Monday, July 03, 2006

Witchcraft ban lifted in Zim

Actually, the headline is misleading.
Using traditional ceremonies was allowed under the Smith regieme, as was the association of N'gangas.
(Photo from meeting of Traditional Medicine association, taken in 1978).

What was forbidden was accusing someone of witchcraft, which is NOT the same thing...
You see, in traditional medicine, you got sick because of the spirits.
So you went to a N'ganga who "diagnosed" you...which is why they are called "witchdoctors" i.e. those who diagnose witchcraft, rather than "medicine men" or shamans..

Often you are sick because you mistreated someone, and needed to reconcile with them. OR maybe you mistreated someone who died, such as your mother...and so a ceremony was held.
But sometimes there was a witch in the area making people sick.
And that person would be poisoned, beaten to death, or cast out of the village...

This has nothing to do with the myths of western was and is a real problem.

And witches are evil people who sometimes do exist. We did have cases of poisoning...I treated one gentleman, and sent him home, and he was repoisoned two weeks later...or one would hear stories of snakes being released into houses...

Similarly, those who prescribe herbs to cause abortion are considered witches...

There are also people who seek out witches to get power. Think of Santara or voodoo. They will hold a ceremony and kill an animal to the spirit, asking that the spirit do something, usually make a business successful.

Since Bantu custom frowns on greed and being richer/above other people, rich business is frowned upon as a bit evil (in the same way socialists see businesspeople as evil because they exploit and cheat poor people)...

The bad news is that if animals aren't strong enough, it has been known that children will be sacrificed...I didn't run into any cases in Zimbabwe, but I know of cases of mutilated boys found in Liberia when I worked there...

One reason I suspect for this law is to get support from those with traditional beliefs.
Another reason I suspect it is being done is to weaken the influence of the Catholic and Anglican churches that oppose Mugabe.
A third reason is that people suffering from HIV frequently resort to traditional healing, including the witchcraft type of healing...the report of children and babies raped in South Africa by people seeking to be cured of HIV is one manifestation of such desperation.

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