Gender Links (Johannesburg)

30 November 2012

South Africa: Accused of Being a Witch

In January 2012 I was in Soweto, South Africa and received a call from my children that finally the community had burned down my house. The reason is because they were accusing me of being a witch.

I returned to Mankweng village. The police advised me not to home but I just wanted to witness what had happened. It was a sad sight.

It all started when my neighbour's son got sick. His situation worsened and they accused me of bewitching him. Unfortunately, he passed on.

After the young man passed away, the community wanted to kill me, as word had spread that I had bewitched the young man. This was not true as the young man had been shot, and he died from the pain on the bullet wound. I was shocked and the community threatened to kill my family.

The accusations were stressing me out. I decided to take some time off from these accusations and went to visit some family members in Soweto. I left my children behind in Mankweng Village. My older daughter Mamike Shai came to look after her siblings.

One day they were sitting outside and a group of people came to my house with sticks and stones looking for me.

My children told them that I was out of town. They said they did not care and that would finally burn my house. They promised to come back for me. My children and grandchildren had to run for their lives.

When my children fled, the "attackers" burnt my house. My children went straight to the police station to report the case. They also called to inform me what had happened.

When I went back to Mankweng to see what had been left of my house I was hurt. We lost everything and what hurt was the fact that it was not a natural fire. The community, my own community had brought this upon me.

We have since relocated to another community because we are very scared and it is not safe for us to go back to that community. We are now staying with extended family members. I am still receiving death threats.

We opened a case against those who burnt my house. The case has taken long for justice to be delivered.

What is worse is that the accusations have now affected my family. My daughter who is in Grade 12 has stopped going to school. A group of other young children were chasing her away and called her a daughter of a witch. My daughter cannot complete her matric.

I know nothing about witchcraft and have never practiced witchcraft. I still have to pay back for the fridge and other appliances that were burnt. I am struggling to service my debt and this has changed my life. However, one day the truth will come out and people will realise that what they did to my family and me was not right. In the meantime, I'm living with my pain of being an outcast.

Belinah Shai lives in the Limpopo Province of South Africa. This story is part of the "I" Stories series produced by the Gender Links Opinion and Commentary Service for the Sixteen Days of Activism on Gender Violence.

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