Sekuru Banda confronts albinism
IF THEY are not being accused of bringing bad luck to families, they are being persecuted while in other countries witchdoctors use their body parts for ritual purposes. Life as a person with albinism is often not rosy and for 62-year-old Stephen Nyamapfeka, siring four children with albinism, including twins, exposed him to vicious verbal attacks from relatives before he finally decided to abandon his rural home in Hurungwe.
He now lives in a rented two-roomed house in Harare’s Hatcliffe area.
Nyamapfeka and his 40-year-old wife Seni are parents to seven children.
“People associate albinism with bad luck so I was insulted by my relatives. As a result I had to leave Hurungwe to come and stay here in Hatcliffe where we use just two rooms with all my children,” said the grey-haired Nyamapfeka.
“My relatives accused me of witchcraft, vanoti ndakaromba but I think God has a plan for my children with albinism,” he said.
According to social scientists, persecution of people with albinism is based on the belief that their body parts can transmit magical powers.
Such belief is widespread in East Africa, mainly Tanzania. In Southern Africa, ritual killings of people with albinism is common in Malawi and Mozambique.
But, is there any link between albinism, witchcraft and bad luck?
Popular traditional healer Sekuru Kamwelo Banda, who has launched a programme to assist people living with albinism across the country, kickstarting it with sourcing goods worth R10 million, said there is absolutely no link.
“The traditional healers using people with albinism for ritual purposes should be arrested. There is no link whatsoever,” he said.
“Albinism comes from God, it is not related to bad luck. These people are just as normal as any other people with ordinary skin pigmentation.
“Their only problem is that they are badly affected by the sun, hence this R10 million initiative to source sunscreen creams and other goodies from South Africa. This programme is going national, we want to assist people with albinism,” Sekuru Banda said.
The flamboyant Sekuru Banda, who represents a new brand of traditional healers, also donated a range of sunscreen creams and foodstuffs to the Nyamapfeka family.
According to the Zimbabwe Albino Association, there are over 39 000 people with albinism in the country and they face various problems ranging from stigma and discrimination.
“We (people living with albinism) face stigma from the family level. There’s no love from the family and remember long back a child with albinism would be killed at birth but we are glad that this practice has since ceased.
“Albinism usually causes divorces, we grew up in broken homes because the mother who would have given birth to a child with albinism was chased away.
“So, to have people like Sekuru Banda, a traditional healer for that matter, taking the initiative to assist people with albinism is highly commended,” said Ms Mercy Maunganidze, Zimbabwe Albino Association director.
“A lot of mystery is associated with albinism to the extent that some believe having sex with a person with albinism cures HIV/AIDS,” said Ms Maunganidze.
Albinism is a rare group of genetic disorders that cause the skin, hair, or eyes to have little or no colour. Scientists say a defect in one of the several genes that produces or distributes melanin causes albinism.
Sekuru Banda (right) donates goods to the Nyamapfeka family