Witchcraft, says baby's mom

2003-06-08 09:03

Johannesburg - A young mother watched helplessly as a baboon snatched and ripped open the skull of her only child and ate his brain. She believes the rare incident must be related to witchcraft.

Lettie Goitsimang Tukane, 34, told City Press the baboon sank its powerful canines into the skull of her three-month-old son, removed the brain, climbed up a telephone pole and ate the brain before fleeing into nearby bushes.

The bizarre and tragic incident occurred at a cattle post in the remote North West village of Madipelesa outside Pampierstad, where Tukane and fiancé Oupa Goeiman live.

Tukane said her son Neo was sleeping in a bed in one of the rooms while she was busy washing dishes in another room when she heard his screams.

She said when she rushed outside she saw a huge baboon carrying Neo under one of its arms. She tried to scare it off, but the baboon was aggressive and it wanted to attack her too.

"It happened so quickly that by the time neighbours came and threw stones and set dogs on it, it had already eaten the brain and scuttled into the bush. I could not believe my eyes when I picked up Neo.

"He was still breathing and his skull was opened and he was bleeding profusely," said Tukane.

She said Neo was her only child and she hoped he would live because her other children died of natural causes before they reached one year.


The incident, the first of its kind in the area, has shocked people in the North West, especially in the areas of Seoding, Sekhing, Madipelesa and Pampierstad.

Petrus Malgas, who tried to help rescue little Neo, told City Press that when he and other neighbours threw stones at the baboon, it climbed up the telephone pole and ate the child's brain before it fled into the bush.

Saomeng Phalatse of Sekhing said the whole episode boiled down to witchcraft, because it was unheard of that a baboon would eat a human being.

"Although some people with western beliefs do not believe it, we know for a fact that African chemistry works in these areas.

"A few years ago in Taung an inyanga, through her medicines, caused a young man to find himself with his bed and all on the top of his roof.

"The incident was even shown on Bop TV. Why should we not believe Tukane was bewitched?" said Gomotseng Badirwang, clutching her two-month-old baby.

North West senior environmental officer Richard Gasealahwe said chacma baboons were prevalent in the area, including at the Blue Pool heritage site near Buxton in Taung.


Gasealahwe dismissed suggestions of witchcraft, saying the baboon might have thought the child was one of the small goats which Goeiman kept in one of the rooms at the cattle post.

"The area is teeming with chacma baboons, which are normally tame. However, when they are very hungry they become aggressive and they eat small goats, starting with the brain.

"They also rip off and eat the goats' udders and would also go to residential areas looking for food," Gasealahwe.

William Mekgwe of Nature Conservation said the baboon that killed little Neo was an old male which had been rejected by the troop.

He said they had arranged with their problem animal control unit to trap the baboon because it would go back to the house again, hoping to get small goats.