Muthi murders on the rise

2011-02-05 00:00

THERE’s a growing market for human body parts, hence the discoveries of mutilated bodies in various parts of the country.

The national co-ordinator for the Traditional Healers Organisation (THO), Phephsile Maseko, said the statistics of muthi (traditional medicine) killings since 1993 have been escalating.

However, there have been no reports of sangomas or traditional healers prepared to confirm using body parts as part of making muthi.

Maseko said at a 1997 conference convened by THO at the University of Limpopo, formerly called Turfloop, victims whose ears, noses and other body parts were cut off, came forward to share their experience with the conveners of the conference. She said reports were that victims were abducted, taken to isolated places and mutilated alive with the belief that their screams of pain and agony would make the muthi more powerful. It was only a very few who lived to share their experiences with the public.

“It was surprising to discover that such horrible crimes were committed largely by the youth. We heard that they would kill mostly the not-so-good-looking old women, too dark, skinny and with long hair,” said Maseko.

She said those using body parts in their ways of “healing” are not associated with traditional healing or traditional healers, and that using body parts is not traditional healing, it is witchcraft.

KwaZulu-Natal has been in the news for a spate of killings in which the body parts of those killed have been removed in what is believed to be muthi murders, although this has not been proven in most cases.

A recent case was the discovery of the head of Siyabonga Jokweni (18) in a refrigerator in France, just outside Pietermaritzburg. Traditional healer Mduduzi Manqele and Roger Thusi have been arrested for the murder.

It was recently reported that body parts were found in a freezer in Limpopo and more cases were reported in other parts of the country.

Unreported World, a 2008 documentary by UK-based journalist Ramita Navai and produced by James Brabazon about body parts for sale, revealed how hundreds of people, including children, have been killed for body parts destined for the booming practice of traditional medicine.

The team reported on their website that muthi murders are ravaging Limpopo province with few people surviving the attacks.

They found one woman who survived by playing dead while her lips were being cut off, after she had watched her boyfriend’s mutilation and murder.

They said other villagers claimed that a mother and a son were ritually killed — the son was found hanged with his intestines ripped out — and that a pregnant woman was found with her intestines and breasts removed to supply traditional healers with ingredients.

“Umuthi is made from a combination of different plants with an intention to heal and bring about or restore life and body parts are not in the equation,” said Maseko.

A local sangoma, Busi Sibiya, said the problem is that the practice would soon blur the line between witchcraft and traditional healing.

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