Thursday, July 30, 2009
Zimbabwe outllaws witch craft and Witch Flies 75 miles in a winnowing basket
There are two articles here of interest -
Zimbabwe outlaws practise of witchcraft
By Lebo Nkatazo
Last updated: 04/14/2009
ZIMBABWE has outlawed the practise of witchcraft following a raft of amendments to legislation drawn up by the former colonial regime.
From July this year, witchcraft will be a criminal offence punishable by a fine or a five-year jail term, the country's Justice Minister Patrick Chinamasa said.
Until President Robert Mugabe assented to the amendments last week, Zimbabwe's Witchcraft Suppression Act, a holdover from the colonial era, made it illegal to call anyone a witch, meaning nearly all cases went unreported.
The police were also powerless to act, and just recently, the country's chief police spokesman said it was next to impossible to prove that one was a witch.
"Witchcraft is not an area that lends itself to police scrutiny," said Wayne Budzijena, the Zimbabwe Republic Police spokesman. "How do you verify an evil spell? This is a matter of spiritual faith, not a matter of empirical evidence."
Justice Minister Patrick Chinamasa told state media at the weekend that Part VI of Chapter V of the Witchcraft Suppression Act had been amended and the amendments would come into effect on July 1, 2006.
He said: "President Mugabe has assented to the amendments and criminals will be charged for breaching certain sections of the Act as from July this year."
The new laws make it a criminal offence to hire a witch or assist in the commission of witchcraft, but also provides protection for people "groundlessly" accused of practising witchcraft.
The 50 000-member Zimbabwe National Traditional Healers Association has been instrumental in forcing the change in law.
Gordon Chavunduka, chairman of the association said: "Witchcraft and tokoloshis (demons and their gremlin-like henchmen, ankle-high creatures) are making a comeback. It's obvious the cause is economic. The worse the economy gets, the more political tension there is in society, the more frustrated and frightened people get. They turn to witchcraft to gain riches or to hurt their enemies."
In January this year, a top High Coutrt judge urged the Zimbabwe government to ease colonial era restrictions on the practice of witchcraft.
Justice Maphios Cheda, opening the new judicial year, said: "The strongly held conviction of belief in witchcraft and traditional healers ... cannot be wished away.
"We should amend the century-old Witchcraft Suppression Act in keeping with the popular thinking and beliefs of the majority in this country."
Although many highly educated Zimbabweans tend not to believe in such phenomena, they acknowledge the belief is part of their cultural background.
"I've never seen a tokoloshi, I've never had a tokoloshi attack me, but I've heard all the stories like everyone else," said Professor Welshman Ncube, a constitutional law scholar. "I don't believe or disbelieve. It's difficult for outsiders to understand, but African daily life relies heavily on the spirit world, for good or evil."
The amended Part VI of Chapter V of the Witchcraft Suppression Act now reads: "Whoever accuses a person of witchcraft means to indicate that the person (is possessed by a spirit or) used non-natural means (witch-finding) to cause death, injury, disease or inability in any person. This also means that destruction or loss of or damage to property of any description was involved.
"Any person who engages in any practice knowing that it is commonly associated with witchcraft, shall be guilty of engaging in a practice commonly associated with witchcraft if having the intention to cause harm to any person.
"Such practice inspires in the person against whom it was directed, a real fear or belief that harm will occur to that person or any member of his or her family, and be liable to a fine not exceeding level ten or imprisonment for a period not exceeding five years or both."
"Spoken words shall not in themselves constitute a practice commonly associated with witchcraft for the purpose of this section, unless accompanied by or used in connection with other conduct commonly associated with witchcraft.
"For the avoidance of doubt it is declared that any person who assists another person to commit the crime of engaging in a practice commonly associated with witchcraft, by giving advice or providing any substance or article to enable that person to commit the crime, shall be liable to be charged as an accomplice to the crime.
"A court shall not take judicial notice of any practice that is said to be commonly associated with witchcraft, but any person who, in the opinion of the court, is suitably qualified to do so on account of his/her knowledge, shall be competent to give expert evidence as to whether the practice that forms the subject of a charge under this section is a practice that is commonly associated with witchcraft, whether generally or in the particular area where the practice is alleged to have taken place.
