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Muti killings to be tackled

2010-02-19 20:38

Johannesburg - African traditional healers and the Gauteng government agreed on Friday to work together to stop people being killed for muti.

Participants at a seminar in Pretoria, convened by the Gauteng legislature, agreed to root out the "evil practice of mutilating human bodies for purposes of muti making.

"All participants agreed on the importance of traditional healing in the African cultural and traditional systems," provincial health portfolio committee chair, Molebatsi Bopape said.

Various traditional healers' bodies agreed to eradicate the stigma caused by the human mutilations.

Street and area committees should be revived to guard against any conduct aimed at harming young girls.

Earlier in the day, the provincial health portfolio committee proposed a code of conduct for healers.

Gauteng health sciences director Mothome Pitsi explained: "Traditional healers shall hold life dear and not use knowledge of African traditional medicines in activities that can take a patient's life".

The code should prohibit the use of psychic or divination powers to cause strife in communities.

European values

Traditional healers should also not be allowed to solicit sexual relationships with clients.

"Patients, clients and initiates [students of African traditional medicine] who are left in care of traditional healers should not be ill-treated," Pitsi said.

Practitioners should co-operate, where possible and appropriate, with other healthcare providers, traditional or orthodox, to help their patients.

Pitsi said it was still difficult for the government to establish a relationship with traditional healers, because there were many associations, organisations and individuals operating in the field.

"Lack of a dedicated budget for the programme also poses a major challenge," he said.

Speaking on behalf of the traditional healers, Solly Nduku said there should be more consultation on laws governing traditional healers.

"The government should introduce legislation that recognises the mindset of its people. It should not be based on European values," said Nduku, who is president of the National Unitary Professional Association for African Traditional Health Practitioners of SA.

The latest victim of muti killings in the province is 10-year-old Masego Kgomo of Soshanguve, Pretoria. Her badly decomposed and mutilated body was found hidden in a clump of bushes near her home. A sangoma was arrested for the murder.

Body parts

Congress of SA Students (Cosas) Soshanguve leader, Thabo Nsako, urged traditional healers at the seminar to "stop killing children for muti.

"Your duty is to protect us, not to kill us. Ancestors can never [tell] you to kill people."

He said Western countries saw the practice as witchcraft and wanted nothing to do with it because of practices such as muti-killings.

"It is your fault," he told the healers.

Nduku defended traditional healers, saying they had nothing to do with killing humans or using their body parts for healing.

"We condemned muti-murders as barbaric, inhumane and disgusting. Our practice has values. We don't require human body parts for our medicines, we use the wealth of our knowledge that is being transferred from generation to generation."

He said criminals pretending to be traditional healers were killing people.

"It is sad that the majority of the victims are defenceless women and children."

Nduku, a traditional healer since 1984, said there was no way an authentic traditional healer would kill for muti.

"The association's constitution is clear. We strive for provision of health for our people."