My heart bleeds for Africa. A continent so endowed with natural and human resources, yet its people carry out some of the most savage, barbaric and cruel acts against each other. I’m by no means saying Africa is worse than any other continent when it comes to cowardly acts of barbarism, but I will speak of Africa in this instance because it is the only home I know.
In South Africa, hardly a week passes without a report of a violent killing, mostly related to rituals and these have come to be known as muti or ritual murders.
Loosely put, a muti murder is the killing of a person in order to get body parts to use as medicine. And, believe it or not, in today’s world there are people who believe in such a practice. Blood-curdling and chilling stories are reported far too often in the South Africa media. Turning to the news channel becomes a dreaded act.
In August 2014, a 10-year-old girl in Cape Town was murdered; her body dismembered and packed in a suitcase under a bed in her grandfather’s house. During the same period, a woman was found in the Kwa-Zulu Natal province of South Africa with her head cut off. Six people, including a traditional healer, were arrested for this grisly murder.
Earlier this year, the widely reported muti murder of Mercy Ndou in the Limpopo province of South Africa heightened the need for authorities and communities to curb this ferocious crime. Again, a traditional healer from the same province, Nelson Baloyi, and a close family member of Mercy’s were arrested on for her murder. Her body was found with parts missing.
As explained by investigators of this crime, the victims die a painful and horrific death, with body parts cut out while they are still alive, as this is believed to make the muti more powerful. In the case of Mercy, her eyes were gouged out, her tongue was cut off, both her breasts were removed, her internal organs were missing, and her private parts and buttocks were severed, indicating that she suffered the most excruciating death.
On 23 August 2014, the South African Police Commissioner, General Riah Phiyega, condemned the rise of muti killings in South Africa: “These matters (of muti murders) can no longer be swept under the carpet and kept secret,” she said.
Phiyega added that there was need for a deliberate approach and research on the beliefs that body parts harvested through a particular process and from selected victims could enhance health, strength, wealth or power.
It is a little comforting that traditional health practitioners from Limpopo, under the umbrella of the SADC Unified Ancestors Traditional Practitioners’ Association, have spoken strongly against the use human tissue as medicine.
According to research by the Human Rights League in Mozambique and Childline South Africa, one in fivepeople in South Africa's rural areas has had first-hand experience of a human body part being trafficked after a muti killing – an obscene statistic.
South Africa is not the only country where muti murders are rife. Tanzania has been battling with the murders of albinos, to provide supposedly potent body parts. Pockets of other communities in Africa are also fighting this gruesome and senseless crime.
There needs to be massive education, especially of traditional leaders and community leaders, about ritual murders. Above, all there should be continuous naming and shaming of the perpetrators of these crimes. In 2014, it is almost unfathomable that we’re still discussing ritual murders.Post published in: News