Objection by the South African Pagan Council to proposed draft Prohibition of Harmful Practices Associated with Witchcraft Beliefs Bill.

Author: Administrator
Date: Tuesday, 2 February
South African Law Reform Commission
Private Bag X 668

For attention: State Law Advisor
Ms Jennifer Joni

Professor Marita Carnelley
Professor David Bilchitz
Dr Sibusiso Masondo
Ms Likhapa Mbatha
Prof Pitika Ntuli
Prof Theodore Petrus

Refers Discussion Paper 139 the Review of the Witchcraft Suppression Act 3 of 1957, Project 135.

Objection by the South African Pagan Council to proposed draft Prohibition of Harmful Practices Associated with Witchcraft Beliefs Bill.

The South African Pagan Council (as a recognized and registered religious minority) is joyous that the SALRC has motivated the repeal of Act3 of 1957 but object to legislation drafted to replace it, on the grounds that the erroneous use of the “witch” in it, would inadvertedly still prejudice self-defined Witches and perpetuate the continued scapegoating and ensuing violence in the African Communities.

Since current legislation has failed to address the problem of muthi murders, mutilations and violence against the elderly and innocent, it is evident that a Thought Reform is needed.

What about harmful religious practices such as exorcisms, extreme methods of faith healing utilized by various Christian Charismatic churches, which result in psychological damage, trauma, anxiety, damage to property and in some cases even death (8)? These too constitute crime but are not erroneously lobbed into the parenthesis of “harmful religious practices”.
Harmful Practices on part of religious groups, can hardly be classified as religious or cultural crimes, for neither do they guide, steer or elevate the conscience or spirit of a community. They cause, instead, dissension, division and suffering all round.

How can “not demonstrable” allegations, such as harmful intentions, special powers and supernatural activity be proved in a Court of Law? How will belief, superstition, fear, be presented, analyzed or even corroborated in Court? How will guilt be demonstrated, and most important how will innocence be proven?

We have understood that the Commission wishes to prevent “witchcraft accusations” and the violence certain African Religious Beliefs may consequently lead to.

Evidence of traffic in body parts, charlatanry, violence, physical mutilations, intimidations, incitement to violence, kangaroo Courts, mob justice and fear mongering, can optimally and should all be addressed by enforcing the Common Law of our Land.

We understand that belief and the fanatical or superstitious adherence to injunctions, can in many cases lead to harmful practices; these may be from Christian, Muslim, Hindu, Pagan, etc. backgrounds, not to mention, as well, African Spiritual backgrounds.

How will a new Act prohibit accusations and allegations and the need to engage in practices that can lead to physical harm, trauma and death, if said allegations and accusations cannot be legally proven and corroborated? How is the proposed replacement Act going to put an end to the current situation and bring about the sorely needed change?

It has been determined that:
• Self-defined Witches, are not the perpetrators of “muthi murders”
• Traditional African Religion is not witchcraft and its practitioners do not self-identify as witches.
• Muthi Murders have nothing to do with Witchcraft therefore, but are instead part of African Religious and Magical practices.
• The proposed replacement Act threatens making African Religious and Magical Practices Taboo; this is highly prejudicial and will affect the poorest and eldest in our communities negatively.
• Accusation is not proof of guilt and nor are fear and suspicion of someone evidence.
• The Bill of Rights of the Constitution of South Africa, guarantees the safety and equal treatment of every citizen. Using words which are negatively loaded in the African Psyche in future legislation will catapult the situation into a further “Dark Age” and deny those accused on the grounds of suspicion and not tangible evidence, of their rights, as well as compromise the safety of self-identified Witches.

Accusations of disease, death, flying, zombies, possessions, the using of supernatural forces to cause harm, etc., will never be part of the equation for resolution as it will not stop the violence associated with African Traditional Beliefs, such as “pointing out” and mob lynching, but perpetuate the current climate of victims and needed revenge, by picking on the weakest links of the rural communities.

The innocent victims and survivors of false accusations, witch pointing and smelling, will continue to have no “voice” in our legal system and no means of making recourse and remaining safe in the midst of angry crowds.
The SAPC proposes that ritual killings, mutilations and other such crimes should therefore be listed under the Human Tissues Act and Common Law, and that these should be enforced and promoted by the State and its Law Enforcement Bodies. Institutionalising belief is biased and prejudicial to all groups.

There is no need for new Legislation, Investigation Bodies and Institutions as these will encourage the continuation of the crimes through the use of the misnomers: “Witch/Witchcraft”.

Belief and Practices should not be criminalised, but if crimes are committed, with reference to these belief structures, the crimes and perpetrators should be investigated, tried and accordingly condemned as per the dictates of Common Law, like the Human Tissues Act. Current Legislation is already there to address any criminal activity and to address the need to investigate any suspicious situation. These measures will ensure that every citizen will receive equal treatment and that superstition and prejudice do not become triggers for social injustice and the infringement of Human Rights.

Those already suffering as victims of Witchcraft accusations, who have lost their homes, lives, who have been forced into exile, should be given victim support and restorative justice.

Anti Witchcraft Legislation has not provided concrete solutions. Enforcing existing Criminal Law, however, will regulate criminal activity and promote the gradual evolution away from the current way of thinking which is unjust and criminal.

Should the Commission insist on a PROHIBITION OF HARMFUL PRACTICES ASSOCIATED WITH WITCHCRAFT BELIEFS BILL, then the SAPC humbly insists that said legislation does not unfairly prejudice self-defined Witches and that the words “Witchcraft and Witch” be termed as descriptive of an officially recognised religion and its adherents, that the misnomers “Witchcraft Accusations” “Witchcraft Violence” and “harmful witchcraft practices” should be dropped from the proposed legislation. The SAPC furthermore requests that living refugees and victims of accusation are given access to victim support and restorative justice.

Yours sincerely

SAPC Convenor
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