"Any person who groundlessly or by the purported use of non-natural means accuses another person of witchcraft shall be guilty of indicating a witch or wizard and liable.
"It shall not be a defence to a contravention of a subsection involving the purported use of any non-natural means for the person charged to prove that the person he/she accused actually engaged in any practice commonly associated with witchcraft, but the court may suggest such circumstance as mitigatory when assessing the sentence to be imposed."
The amendment disqualifies as defence to murder, assault or any other crime that an accused was influenced by a genuine belief that the victim was a witch or wizard and a court would only use it as mitigation
This story appeared in one of our local papers recently - June 2009:
21 year old woman stunned a court when she claimed she flew 75 miles in a winnowing basket with two witches on a mission to kill her brother-in-law. Her claims where collaborated by a witchcraft expert who told the court that “witches can travel from Zimbabwe to as far as South Africa during the night and fly back as soon as their mission is accomplished”.
In court Regina Sveto, 21 on Friday “hissed like a snake” and “went into a trance” as Sekuru Nelson Jambaya, the vice president of the Zimbabwe National Traditional Healers Association (ZINATHA) testified leaving a packed court room shocked.
All the drama took place at Court 18 at the Harare Magistrates Court where it was jammed to the rafters as court officials, magistrates and lawyers all raced there to watch proceedings in the rather unusual case.
Sveto has pleaded guilty to a charge of public indecency after she was found naked outside her brother-in-law’s house in Highfield suburb just after 6AM on last Sunday.
Sveto was seen by passers-by outside the house wearing “red headgear” and “some black strings around the waist”. She claimed she had “flown” from there from Murehwa, some 120km east of Harare, with her father-in-law and an aunt.
Their winnowing basket aircraft taxied off from a graveyard in Zihute Village under Chief Mangwende — their mission to kill her brother-in-law. Once at the house in Highfield, she claims she balked when asked to kill her brother-in-law. Her father-in-law, named in court as Elias Zemba, and the aunt, Filda Zemba, then took off and abandoned her.
Just in case she flies back, Magistrate Mishrod Guvamombe has asked for expert opinion before passing sentence. After listening to Jambaya’s evidence on Thursday, Guvamombe ordered Chief Mangwende to be summoned to give his opinion on June 4. The magistrate has also ordered that the woman be kept in custody, “just in case she flies back to Murehwa”.
Jambaya said the woman’s account confirmed what traditional healers have always believed about witches and wizards. He told the court: “According to my knowledge, if the woman said she flew from Murehwa in a basket, then she is a witch. Witches do a lot of this and they are known to travel naked at night.
“It is also possible for witches to travel as far as South Africa during the night for the purposes of witchcraft, flying back as soon as their mission is accomplished. Some people use magic to protect their homes and families against witchcraft and in such cases, the witches and wizards become powerless and are subsequently exposed.”
As Jambaya testified, Sveto “hissed like a snake”, triggering some panic at the court room. At one point, she was seen to suddenly become weak, leaning heavily against a prison guard.
Then, in a sudden burst, she shouted in her native Shona: “You are liars! You are only senior in terms of your jobs but you are powerless against me. Why are you leaving criminals to roam free out there and harassing an innocent person like me? I have no case to answer, didn’t my medium brief you?”
Sveto immediately collapsed and lay prostrate on the floor for several minutes before a relative revived her by placing salt into her palms. She regained consciousness some 10 minutes later, by which time the court was overflowing with curious on-lookers.
Prosecutors have asked the magistrate not to impose a custodial sentence on Sveto. Prosecutor Austin Muzivi said the woman was likely to be a state witness should Elias Zemba and Filda Zemba be charged with practising witchcraft, which is a crime in Zimbabwe.
A 2006 law says anyone accusing another individual of witchcraft must show proof of their allegations.
The Criminal Law (Codification and Reform) Act 2004 says court officials can rely on expert evidence “as to whether the practice that forms the subject of a charge… is a practice that is commonly associated with witchcraft.”