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Chiefs in quandary over settling witchcraft cases


TRADITIONAL leaders in Matabeleland said they were in a fix over how to handle cases of witchcraft because of the contradictions between constitutional law and local culture.


The Constitution does not recognise witchcraft, while in the local culture people acknowledge the practice.

Chief Gampu of Tsholotsho told Southern Eye that there has been an upsurge in witchcraft-related disputes that are brought to the courts and traditional leaders did not know how to deal with them and in most cases ended up falling foul of the constitutional law, being called to play a role using traditional means to resolve the cases and unite the community.

“There is a problem that we as traditional leaders face in dealing with witchcraft disputes. This is because of the Witchcraft Suppression Act, a colonial law which is still in force today. In our culture as Africans, everyone knows that there is witchcraft. But when you label someone as such, you end up being arrested and you cannot get away with such claims,” Chief Gampu said.

“But we, as chiefs, deal with these things all the time and if someone is said to be a witch, we can allow or direct the parties concerned to go to traditional healers, and these days there are those who are called tsikamutandas (witch hunters), for confirmation. The law does not allow such and I also do not support witch hunters.”

He said traditional leaders were under extreme pressure as they were expected to deal with cases of sorcery, especially when their subjects clash over witchcraft-related matters.

He appealed to government to find a way around the problem and cited cases in which villagers ended up poisoning each other over witchcraft allegations.

Government can no longer continue to ignore the reality of witchcraft because it was in existence, and chiefs wanted guidance from government on how to deal with the issue, he added.

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