"We, the people of South Africa, Recognise the injustices of our past; Honour those who suffered for justice and freedom in our land; Respect those who have worked to build and develop our country; and Believe that South Africa belongs to all who live in it, united in our diversity.” Preamble to the Constitution of the Republic of South Africa.
Tuesday, 13 September 2011
I bet you never knew that SA had a Witchcraft Suppression Act!
The legislation is called the Witchcraft Suppression Act  and has never been repealed. In fact, it was amended post 1994 and appeared as such in the Government Gazette in 1997.
The dedicated unit in question is called the ‘South African Police Services Occult Related Crime Unit’ and, although there is no official section dedicated to it on the SAPS website, various media reports allude to it and it is out there, doing its thing. Their stated aim in the following: 1. To investigate occult-related crime effectively; 2. To promote the prevention of occult-related crime; 3. To gather, manage, use and disseminate information on occult-related crime in order to meet the legal obligations of the occult-related Crime Unit, in conjunction with the South African Police Service Crime Intelligence Component, and; 4. To render services of a high standard to victims of occult-related crime.
The Act itself is probably unconstitutional, but is based on the premise that the problem with witchcraft in South Africa is not so much the actual practice as it is the identification of people as witches or wizards, which often ends in them being injured if not killed. It says much the country - first world aspirations undermined by third work realities - but I am more interested in why there is not more information on this.
If we have an Act, and we have public money behind a unit, surely its outcomes should be measured, and the problem debated. How many people die because they were labelled witches each year? How big the unit? What does it do? What is the nature of the problem? I can’t think of too many democracies that have anti-witchcraft legislation.
If you'd like a copy of the act, send me an email.
From: Gareth van Onselen