THE law is silent about witchcraft yet people believe that it exists and is affecting them on a daily basis.
In Zimbabwe for example, many people believe that their lives are in one way or the other being tampered with through witchcraft.
People are losing their wealth, beasts, goats and cash through community cleansing activities, like through tsikamutandas, other traditional healers and prophets.
In our last edition we carried a story of a tikoloshe (goblin) referred to as Maqobola that apparently had been terrorising Cowdray Park residents for the past few weeks.
The violent tikoloshe allegedly raped women, pelted residents with stones and broke window panes.
Sources from the suburb mentioned they’d referred to the goblin as Maqobola, which is IsiNdebele for “hit with an object like a stone.”
Residents were reported to have heaved a huge sigh of relief when they hired a renowned tikoloshe slayer called Siziba, who apparently managed to capture the menacing goblin. Siziba then announced to everyone that the problem was gone and Cowdray Park would for the first time in a long time, know peaceful sleep again.
The cleansing ceremony which left people with divergent opinions came at a time when Zimbabweans have been pressing for the amendment of the Witchcraft Suppression Act so that the country could recognise the existence of this phenomenon which was made illegal by colonial governments.
Unlike the British-American books and film series that paint witchcraft with a rainbow brush, the practice is widely frowned upon in Zimbabwe.
People feel it is high time the constitution of the country does something about witchcraft because of all the stories around like people seen with goblins, naked and performing unfamiliar rituals and some killing each other on allegations of bewitching one other.
Some feel that witchcraft is of the spiritual world, and no earthly law can stop or regulate it unless spiritual means are employed. This gives rise to the question of how the so called n’angas and prophets who see beyond the naked eye are important in the present day society.
The Witchcraft Suppression Act was enacted in 1899 by white colonial settlers who, being ignorant of African culture and tradition, downplayed the existence of witchcraft. According to this Act, it was a criminal offence to brand anyone a witch or wizard or to accuse someone of meddling in the supernatural, even in cases where tangible evidence existed that he practised witchcraft.
There is no doubt that by rejecting the existence of witchcraft, the white settlers managed to destroy one of the tenets of African traditional beliefs, thereby disenfranchising blacks of their religious bed-rock.
But what is witchcraft and how one is inducted into it, one might ask. The Advanced Learners Dictionary describes witchcraft as the use of magic powers, especially evil ones, to attain specific goals.
Within the African context, particularly in Zimbabwe, there is consensus of opinion among traditionalists that witchcraft is passed from one individual to the other in the form of an evil spirit (shavi/idlozi).
Although the generality of Zimbabwean people view witchcraft as a serious crime and are calling courts of law to impose stiffer sentences on alleged witches and wizards it is very difficult if not altogether impossible in the absence of empirical evidence to convince a modern court of law that one’s neighbour is witch or wizard.