Killer quacks will be the death of us all

Weekend Argus (Saturday Edition) - - COMMENT -

I’VE BEEN think­ing a lot about Masego Kgomo, the 10-year-old girl who was ab­ducted in Soshanguve, north of Pre­to­ria, on New Year’s Eve, 2009, and mur­dered in or­der to sell parts of her body for “tra­di­tional medicine”.

In par­tic­u­lar, I have been try­ing to imag­ine the ter­ror and pain she must have en­dured be­fore she died, for, ac­cord­ing to tes­ti­mony be­fore the Pre­to­ria High Court, the girl was alive when one of her breasts and her womb was hacked out of her body, which was later dumped in dense bushes near a rail­way sta­tion.

The man who was this week jailed for life for her mur­der and six years for her kid­nap­ping, Brian Mang­wale, 30 – him­self the fa­ther of two young girls – was led away smil­ing as a packed court­room broke out in loud cheers.

Mang­wale, the court heard, had re­ceived an or­der for hu­man or­gans from a san­goma. He had then kidnapped Masego and taken her to his ac­com­plices. Hav­ing done so, and fully aware of what her fate would be, he then joined her dis­traught fam­ily and the po­lice as they searched for the girl.

He then re­turned to his ac­com­plices to ex­tract her body parts, which he later sold for R4 800.

Mean­while, the search for Masego con­tin­ued for sev­eral days and Mang­wale would re­join it as the fam­ily, lo­cal com­mu­nity and po­lice combed the town­ship. It was said he even pointed out to the po­lice the bushes in which her half­naked, mu­ti­lated body was found.

Mang­wale’s ac­com­plices and fel­low mur­der­ers were not in court. Nei­ther was the san­goma. In ad­di­tion to show­ing no re­morse what­so­ever for his ac­tions, Mang­wale has re­fused to re­veal their iden­ti­ties.

Soshanguve res­i­dents must be won­der­ing if these peo­ple were still among them and, more im­por­tantly, if their chil­dren were safe.

Min­is­ter for Women, Chil­dren, and Peo­ple with Dis­abil­i­ties Lulu Xing­wana raised this point out­side the court. “What is wor­ry­ing is his ac­com­plices are still out there. We are go­ing to work hand in hand with the com­mu­nity and po­lice to make sure they are ap­pre­hended. The law will not rest un­til these peo­ple are brought to book.”

Last week, on the eve of the 16 Days of Ac­tivism cam­paign, Xing­wana an­nounced muti killings were on the rise. In ad­di­tion to Masego’s mur­der, there was the mur­der of three-year-old Athenkosi Nkone, of Gugulethu, butchered for body parts and then dumped, stuffed in a suit­case.

She said the govern­ment planned to meet “tra­di­tional heal­ers” to dis­cuss what one news re­port po­litely re­ferred to as “the wor­ry­ing trend”.

It was the same govern­ment, of course, which, in 2004, un­der the “guid­ance” of then-health min­is­ter the late Manto Tsha­bal­ala-msi­mang, ush­ered in the Tra­di­tional Health Prac­ti­tion­ers Act. This leg­is­la­tion would, in her words, “af­firm the dig­nity and re­spect” of these dan­ger­ous quacks.

And speak­ing of which, one ad­van­tage, ac­cord­ing to Tsha­bal­ala- Msi­mang, of the reg­u­la­tions was “gen­uine prac­ti­tion­ers can be dis­tin­guished from the char­la­tans”, and only those who were “prop­erly skilled” would be reg­is­tered in terms of the Med­i­cal Schemes Act and could there­fore claim fees from the med­i­cal aid schemes of their “pa­tients”.

At the time, in 2004, it was laugh­ably sug­gested the leg­is­la­tion would set “pro­fes­sional and eth­i­cal norms and stan­dards” and would ben­e­fit about 200 000 of these “heal­ers” who would be reg­u­lated into four cat­e­gories – “divin­ers”, or san­go­mas; “herbal­ists”, or izinyanga; tra­di­tional birth at­ten­dants; and, wor­ry­ingly, “tra­di­tional sur­geons”, or in­g­cibi.

The Depart­ment of Health es­ti­mated that about 70 per­cent of South Africans con­sulted these peo­ple be­fore seek­ing pro­fes­sional help – a statis­tic it bandied about as jus­ti­fi­ca­tion for pan­der­ing to su­per­sti­tion.

Par­don me, but how would we dis­tin­guish one quack from an­other? What is the “proper skill” in throw­ing bones? In mak­ing up sto­ries about an­ces­tors? What are the ethics and stan­dards when it comes to magic and wiz­ardry?

We live in a world plagued by ir­ra­tional­ity and back­ward­ness. And it’s get­ting worse, judg­ing by the pro­lif­er­a­tion of hand­bills and ad­ver­tise­ments promis­ing cures for HIV/AIDS and pow­er­ful erec­tions with big­ger penises and re­lief from an­gry women and suc­cess with busi­ness and debt re­cov­ery.

And yes, it is true not all “tra­di­tional heal­ers” use hu­man or even an­i­mal parts in their foul pastes and po­tions, and some may even be con­sid­ered “spir­i­tual” and “holy”, of­fer­ing ben­e­fi­cial ad­vice to the gullible and afraid.

But on the whole, they’re par­a­sites who feed off peo­ple who re­ally should know bet­ter. What’s worse, by sanc­tion­ing their prac­tice we re­in­force the harm­ful stereo­types of our con­ti­nent.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from South Africa

© PressReader. All rights reserved.