Polokwane - Recently empowered rural people are increasingly being accused of witchcraft by jealous neighbours, sometimes with grave consequences, Limpopo police said on Wednesday.
"Now you are a witch because you are driving a 4x4. This is the mentality that people have," said provincial police spokesperson Brigadier Hangwani Mulaudzi.
Mupala Motopela, 81, and her granddaughter, Cynthia Lemaho, 26, were stoned to death and then set alight by a mob in Maake village outside Tzaneen at the weekend after being accused of witchcraft. Lemaho is survived by two children, aged 2 and 12, who managed to escape unharmed.
Mulaudzi said this was the fourth incident in villages in Limpopo in the past three months where people were either assaulted or killed after being accused of witchcraft.
"Once people start amassing wealth, getting bigger houses and sending their children to better schools, it means you are engaging yourself in witchcraft.
"People think something is helping you do that [amass wealth] and then they accuse you of witchcraft."
Mulaudzi said this had become a real concern for people wanting to return to their villages after building better lives for themselves.
Many people who earned good money wanted to buy themselves better houses in their villages, but they were afraid of being attacked and accused of witchcraft, he said.
"It has become a challenge to people. It is really disturbing."
Stoned to death
He said the police decided to launch a massive manhunt for those responsible for the killing of Motopela and Lemaho on Sunday. First they were dragged out of the house, before being stoned to death. Their bodies were dragged back into the house and set alight.
"It is nonsensical. We still have a long way to go in educating people."
Worst was, said Muluadzi, those arrested in the Maake murders were all aged between 18 and 25.
"These are the leaders of our future. We expect them to lead a responsible life."
By Wednesday morning, nine people had been arrested.
"This must also serve as a warning to others. Enough is enough. We are not going to allow this thing to happen in the province. They must know, we will hunt them down," said Muluadzi.
"This thing is very depressing. Innocent people are losing their lives."