4 June 2018

Swaziland in Fear of Witches

opinion

Police in Swaziland fired rubber bullets and teargas to keep a 'mob' of 200 people from attacking an elderly women they accused of practising witchcraft.

It was one of many cases in the kingdom where people have reacted in fear against supposed witched.

It happened at Esthomo, a squatter camp near Malkerns, after the 66-year-old woman, her husband and an assistant, were alleged to have performed a 'ritual.'

Both of Swaziland's two national daily newspapers published detailed accounts of the attack. The Swazi Observer reported on Friday (1 June 2018) 200 community members turned violent and 'bayed for blood'.

The Observer reported that a woman neighbour described as a 'prophet' had a 'vision' that something was not right at the compound where they lived. The newspaper reported she went to investigate and found one of them 'performing a ritual involving sprinkling water in between the litany of stick and mud houses that complete the compound'. The prophet raised the alarm and woke other residents.

The Times of Swaziland reported a resident saying the elderly woman was seen half-naked and carrying a bucket.

The Observer reported at least one hut was set on fire. It added, 'According to a source close to the matter, the mob made it clear that they were after the old woman as they alleged it was not the first time she performed her witchcraft acts around the compound.'

The Observer reported a source saying, 'The community members wanted to kill the suspected witches.'

The newspaper said police arrived 'armed to the teeth' and rescued the woman.

The Times reported that she was taken to Malkerns Police Station and residents were asked to go to the station to make statements. It added that police told residents that the elderly woman would be released and allowed home.

It quoted a source saying, 'The community members responded by protesting at the police station and by the public road. As they were becoming rowdy by throwing rubbish on the public road while singing protest songs, the police fired several teargas canisters and rubber bullets to disperse them.'

It added, 'After being dispersed by the police, the sources said the community members regrouped later on and stormed the elderly woman's home where they allegedly attacked her husband. They also vandalised property, including their bedroom.

'Meanwhile, the sources revealed that some community members rolled big logs of fallen trees to the road leading to the woman's home in a bid to block the police cars from reaching the place.

'Later on, the sources said the police arrived and rescued the man from the crowd by firing more teargas canisters and rubber bullets towards the crowd. Thereafter, the man was also taken to the police station.'

Chief Police Information and Communications Officer Superintendent Khulani Mamba confirmed the incident and said the police were investigating.

Fear of witchcraft is widespread throughout Swaziland and there are many cases of suspected witches being attacked and even killed.

In January 2018 a mob cracked open the skull of a 27-year-old man killing him at Dlangeni in Hhukwini Inkhundla. He was hacked with bush knives after being accused of being a wizard.

In February 2018, the Swazi High Court was reportedly 'in panic' when an owl was seen in the building in daylight. 'The bird drew the attention of everyone who came to court, more so because it is known of its bad omen and some Swazis associate it with witchcraft,' the Swazi Observer reported at the time. The Times of Swaziland reported, 'Chairman of the Witchdoctors Association Makhanya Makhanya, dismissed claims that the owl was just flying by like any other bird.'

Also in February 2018, two schools separately were 'gripped' by fears of witchcraft, according to the Times of Swaziland. The schools were St Michael's, based in the kingdom's hub and Enthandweni Primary, near Sikhuphe in the Lubombo.

The newspaper reported, 'At St Michael's High School, a prayer session was quickly convened after a pile of sand with a substance, which looked like vomit, was discovered in one of the offices under one of the cabinets, while at Enthandweni primary, some teachers are uncomfortable after seeing their head teacher, a self-confessed Zionist, dressed in her church garb, walking past the school to her place of abode.

'What further has the teachers in jitters was the discovery of a white substance at the doorstep to one of the classrooms.'

It reported Makhanya, Chairman of the Witchdoctors Association, 'noted that something was amiss'.

It added, 'Starting with Enthandweni Primary, Makhanya said the discovery of the whitish substance means that the teachers suspect one another of practising witchcraft. "Some believe that salt can be used to neutralise muti while some believe that they would be cleansed by sprinkling chicken blood."

'He said these rituals were usually performed after people had consulted witchdoctors who would advise them on what to do after liaising with ancestors.

Makhanya said it should be noted that sometimes witchdoctors were economical with the truth and this resulted in people getting into conflicts.'

Swaziland

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