Zuma witchcraft story goes viral in right-wing media
A story in the Daily Sun about President Jacob Zuma practising witchcraft seems to have spread rapidly among the right-wing media. Daily Sun Mobi
Speaking to supporters at KaNyamazane, outside Mbombela in Mpumalanga yesterday, Zuma said he had a history in Ka-Nyamazane.
“That’s why I came here now,” he said, speaking in isiZulu.
“I’m home here. I used to practice witchcraft around here, bewitching Boers during apartheid,” the President reportedly said.
Zuma went on to promise the crowd that if the ANC was re-elected with over 90% of the popular vote, he would come back to the village to celebrate.
This was the picked up by the UK’s Daily Mail, with some added spin South African president Zuma reveals he used to practice witchcraft against white people | Mail Online
South Africa’s president Jacob Zuma has told how he used to practise witchcraft against white people.
Speaking in his native Zulu language at a pre-election rally in the country’s rural north, he told a crowd of his voodoo past.
‘I used to practise witchcraft around here, bewitching the Boers during apartheid’, Zuma reportedly said.
It looks as though some jounalists don’t do irony. Or perhaps that applies mainly to right-wing journalists and political commentators and izimpimpi. The story was also taken up by the Neo-Nazi website Stormfront.
I first learned of this story by reading the denials, which pointed out that President Zuma was speaking figuratively and not literally.
And that to me seems much more likely.
What President Zuma was saying was that when he was an underground political activist in that area at the time that the ANC was banned, he used to pull the wool over the eyes of the police and other security forces of the apartheid regime (in that context, that is what “Boere” means, not “white people” as the Daily Mail misleadingly suggests).
And I think hundreds of people must have anecdotes about “bewitching” the police in that fashion. Just to clarify the kind of thing that happened, I’ll tell one of mine.
It was on 24th May 1965, when a group of us, mainly university students from Pietermaritzburg, went to a couple of Liberal Party meetings in northern Natal, but were plagued by car breakdowns. Here’s what I wrote in my diary.
I went to the Liberal Party office, and took the car up to varsity to fetch Rod Smith. He joined the party. I set out with Pat McKenzie and Miss Cooper for Bergville. We had tea at Mike Ndlovu’s place, and there were altogether about 12 members from Maritzburg there. Mike and Rajan Naidoo were just about to go to town to get the battery from John’s car when the Opel broke down, and so they went in Marie Dyer’s car, and Rod Smith, Roddy Holmes, Rajan and I tried to fix the Opel, while the others went to a meeting at Bethany. We took the carburettor to pieces and cleaned it, and did the same with the distributor.
Pat McKenzie left early to take John’s burnt-out Volkswagen back to Maritzburg. It had no windscreen and the seats were badly burnt. We got the Opel going again, but it broke down just near Bergville, and so after finding a mechanic, Rajan, Mike, Rod Smith and I left in Marie Dyer’s car for Inkunzi.
We stopped at Ladysmith for petrol, and got to Inkunzi at 6:30, two and a half hours after the meeting was supposed to have taken place, and not surprisingly everyone except the Special Branch had gone home. We went to David Ndlovu’s house, and sat there while Mike explained why we were late. Rajan, Rod and I sat on a sofa, and facing us on the other side of the dining-room table were three African Special Branch men. The leader was a big middle-aged man who looked like a business executive or Rotary type. The one next to him wore a raincoat and had shifty eyes, and looked like a gangster. The third one seemed asleep or drunk.
We went out to the car, and began to eat our supper of corned beef and bread, while the Gestapo sat in their van and wrote their report. Perhaps they thought that nothing would happen now that John is banned, but in the week that they banned an Anglican ordinand, two more had joined the party. We went back to Ladysmith, and went off at St Chad’s to see Fr Kraft and ask if some of us could sleep there for the night if the Opel were still stuck in Bergville. The Gestapo followed us there as well, and as we got nearer there were groups of men all going to some sort of meeting — perhaps they thought that there was a new party branch meeting. Fr Kraft was out, and the cook told us that he had gone to Zululand.
We went to Ladysmith, and then to Colenso, with the Gestapo still following us all the way there. We drove around Colenso for a while, and lost the Gestapo, and took the Winterton road and then to Bergville, where we learned at a shop that the Opel had been left there, and that some of the people had been taken to Ladysmith to get the train, while five had gone home in the remaining car. We went to Mike’s place for tea, and then came back to Maritzburg, where we woke up Pat McKenzie and told him about our trip. We went on to Rajan Naidoo’s place, and had toasted curry sandwiches. Then I took Rod home, and went home myself.
What happened in Colenso was that we drove around quiet residential streets until we saw a house with no lights on. We backed the car into the driveway, and the Special Branch men got out of their car and started walking up to the house to see what was going on. As soon as they were a bit away from their car, we started up, pulled out of the driveway and drove up the street, and by the time they had got back in their car, we were gone. So we pulled the wool over their eyes, or, to use Zuma’s term, we “bewitched” them. We used no muti. We just fooled them. The SB men were all black, but in that context they were “Boere”, because they represented the “Boere” — the Boer Government.
And I’m sure that that is the kind of thing that Jacob Zuma was referring to.
But the story was reported in the Daily Sun, which, like its Sunday counterpart, is full of stories about witches, tokoloshes, zombies and the like, so if there is any way of putting a supernatural spin on it, they will. And that kind of journalistic spin is itself a kind of ubuthakathi (witchcraft). It was the Daily Sun after all, that produced the best placard headline ever — Zombie stole my soap!
But while we are talking about witchcraft and Boere, let us not forget that it was the Boere, the security forces of the apartheid regime, who practised literal, and not figurative witchcraft when their agents put hexed nails in the driveway of Bishop Desmond Tutu when he was Archbishop of Cape Town.
Notes and References
 The burnt-out Volkwagen belonged to John Aitchison, another Liberal Party member who had been banned earlier in the week. He had lent it to Mike Ndlovu, the Northern Natal organiser of the Liberal Party, who lived at Rookdale, near Bergville. While it was parked at his house it was petrol bombed, probably by, or at the instigation of the Security Police.