Witch­craft: The law vs be­liefs

Chronicle (Zimbabwe) - - Feature/supplement -

YOUR nude pictures leak – they’re all over the in­ter­net and the wo­man next door talks about them all day long but that’s just about it. It ap­pears nor­mal em­bar­rass­ing but cer­tainly com­mon. Some­how, so­ci­ety is for­giv­ing to such. But when the wo­man next door lands on some­one’s doorstep naked — so­ci­ety does not take it lightly.

Peo­ple will in­vite them­selves to the scene to get a glimpse of the witch’s nude shame; they will not want to hear of it from the next per­son.

Witch­craft, which is de­fined as the use of black magic to in­jure the next per­son is one phenomenon com­mu­ni­ties have never tol­er­ated since time im­memo­rial. In fact, witch­craft al­le­ga­tions have torn apart fam­i­lies and ruined re­la­tion­ships for­ever.

Some peo­ple be­lieve it ex­ists so much that when one seeks med­i­cal at­ten­tion after notic­ing a swollen limb and doc­tors fail to find the cause of the swelling, they will con­clude that it is a case of witch­craft.

Cul­tural en­thu­si­ast Mr Bekezela Dube said witch­craft em­anates from envy and the fun of it.

“In a so­ci­ety, you’ll find that when a mother re­alises that her child is not as in­tel­li­gent as the child next door, she’ll look for black magic to be­witch the child so that he or she be­comes equally dull or worse. The an­cient mean­ing of ngiza­ku­lungisa is ‘I’ll be­witch you’,” said Mr Dube.

He said some prac­tise witch­craft for the fun of it, as if it is a sport. They do not prac­tise it out of envy but for the plea­sure they get after do­ing evil to oth­ers.

Mr Dube said Nde­bele cul­ture was un­for­giv­ing when it came to witch­craft. If a witch was caught, they were thrashed to death.

“We had izanuse who can be equated to present day prophets. When a witch was ex­posed, the com­mu­nity would deal with them puni­tively. Babe­m­bethela isikhonkwane aze afe. (They would even ham­mer a peg in the per­son’s but­tocks and leave him or her to die). That was be­cause a witch could have no friend. A witch is a bad per­son, a de­stroyer who de­serves no mercy,” said Mr Dube.

Witch­craft still ex­ists al­though it is dif­fi­cult to prove be­yond rea­son­able doubt.

Ac­cord­ing to the Crim­i­nal Law (Cod­i­fi­ca­tion and Re­form) Act Chap­ter 5 (6) “witch­craft” means to in­di­cate that the per­son has used, is us­ing or is likely or able to use non-nat­u­ral means to cause death or in­jury to or disease or dis­abil­ity in any per­son; or de­struc­tion or loss of or dam­age to prop­erty of any de­scrip­tion.

It may also mean a per­son is pos­sessed by a spirit which has caused, is caus­ing or is likely or able to cause death or in­jury to or disease or dis­abil­ity in any per­son; or de­struc­tion or loss of or dam­age to prop­erty of any de­scrip­tion.

Mr Fundi Mut­shimba, a vil­lage head in Lusulu, Binga nowa­days, Dis­trict, said tra­di­tional heal­ers and witch hun­ters play a piv­otal role in ad­dress­ing is­sues around witch­craft.

“We once had a prob­lem whereby peo­ple were say­ing they see ghosts at night along Lusulu Road. Witch hun­ters were called to cleanse the place and the whole vil­lage came to watch. We were shocked when they con­ducted their cleans­ing rites and a bot­tle full of money, one full of herbs and a crea­ture which looked like a hu­man being emerged. They tied the crea­ture be­fore burn­ing it,” said Mr Mut­shimba.

Witch­craft is a su­per­nat­u­ral phenomenon which is dif­fi­cult to ex­plain or com­pre­hend.

A prophet from Izithun­ywa Zenkosi Church, Mr Mil­ton Siz­iba said he has come across de­mon pos­sessed peo­ple who be­have like witches.

