In Africa, witchcraft has played a role in rebellions, fighting wars, gaining independence and is often seen at election time.
Some people also consult witchdoctors to cure diseases or find a husband.
However, the practise has negative sides – mutilated bodies are often found in Africa, with their organs removed presumably for use in magic charms. And recently in the UK, three people were jailed over the torture of an eight-year-old Angolan girl they accused of being a possessed witch.
Witchcraft is clearly evident in all of the countries I have lived in. In Zimbabwe the only person immune from witches it seems is the president himself, and that is because he can afford stronger portions from all over Africa. In South Africa are the most feared witches. In Botswana the witches are there but they are not that skilled.
In Zambia and Malawi you can easily be murdered in the night by witches. In England, UK I attended witches meetings in a little town of Leek in 1996, and again in Highlane Burslem in Stoke on Trent. The witches were convinced they had special powers.
Benson Magaba, Zimbabwe
Witchcraft is absolutely vital in African society. It shapes our norms, values and tradition. We should not allow the negative effect of witchcraft and forget the enormous positive ones. This is a tradition of our back ground and no-one should shy away from it because negativity of it has been echoed in London or other parts of the world.
Tanzania is a land of some very different beliefs. One such belief of so-called witch doctors in this east African nation is that albino body parts are good ingredients for the magical potions the witches concoct. As a result, albinos in Tanzania face widespread persecution. According to reports by BBC, one woman with albinism was found hacked to death in May 2014 in a village called Gasuma. Two witch doctors were suspected of performing the heinous crime and were promptly arrested. Prior to this incident, an article on care2.com mentioned the deaths of around 600 women in 2011, all charged with witchcraft.
How can a country rise above the inhuman practice of witch hunting when its very own president orders the gruesome acts himself? Gambia’s faith-healer-turned-dictator Yahya Jammeh, has taken to eradicating citizens who get in his way and uses witch hunting as a front for his actions. Articles appeared on The Telegraph in 2012 and care2.com in 2013 stating similar accounts of the goings-on in Gambia. Purportedly blending statecraft with witchcraft, Jammeh had 1,000 so-called sorcerers arrested and drink a hallucinogenic potion to exorcise their supposedly possessed bodies and minds. At least six died in this torture ritual.
8. Papua New Guinea
It’s not just women who are accused of being witches. As stated in an article on care2.com, a man in Uganda was believed to be dabbling in dark magic and he was promptly tied up and beheaded for it. There have been several more cases like this, all due to the fact that the locals firmly believe that witchcraft is being practiced by some of their fellowmen. Then there are the wily ones who simply use witchcraft as an excuse to get rid of people they hold a grudge against.
I actually know a witch who travels to London regularly from Uganda to ‘cleanse people’. You would never in your wildest dreams believe that she is a witch. She even promised to give me medicine that can make me get a visa if I decide that I want to go to London. However my Christian background refrains me from believing in what she does, so I opted out of that offer.
Juliet O, Uganda
According to a news article by The Guardian in 2010, there’s a new rise in punishment due to witchcraft in the African nation of Ghana, where sorcery forms part of the country’s mythology. A 72-year-old woman was burned to death by six people who suspected her of being a witch, claiming she fell from the sky and under a tree because she ran out of witch flying gas. Medical experts claimed that the elderly woman may have simply been suffering from dementia and her strange behavior was misinterpreted as that of a witch’s.
About a month ago my cousin was found to be a witch. She testified after my pastor had prayed for her. According to her she was introduced to it by my grandmother. I also know many people who are said to be witches. If Africa truly wants to live then we must desist from evil spirits and rather trust in the Lord.
Bernard Bortey, Ghana
5. Democratic Republic of Congo
Perhaps the most heart-breaking aspect of the loss of lives due to witchcraft is the fact that many of its victims are children. In a 2013 report by International Business Times, a staggering 50,000 children were accused of sorcery in Congo and as all horror stories go with regards to little ones, many of them have suffered abuse at the hands of their captors. And what are these people’s indication that the children are allegedly possessed by demons? Being disabled, wetting the bed at night, and suffering from nightmares!
When I first arrived in Nairobi, I saw the signs but didn’t know what they meant. Once I started understanding Swahili, I learned that the profusion of ads, nailed to fences, stuck on poles and printed on A3 paper, were for waganga (witchdoctors) offering assistance mainly in matters of business, money, love and infertility. In just about every suburb of Nairobi, you’ll find at least one ad, hand-painted, on a little plate, nailed high up on a pole. For an average of around 6000 shillings (R600) you can get to see one of these mgangas but it is advisable to avoid those who advertise on paper. They are reputed to be con artists.
Men and women were burned alive by villagers in western Kenya who accused them of bewitching a young boy. Last year, The Star newspaper reported that elders in the coastal Kilifi Country were fleeing their homes out of fear of being killed for practising witchcraft.
“Witchcraft is still alive in Africa. Here in Malawi there are two districts where people have advanced in witchcraft. These people can travel from Malawi to USA in seconds. They can tell you to close your eyes for two minutes and after that they tell you to open your eyes and seriously you find yourself in New York, imagine!
But the funny part of it these people are not educated but they are advanced in another technology. There are no planes which can travel from UK to USA in seconds, but ordinary people here can do it. In Karonga in the northern part of Malawi you can be removed your bones if you are rude and when you apologise they are returned. Anyway don’t be shocked.”
Allanie Njateni, Malawi
Witchcraft does exist. I was at a boarding school for four years and I did witness some witchcraft going on. Witchcraft indeed is used as a multipurpose thing as mentioned in your article. In Malawi there have been several cases whereby mutilated bodies have been found. Though I haven’t physically seen one myself but just read about it in the papers.
I have never seen a witch with my own eyes. But there are some events that happen in my country that lack scientific explanation and has been attributed to witchcraft. So I say yes witchcraft is with us and will always be there as long as Africa is alive.
Amos Phir, Malawi
“Having lived in rural Zambia for several years, I can say definitively that witchcraft is alive and well in Zambia. Unfortunately in the western world, it has bad connotations – that it is backwards or harmful. I have seen truly sick Zambians get back on their feet after a visit from the local witchdoctor, or rather traditional healer, a term I prefer.
I think this says mountains about the power of belief to heal, as well as the benefits of traditional medicines. The only negative thing I have to say about my experiences with Zambian witchcraft is that the Christian missionaries, with no respect for traditional belief systems, will probably wipe out the wonderful aspect of rural Zambian culture within my lifetime.”
Jenny T Gelber, USA (formerly Zambia)
Two days ago in my neighbourhood. A girl of five was accused of killing her mother through witchcraft. She was tortured (tied upside down a tree) for hours to confess. What surprised me is the fact this girl had not heard of the word witchcraft and here she was being asked to make a so-called confession. In my opinion, those behind this child abuse should be brought to face the wrath of the law.