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Witchcraft-related crimes

28 March 2008
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.

clipped from
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.

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10 Comments leave one →
  1. 29 March 2008 3:40 pm

    You ask a very good question here. Certainly something worth exploring further…

  2. 31 March 2008 2:05 am


    In other cases of mass or serial murder the media coverage usually extends to the trial, often with daily reports of the court case.

    There were endless reports, going on for years, about a case involving an Advocate Barbie (I always got her mixed up with Klaus Barbie, the Nazi who was tried for war crimes, when I saw “Barbie” in the newspaper placards). Her every court appearance, or even non-appearance, was covered in detail, often making the front page.

    But in these “witchcraft related cases”, there is a mention of the accused’s first appearance in court, and then nothing more, even though the number of victims was much greater.

    So I ask, could it be that Advocate Barbie was white, and her victim was white (I think there was only one victim)?

  3. 19 April 2008 5:37 pm

    I have removed comments by “Dr Elma Ross”, which appeared to be racist spam aimed at publicising another web site.

    The purpose of blog comments is to comment on what is actually posted, whether you agree with it or disagree with it. Complaints that the blog post was not about some other topic don’t belong. If you feel that some other topic is neglected, you are free to start your own blog and blog about it there.

  4. Dr Elma Ross permalink
    26 May 2008 10:09 am

    Since when is it “racism” to blow the whistle on atrocities, such a mutilations for muti? Can anyone imagine what a child must go through if his penis is surgically removed without any form of painkiller, for the sake of missing a potion that is to ward off evil spirits?
    Covering up does not help the victims.

  5. 26 May 2008 2:07 pm

    Dr Elma Ross,

    If you read what I wrote, you would see that my point was that it was racism not to blow the whistle on atrocities.

  6. Dr Elma Ross permalink
    20 October 2008 8:26 am

    sorry! Yes, you are right. I have seen so many distraught mothers of child victims, and I just feel so helpless, you know.
    It has even been proposed that, in Malaria-ridden areas, some children die because the parents believe the illness is due to the spirits …

  7. 31 October 2008 9:00 am

    A very good research article on the use of witchcraft as a political power tool during the ANC’s struggle-years was written some 7 years ago by a German anthropologist. A summary of this report in relation to the growing ‘muti-murders’ in South Africa at the moment can be seen at my blog and it also contains more links to similar subjects exploring this further.

  8. jjimy permalink
    12 July 2009 11:25 pm

    I just happened across this blog and as a father of two children , i’m shocked to the core of my sole at these muti killings, and the acts of vile savagery against other humans… these arnt humans they are sub human, un educated savages and deserve……. whatever ….
    and I thought Ireland had become a country of physcopaths in the last two decates..


    • 13 July 2009 3:52 am

      Even three decades ago “sub-human savages” abounded in Ireland. As one relation wrote to us from Belfast, tempus fungus — times is rotten.


  1. South African media racist? « Khanya

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