“There’re peo­ple pos­sessed by evil spir­its which wake them up at night, take them places away from home and use them to do witch­craft. Then there’re in­di­vid­u­als who en­joy witch­craft to the ex­tent that they nur­ture it. When we dis­cover th­ese peo­ple by means of prophecy, we cast out the demons and when the demons leave, we lead them to Christ,” said Mr Siz­iba.

“We move around vil­lages and help peo­ple who are de­mon pos­sessed. We even visit peo­ple’s homes and burn sus­pi­cious herbs and con­coc­tions if they al­low us to. We once found a crea­ture that looked like a croc­o­dile un­der a cer­tain wo­man’s bed. We burnt the crea­ture and the wo­man got saved. She con­fessed that she had been keep­ing the crea­ture as her hus­band left it with her when he died.”

Mr Siz­iba said some witch hun­ters can’t be trusted as they are witches them­selves. They are after money so they bring weird look­ing crea­tures or gob­lins with them, he said, adding that they de­ceive the peo­ple and make them be­lieve that the gob­lins have been liv­ing in the com­mu­nity.

Over the years, the church has been the go-to place for many who seek de­liv­er­ance from evil spir­its which they be­lieve tor­ment them.

Pas­tor Fidelis Mutyanda of House of Prayer Fam­ily Church said witches, tra­di­tional heal­ers and witch hun­ters are all fallen an­gels. They are like dif­fer­ent agen­cies of the devil.

“Witch­craft done by tra­di­tional heal­ers and that which is done by witches is just the same. What dif­fers is the way they work but they all prac­tise witch­craft in some way. As a church, we can only pray for such peo­ple to get saved. We don’t fo­cus on witch­craft but on right­eous­ness through Christ,” said Pas­tor Mutyanda.

He said witch hun­ters are fallen an­gels be­cause they cause di­vi­sion among peo­ple by mak­ing oth­ers seem evil. Pas­tor Mutyanda said it is the devil that comes to di­vide but God comes to save and to unite.

With the church and tra­di­tional heal­ers clutch­ing at straws over witch­craft, prov­ing that one is a witch or that they have been be­witched in a court of law is a mam­moth task.

How­ever, the coun­try’s con­sti­tu­tion has pro­vi­sions con­cern­ing witch­craft.

A lo­cal mag­is­trate who spoke on con­di­tion of anonymity said con­fess­ing to witch­craft meant noth­ing.

“The Crim­i­nal Law (Cod­i­fi­ca­tion and Re­form) Act says the mo­ment some­one says ‘I am a witch,’ it doesn’t mean any­thing. It only be­comes an of­fence when harm be­falls another per­son,” he said.

Ac­cord­ing to the Act’s Chap­ter 5 (6) any per­son who en­gages in any prac­tice know­ing that it is com­monly as­so­ci­ated with witch­craft shall be guilty of en­gag­ing in a prac­tice com­monly as­so­ci­ated with witch­craft if, hav­ing in­tended thereby to cause harm to any per­son, such prac­tice in­spires in the per­son against whom it was di­rected a real fear or be­lief that harm will oc­cur to that per­son or any mem­ber of his or her fam­ily, and be li­able to a fine not ex­ceed­ing level 10 or im­pris­on­ment for a pe­riod not ex­ceed­ing five years or both.

Sub­ject to this sec­tion, any per­son who ground­lessly or by the pur­ported use of non-nat­u­ral means ac­cuses another per­son of witch­craft shall be guilty of in­di­cat­ing a witch or wiz­ard and li­able in a case of any pur­ported use of any non-nat­u­ral means, to a fine not ex­ceed­ing level 10 or im­pris­on­ment for a pe­riod not ex­ceed­ing five years or both; in any other case, to a fine not ex­ceed­ing level six or im­pris­on­ment for a pe­riod not ex­ceed­ing one year or both.

It shall not be a de­fence to mur­der, as­sault or any other crime that the ac­cused was ac­tu­ated by a gen­uine be­lief that the vic­tim was a witch or wiz­ard, but a court con­vict­ing such per­son may take such be­lief into ac­count when im­pos­ing sen­tence upon him or her for the crime. – @cchikayi.

A witch hunter ad­dresses vil­lagers dur­ing a cleans­ing cer­e­mony in this file photo

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