Sangoma ‘curses’ horn of black rhino

2012-04-21 16:11

A sangoma from the Hluhluwe district of KwaZulu-Natal has offered to “thagati” – curse – horns hacked from a community-owned black rhino.

She says that anyone who ends up consuming powder ground from the horns will become terminally ill.

The rhino’s carcass was found on the Mduna Royal Reserve, land owned by the Ingonyama Trust and King Goodwill Zwelithini kaBhekuzulu, this week.

Mduna is operated by Thanda Private Reserve in a deal that aims to bring benefits to local communities.

Black rhino were introduced into the reserve in 2009 as part of a range expansion project, and Thanda Private Reserve MD Pierre Delvaux says a number of their offspring now belong to the community.

“We were approached in a confidential and discreet manner by a respected sangoma,” Delvaux told City Press, “and told she would like to cast an evil spell on whoever is hunting these rhinos.

“She would call upon her ancestors to ‘thagati’ the poached horn, so that anyone using the ground rhino horn powder would become ‘violently and terminally ill’,” he said.

“I don’t condone it, but the community feels very strongly about it.”

The sangoma has already visited the site and performed a ritual, Delvaux said.

She has asked to remain anonymous for her own safety as she hopes to identify the culprits.
“I was surprised by the offer, but who am I to tell her not to (take action)?” Delvaux said.

“For several years now King Zwelithini has spoken out against rhino poaching. I think members of the community are now asking what they can do to help.” Any information received from the sangoma will be passed on to police, Delvaux said.

The reserve has lost two rhinos so far – a white rhino was also recently killed.

Hector Mkhwanazi, who represents the Mdletshe Mandlakazi Community Trust, said they needed all the help they could get to protect their rhinos. The community hopes to raise funds for development from sales of the endangered black rhinos in the future.

However, “prevention is better than cure”, he says – and a better solution would be to protect the rhinos before they were killed, rather than cast a spell on the horns. “Why not get the (poacher) to fall sick before he kills the rhinos?”

Dr Jacques Flamand, project leader of the World Wildlife Fund / Ezemvelo KZN Wildlife Black Rhino Range Expansion Project, did not give much credibility to the sangoma’s claim.

In earlier industry debates about the possibility of poisoning the rhino horn, he had said that it wouldn’t “be acceptable to become murderers by proxy”.

“So although I don’t lend this claim any credibility, if there is truth in it, I still feel it wouldn’t be right to cause ill for another ill,” Flamand said. Consumers of rhino horn may be “misguided”, but those trading horn are the real criminals who “must be nailed”.

More than 180 rhino have been slaughtered in South Africa this year.

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