The SANAC Traditional Health Practitioners (THP) Sector urges government and stakeholders to take immediate steps in creating and supporting awareness to end gender-based violence (GBV) in the form of murder and assault against women suspected of practising witchcraft. The THP Sector is concerned that despite the rise in media reports over the past years, loss of life and disruption of social fibre, the issue has received no serious intervention or attention at any level of government except to be left in the overwhelmed hands of SAPS.
With the growing and evolving discourse on GBV in South Africa, and the tension between traditional practices and gender equality, the THP sector has observed that women and children in rural communities are at risk. There is a lack of adequate awareness or action to end the brutal violence and to sensitise communities. The attacks often target elderly women many of whom are facing health-related ailments but also, other vulnerable groups that are frail and improvised. The justice system is likely to fail them because of their social standing and intersection economic factors. The consequences include disruption of family structures, women suspected of practising witchcraft are forced to flee their residence, stigma, and discrimination and femicide. The majority of cases are reported to take place in rural and informal settlements, particularly in the Eastern Cape.
In July 2020, three women in Embihli Village in Sterkspruit Eastern Cape were shot dead and a fourth hospitalised after being accused of witchcraft. In March 2020 it was reported that a 35-year-old man was arrested for the brutal murder of an 83- year-old woman who was burnt alive in Majuba village. The group also attacked the woman’s 23-year-old grandchild. December 2018, an elderly woman was been burnt to death at Brooksneck Village, also in the Eastern Cape. It’s alleged that the 75-year-old woman was accused of practising witchcraft. While some cases are reported to the media, it is uncertain the frequency of incidences.
The killings are often based on misconceptions about traditional health practices, traditional rituals, stereotypes, and a false sense of mob justice and self-protection and self-preservation. As a consequence, violent behaviour becomes an acceptable outlet in communities. Witches are believed to have the capacity to cause an array of socio-psychological misfortunes. In Africa those accused of being witches often face execution.
Solly Nduku, Sector leader stated, “These murders do not only affect the targeted individuals but also young people who are often left displaced, traumatised without any form of support from their communities.”
The THP Sector proposes investment in awareness campaigns in the Eastern Cape and other provinces. There is a need for research to understand these incidences, the reasons why they occur, and frequency. There is a need to intensify the protection of women in communities and this includes protection against GBV and improvement of case outcome for survivors of rape. Programming on GBV is less prominent in rural areas and there is need to expand and consider other nuances that motivate GBV.
Issued by The SANAC Traditional Health Practitioners