Witchcraft: The law vs beliefs
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