threw rocks at her.
Moagi said: “We just want justice for our mother.
“I don’t know how someone could be labelled a witch just by looking at her. She was sick and needed help and had they taken the time to hear her out or go to the police station they would have known that,” he said.
In a statement, the Commission for the Protection and Promotion of the Rights of Cultural, Religious and Linguistic Communities condemned the assault and burning of Sangweni in Soweto.
“We strongly condemn senseless attacks on women who get labelled as witches and eventually killed, allegedly for being involved in witchcraft.
“As the CRL Rights Commission, we believe that regardless of the motives of the assailants who committed this heinous crime, there can never be any justifiable reason whatsoever for anyone to attack someone or burn them when they plead for help.”
In a separate incident, an 83-year-old woman was burnt alive in her home in Majuba village in Sterkspruit in the Eastern Cape after being accused of witchcraft and murder early last month.
It is alleged that in that case, the group also attacked the woman’s 23-year-old grandchild, pouring paraffin on her but the attempt to set her alight failed.
She fled and was kept under police protection.