The recent arrest and appearance in court of three men accused of ritual killings in the Eastern Cape has highlighted the problem of so-called muti murders, one of which is that they are rarely highlighted.In another country one or two murders would be sensational. Eighteen murders in a small town within a few months should rival the Virginia Tech killings in the USA for newsworthiness — at least in South Africa.
But no, things like the Virginia Tech killings got more coverage in the South African media than serial killings in our own back yard.
Why is this?
Is it because many of the Virginia Tech victims were white, and the Mzamba victims were black? Are deaths of white people more newsworthy than the deaths of black people?
And what happens to these cases? So often it is reported that someone has been murdered, and that muti killing is suspected, and then no more is heard. If someone charged, that may be reported, and no more is heard. Is anyone ever convicted?
This article gives some of the background to the news, but it doesn’t make up for the lack of actual news.
|THE arrest earlier this month of three men in Mzamba outside Bizana in connection with 18 shocking murders, mostly of women whose organs were removed, has placed the focus on a recurring incidence of what are commonly called “muti murders”.
Various cases have been reported in the Eastern Cape over the last few years and the trend continues. In the month of January 2008, there were suspected muti murder cases in Lusikisiki in Transkei and in Kwazakhele and Missionvale, in Port Elizabeth.
Muti murders, along with so-called “witch killings” which also occur from time to time throughout the province, both fall within a general category of what can be called “witchcraft-related crimes”.
Both can be linked to traditional African beliefs in witchcraft as they involve the use of supernatural forces for personal gain, usually at someone else’s expense.
In muti murders, a victim – usually a woman or child – is killed in order to harvest body parts for making muti.