South Africa not only needs new legislation to combat witchcraft-related
crime, including muti murders, but also serious education campaigns and
initiatives, particularly in rural communities.
JOHANNESBURG - Dr Theo Petrus, a senior anthropology lecturer at the
Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University in Port Elizabeth, is one of a
growing number of academics who have called for a radical new look at
witchcraft-related crime in South Africa.
His 2009 doctoral thesis on witchcraft-related crime in the Eastern
Cape and its implications for law enforcement policy is the first of its
kind in South Africa, but he says more research is needed, especially
on how the justice system deals with such cases.
Petrus, who was approached by the Justice Department to become part
of an advisory committee to assist in a review of present witchcraft
suppression legislation, believes as many stakeholders as possible
should be involved.
He expressed concern that, instead of curbing witchcraft-related
crime, present legislation was actually contributing to an increase in
violent witch hunts and related crimes.
Such research could also shed light on the issue of the tension between state courts and traditional African courts, he said.
His study concluded that witchcraft continued to play an integral
role in the cultural interpretation of misfortune, illness and untimely
or mysterious deaths in many communities in South Africa and
particularly amongst Xhosa-speaking communities in the Eastern Cape.
Beliefs associated with witchcraft were still widespread and linked
to high frequencies of witchcraft accusations and related violence.
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