Witchcraft, being a practice of black magic (also referred to as voodoo or juju), has distinctive components within it-sorcery and the use of spells and divination. Divination translates into an invocation of spirits.
A spate of horrific murders of witchcraft suspects has lately rocked the nation. Neno and Chiradzulu districts, among others, have made front-page news over such horrendousness. Mostly women or the elderly have been on the receiving end of such insinuations.
But is witchcraft real? Or is it just a pervasive outlook on things natural and supernatural? Whatever arguments, recorded events portray otherwise.
The ‘early modern period’ or time spanning from the 1400s to the 1700s saw the emergence of classical witch-hunts across ‘early modern Europe’ and colonial North America.
Because there were provisional laws that allowed for it, witch-hunts and subsequently witch-trials became prominent; but would gradually die-down into the 18th Century.
The Kingdom of Great Britain for instance, scraped witchcraft from its laws with the ‘Witchcraft Act’ of 1735, barring any person from accusing another, or practising witchcraft itself.
But like moles from the underground, witch-hunts have resurfaced, and are spreading across sub-Saharan Africa like cancerous cells.
Just to cite a few incidents in these regions, elderly people have been attacked and burnt to death. Accused young children have been abandoned by own families. In some cases, witchcraft suspects have been locked in detention and forced to drink hazardous hallucinogenic concoctions.
Reasons for this resurgence in witch-hunts could vary. It could be frustration boiling over inequality. It could also be just an attempt by the disenfranchised perpetrators to stamp authority where they themselves feel oppressed.
Witch-hunting means a search for people labelled ‘witches’ or evidence of witchcraft. In the African context, it is often led by a witchdoctor.
It cannot be overemphasised that superstitious notions are widespread among us. Our society deeply obsesses over the idiom of witchcraft. Witchcraft is thereby strongly feared. This is a result of the perception that the metaphysical forces (both negative and positive), control all happenings in the world.
Furthermore, hatred for witches is compounded by the fact that witches belong to evil spirits that cause misfortunes. Superstitiously then, any sudden illness, unexplained death or suspicious accident, is all attributed to witchcraft. That fuels fear or mass panic. Thus witches are fervently detested, becoming targets for termination.
Mob justice has prevailed in the absence of legal means to address the situation. Our laws do not recognise witchcraft. That vacuum provides room for the accuser to play both plaintiff and judge, or prosecutor and executioner.
It is strange that while the law criminalises persons found accusing others of witchcraft, it is silent on the alleged witchcraft suspect. On what base then is that criminal offence erected?
While safe-guarding lives of those allegedly accused, let there be concession for the accuser`s concerns as well. That law should not seem to be protective of witches.
Arguably, the law could be amended to take on board witchcraft. But that undoubtedly would cause more perplexity. A court of law operates on credible evidence. Witchcraft is invisible. Only magic practitioners can decipher of its elements.
Political leadership needs to deal with the ‘witch saga’ with urgency. It is a poison threatening lives. Some people have falsely been accused-and the only crime they committed being advanced age, sadly.
Were we a developed State, we would have had established institutions caring for the elderly. But that vision is far-fetched. If we are feeding on maize bran for survival, can we then afford such institutions?
What we have witnessed lately, is just kindling for a bigger fire to explode. We neglect this vortex at our own peril. Witchcraft is real. It is evil and retrogressive to our economy. n