The only witchcraft we’re pretty much familiar with is basically from the Harry Potter
series. Apparently, some parts of the world still practice this ancient ritual. The most disturbing part of it though is that a number of witchdoctors practice their craft by using body parts of people who have Albinism especially children. The rise of cases of Albino children being used for witchcraft is quite prevalent in African countries such as Malawi
Image: Citizen TV
In Southern African traditions, there are three classifications of a person who uses magic. The first is called the “thakathi” which means witch, a spiteful person who carries out his or her magic in secret with the intention to harm others. The second type is the “sangoma” – a diviner or shaman who has the abilities akin to a fortune-teller who are most often employed to help detect illness, predict or advise on a person’s future, identify a guilty party in a crime, and also practice medicine but only to a certain degree. Last but not least, is the “inyanga”, or known as the witchdoctor. His job is to heal illness and injury by using herbalism, naturopathy, and providing customers with ‘magical’ items for everyday use. Among the most popular rituals practice for centuries is voodoo – the act of affecting someone through spiritual possession and black magic.
Under the Witchcraft Suppression Act of 1957
, it is actually illegal for any South Africans to practice any activities related to witchcraft, witch-hunting or use a witch-finder to identify witches and wizards, and to employ anyone who has the knowledge of witchcraft to cause intentional harm and damage. If the person convicted is found guilty, he or she could be jailed up to 20 years or fined R500 (RM133.74). Despite this law, many South Africans still practice witchcraft either openly or secretly.
conducted by Under The Same Sun showed that more than half of the citizens from four countries (Tanzania, Mali, Senegal, and South Africa) have a strong belief that sacrifices to spirits and ancestors can protect them from harm. The sacrifices may include human and animal form. The highest country with this belief is Tanzania with 60%.
Albinos have been sought after for witchcraft for many years but since the attacks and murders were recorded since a decade ago; this issue has managed to gain worldwide attention. According to the UN, the most dangerous country for Albinos is Tanzania. Since 2006, 156 Albinos have been attacked, mutilated or killed in the country. The actual number is thought to be significantly higher because many attacks were not reported. One in 20,000 children is born with Albinism worldwide. In Tanzania, the country with the highest rate of albinism in the world, the number is estimated to be one in 1,400.
An Tanzanian Albino survivor. (Image: Armin Smailovic/Agentur Focus)
So, what has the Tanzanian government been doing? To date, they have arrested
over 200 witchdoctors that were linked to the Albino murders. Earlier this year, 19 people
were sentenced to death after being convicted of killing the Albinos. Last year, four men and a witchdoctor were also sentenced to death after being found guilty of killing
an Albino teenager. Apart from imposing heavier punishments, the government and the society are joining hands in combating the attacks and killings through special concerts, radio and TV programs.
Image: Malawi Tourism Guide
Malawi also has their share of gory attacks and killings of Albinos. Recent reports
indicated that there was an increase in the number of attacks towards Albinos in Malawi since late 2014. The surge in missing people or killings of people with Albinism has prompted Amnesty International to call for the Malawian government to help put an end
to this killing spree.
The reason their body parts are highly sought after by witchdoctors is because it is believed
that it brings wealth, happiness, and good luck. The most ridiculous reason would be that their bones are claimed
to contain gold. There is no scientific research so far indicating that gold exists in our bones let alone any part of the human body, but try telling that to those guys.
Image: Armin Smailovic/Agentur Focus
It’s no wonder that a lot of people including their own relatives or parents would be willing to kill Albinos as their body parts comes with a hefty price tag. The Daily Mail reported that the internal organs costs around £65,000 (RM376,433.03) and their whole body can fetch up to £130,000 (RM752,866.06) ! Considering the weak currency of South Africans, after converting the money, they could literally be overnight millionaires. The rituals have changed rapidly over the years. A few decades ago, just the hair, fingernails, and urine of Albinos were already sufficient.
Amnesty International has reported
that since November 2014, at least 18 people were killed and at least five were abducted and remain missing. According to the human rights group, April 2016 saw the most bloodshed – four people with Albinism were murdered including a 2-year-old baby.
So, how bad is this issue? Horrifying details of the murders have surfaced through this report
. A woman was mutilated while riding her bicycle to seek medical help and they later found her body where her breasts were cut out and her eyes gouged. Another case was a 9-year-old boy was snatched from his home and found a week later at a neighbouring village where police found his severed head.
Image: Armin Smailovic/Agentur Focus
According to Malawian police, over 69 crimes against Albinos have been documented since November 2014. However, Amnesty International has found that due to the lack of resources, such as transport, timely response towards reported crimes, and stationing police in districts with high numbers of attacks, the police lack adequate training and skills needed to investigate such crimes. Apart from that, some of the police officers also hold prejudice against Albino people. The Director of Public Prosecutions also admitted to Amnesty International that the police prosecutors are not well educated with the relevant laws on how to deal with crimes against Albinos. It is concluded that because of these weaknesses and loopholes in the government and police system, they have failed to protect their Albino citizens through their policies.
A Malawian mother protecting her Albino child. (Image: Independent)
Every day, between 7,000 to 10,000 Malawian Albinos suffer from discrimination and fear of being abducted or killed. We hope that the Malawian government will find a way to solve this issue or at least reduce the number of attacks and killings through a systematic and effective policy. Perhaps they could look up to Tanzania for guidance and help.
Experiencing an attack and surviving it must be a traumatic experience for the survivors. Some Albino Malawians and their parents have spoken up about it as well as their experience living in fear via this documentary by Amnesty International.
Although we live in a modern world, we have to understand that certain countries still practice witchcraft to certain extremes. They see it as part of their culture. But the killings of Albinos for the sake of finding wealth, happiness, and good luck have gone too far. This inhumane practice needs to be ceased immediately. You can help make a difference by signing this petition
to help stress the Malawian government to put an end to this issue.