Questions emerge over reality of witchcraft

FEATURE – After a Murehwa woman who allegedly flew from her rural home in a winnowing basket to bewitch a relative in Highfields was convicted by a Harare magistrate, questions have emerged over reality of witchcraft in society.

The mere mention of witchcraft is sure to steer lots of debate within the intellectual and religious sections. While enlightenment and the advancement in technology had led many people into believing that the era of miracles and witchcraft had gone by and belief in those was mere superstition, events on the ground have torn apart science books and left many intellectuals baffled.

While those events have been reported on different parts of the world, it is another thing to wake up and find someone who profess to be a witch, stark naked and right on your doorstep.

Such is what happened to one Highfields family last month. The woman who was later convicted by a Harare magistrate on her own plea and sentenced to a wholly suspended sentence of 12 months in prison said she had flown from Murehwa in a winnowing basket to bewitch her Highfields relative.

Traditionally, those caught in the act were normally punished instantly by having a nail drilled onto their heads which led to their death, but the Highfields man says, he understands that one can be used by others and has since forgiven the witching relative.

Traditional healers say acts of witchcraft involve lots of magic that can not be proven by any court. But why is witchcraft always associated with women? Apparently, if it is a man, he is called a wizard but it seems even the English vocabulary seems to acknowledge that females practice this evil. For example, a n’anga is even called a witch-doctor and not a wizard-doctor.

The traditional healers say men who are married to witches are normally left at night sleeping in the company of a mortar (duri) in Shona, a snake, or other objects and it is rare for these men to wake up until the witching wife returns from her errands.

According to specialists it is difficult for a person to prove whether one is a witch or not. This explains why prosecution of such cases must be done with the help of traditional leaders such as chiefs and traditional healers.

But can someone be freed from the spirit of witchcraft? According to some from the Vapostori sect, cleansing of witchcraft is very possible especially if someone commits his or her life to God.

Some say acts of witchcraft can be inherited and a person can be a witch or a wizard at a very tender age.

The prosecution of those who practice witchcraft remain very complex despite the relevant act having been amended.

The Witchcraft Suppression Act was always a source of dispute as many felt that the law clearly rejected the existence of witchcraft even if somebody openly admitted to practice the evil.

These complaints led to the Act being amended in 2004 leading to the courts being empowered to prosecute those who practice witchcraft under Section 98 (1) of the Criminal Law Codification and Reform Act of 2004. But what should be done to those caught in the act?

People have their own opinions.

Reports of witchcraft practices took centre stage in the media when a Goromonzi teenager of Chabwino bit and swallowed part of a corpse’s nose in a bizarre case that left the Chabwino community shocked.

The case was brought before Chief Chinamhora.

Several cases of witchcraft have been reported in both the print and the electronic media and probably it was one reason the Witchcraft Suppression Act was amended.

While people may debate what can be done to the witches and whether the practice is right or wrong, what is clear now is that witchcraft is not an uncivilised superstitious belief but is real, and people can really fly.

The question that remains is that, since the winnowing baskets require no fuel, can’t those flights be commercialised and generate revenue for the country? The complication could be that, the passengers need to be naked!