Source: Daily News
beliefs are widely held throughout Sub- Saharan Africa, serve a variety of social purposes, and have shown no tendency to lose salience during the post-colonial period.
A belief in witchcraft allows people to make sense of the seemingly arbitrary misfortunes that affect them, and pin blame on a particular person rather than on chance.
In particular, African witches–who may be female or male–are widely thought to use their occult powers to inflict harm on other community members, often people in their immediate social circle whom they envy or against whom they harbour grudges.
Note that witchcraft beliefs are likely to be particularly persistent and difficult to falsify in a world of mean-reverting income, weather, and health stochastic processes, since actions taken to combat witchcraft will all too often appear successful.
According to a 2005 study entitled “poverty and witchcraft in Tanzania” witchcraft beliefs are strong in ethnically Sukuma western Tanzania (Sukumaland), where a large proportion of the population follows traditional religions and have never adopted Christianity or Islam.
Government statistics show a rise in witchcraft killings in western Tanzania since the 1960s, and some have tied this to the radical economic reforms pursued by Tanzania’s socialist regime in the decades after independence, including villagisation and agricultural collectivization.
The government reported that 3072 accused witches were killed in Sukumaland from 1970 to 1988, more than two-thirds of the Tanzanian national witch murder total.
According to these figures, approximately 80 per cent of victims were women and their median age was between 50 and 60 years old– an advanced age for Tanzania, where life expectancy was only 51 years.
The Legal and Human Rights Centre (LHRC) as per its tradition last week unveiled its bi-annual report that depicts the Human Rights situation in the country.
Six months into the year, the centre has already recorded 320 killings related to witchcraft while in 2013 a total of 303 deaths were recorded and 336 in 2012.
“Incidents related to witchcraft killings and beatings that have already been reported to the centre include that of a 70-year-old in Dar es Salaam where the woman was badly beaten by wananchi following the allegations that she had consumed the flesh of a young girl, who had previously died,” the LHRC researcher, Pasience Mlowe said.
Mlowe said that the woman was then taken to a football field where she was raped repeatedly by a mob of young men and was later rescued by the police. Other horrific incidents that the report cites include that of a male youth aged between 20 and 35 years old who was beaten to death by a mob following the allegations that the young man was a witch.
It was alleged that, the young man fell from the sky while he was wizardly travelling in conduct of his witchcraft activities. In Serengeti, a 56-year-old man has been living is state of fear and isolation following witchcraft accusations from fellow villagers that the victim was involved in the death of the victim’s wife.
The victim has been left wandering around with his children, including a toddler left behind by the victim’s wife. “Women, especially the older ones, continue to be violated for witchcraft allegations.
For the period between January-June, 2014 it was reported that 27 women older than 60 years old were brutally killed following the allegations that they were witches.
In Butiama, it was also reported from Musoma rural that 10 women were brutally killed for various reasons, being witchcraft allegations, jealousy, vengeance and family conflicts,” Mlowe explained.
As part of the recommendations, the LHRC suggested that HR education should be incorporated into education system of the country, right to life has continued to be the most violated; education has to be provided to the mass to understand the right to life and perpetrators should be dealt with in accordance to the law as they are criminals.
The government should implement the National Human Rights Action Plan by involving state and non-state actors which will address human rights challenges facing the country, there is need to have a law on whistleblowers in enhancing the fight against corruption and there is need to improve provision of social services like, availability of water, education and health care.
Witchcraft has been widely practiced in African Societies since before the colonial time. Belief in how witchcraft is practiced varies in different countries. The belief and practice of witchcraft usually is used to give a justification as to why bad things happen to certain people.
The rationalization on the other hand will lead to accusations against certain individuals who are suspected to have been directly involved in the acts of witchcraft which in turn, have resulted to the occurrence of the bad things in the society.
The accusation arising from witchcraft usually leads to violation and abuse of a wide range of human rights namely: the right to life, liberty and security; the right to property; prohibition against torture; and also social and economical marginalization. Mostly affected members of society have been women, people of old age, children and the poor.
Tanzania has a legislation which is meant to provide a solution for the abuses and violations resulting from witchcraft, the Witchcraft Act, 1928.
The legislation criminalizes the practice of witchcraft. The legislation also criminalizes the accusation of witchcraft, but only when such accusation is not made to the proper authorities. The legislation goes further to provide for punishment in relation to the accusations.
The LHRC 2013 report cites that before the colonial rule, witchcraft beliefs formed an integral part of everyday life in most African societies. As such, various tenets of customary law provided sanctions aimed at restitution depending on the harshness of abuse resulted from witchcraft.
The punishment ranged from ostracism to compensation; from enslavement to execution. Witchcraft belief has remained to be a social reality in many African societies including Tanzania. This belief cuts through all classes of the society, the rich and poor, the educated and the uneducated, and the young and the old.