11 October 2012

Zimbabwe: Govt Will Not Protect People Who Use Witchcraft - Chinamasa

GOVERNMENT will not protect people who use witchcraft and other supernatural powers to harm others, a Cabinet Minister has said. Justice and Legal Affairs Minister Patrick Chinamasa said any person who could provide evidence to show that one was a witch could escape criminal prosecution. The minister said this yesterday in the Senate while responding to inquiries from Mutasa-Nyanga Senator Patrick Chitaka (MDC-T) who had asked why the Government was not repealing the Witchcraft and Suppression Act considering that the practice was rampant in the African culture.

The question was posed when Minister Chinamasa was steering for the ratification of a Swakopmund Protocol that seeks to protect traditional knowledge and medicine.

The minister said the Witchcraft and Suppression Act was repealed a long time ago and replaced by the Criminal Codification and Reform Act.

"Clearly if you point out that someone was a witch, it is defamatory.

"But if you can prove it that someone was found with a human hand that is enough proof," he said.

"If you can open a grave and eat its contents, that's enough proof."

Minister Chinamasa said witchcraft allegations have in the past divided families.

Hardworking and wealthier families, he said, have usually been the target of such allegations.

The usual allegations, he said, were that these wealthier families were using poor families to work in their fields at night.

"If you can prove that, then it is witchcraft.

"But witchcraft is not the wisdom we want to protect.

"That power to make supernatural powers to cause harm to others is not what we want to protect under traditional medical knowledge," he said.

On the Swakopmund Protocol, Minister Chinamasa said it was concluded pursuant to the mandate of the Lusaka Agreement to which Zimbabwe is a party.

The major objective of the Protocol, the minister said, was to legally protect and promote economic and social exploitation of traditional knowledge systems and expressions of folklore for the benefit of holders of such traditional knowledge and cultural expressions.

"This was borne out of the realisation that there was rampant illicit exploitation of the traditional knowledge and expression of folklore in the developing countries without any benefit accruing to the holders and owners of the knowledge," he said.

Responding to questions from the floor, Minister Chinamasa said there was a need for Zimbabwe to come up with mechanisms to protect its cultural expressions such as mbakumba and jerusalem dances.

Sen Chitaka had asked what Government was doing to reclaim cultural artifacts that were taken away by colonialists.

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