5 questions about cannibalism answered

2017-08-22 14:19


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Recent reports of four men arrested in KwaZulu-Natal after allegedly eating and possibly allowing hundreds more to eat human flesh have sparked renewed interest in the practice of cannibalism. Why do people do it? Is cannibalism a crime? When is it acceptable to eat human flesh? Here are all your questions answered.

Why do people eat human flesh?

According to Prof. Gérard Labuschagne, clinical psychologist and former Head of the SAPS’ specialised Investigative Psychology Section (IPS), people who eat human flesh in his experience usually have mental health problems. Although it’s difficult to say in this instance without all the facts being available, Labuschagne says a person accused of eating human flesh usually experienced some sort of psychotic episode, which could include hallucinations where the perpetrator heard voices or saw images. “In my experience, it usually has nothing to do with muti rituals, as is often believed,” he says.

Is it a crime to eat human flesh?

There is no criminal charge for eating human flesh, but the National Health Act clearly stipulates that it is illegal to be in possession of any human tissue unless authorised by the relevant person or institution, says Labuschagne. In addition, the desecration or mutilation of a corpse is a criminal act and the means of acquiring any body parts can, of course, also be criminal. In other words, if someone killed a person to eat his flesh, he may be charged with murder and the desecration of a corpse. If he stole the body parts he may be charged with theft.

Is it socially acceptable to eat human flesh?

In most cultures, the eating of human flesh is completely taboo. However, in some places it has become fashionable for mothers to eat their own placenta after childbirth, a practice known as “placentophagy”. According to WebMD the placenta is sometimes cooked after the umbilical cord and membrane is removed and oftentimes converted into pills. Celebrities like January Jones, Kourtney Kardashian and Katherine Heigl are reported to have ingested their placentas after giving birth, citing health benefits for mother and baby.

What other cases of cannibalism in South Africa are there?

In June 2014, News24 reported Zimbabwean national, 35-year-old Andrew Chimboza, was arrested in Cape Town for the murder of Mbuyiselo Manona (62). While appearing in the court, Chimboza admitted to stabbing Manona in the chest after Manona accused him of sleeping with his girlfriend. After stabbing him multiple times, Chimboza cut out his heart and ate it with a knife and fork. During his trial he admitted that he went too far.

In April 2001 police swooped on a house in the Nkonka Reserve in KwaZulu-Natal and caught local resident, 35-year-old Patrick Msane, eating human flesh, after they received a telephone call from a member of the public who reported the matter, IOL reported. The body was cut up and cooked in a three legged pot.

Other famous cannibals?

German computer technician Armin Meiwes became internationally known when he killed and ate a voluntary victim and videotaped the incident. Meiwes and the victim first attempted to eat the man’s severed penis, after which the Metzgermeister or Master Butcher, as he was called in the press, killed the man and then ate him. Meiwes was arrested in December 2002, when a college student in Innsbruck phoned the police after seeing new advertisements for victims and details about the killing on the Internet, according to Wikipedia. Police searched his home, and found body parts and the videotape of the killing. He was sentenced to eight years in prison for manslaughter. During his trial he said he had always dreamt of having a younger brother – “someone to be part of me" – and became fascinated with cannibalism as a way to fulfil his obsession, Der Spiegel reported.

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