Healers, pagans oppose new witchcraft bill

Riot Hlatshwayo

Riot Hlatshwayo

Mpumalanga's proposed Witchcraft Suppression Bill came under fire during a stakeholders' consultative meeting this week.

The Traditional Health Organisation (THO) and the South African Pagan Council (SAPC) opposed the bill. About 50 THO members, led by its national president, Nhlavana Maseko, met the Local Government and Housing Department.

Maseko said they were opposed to definitions such as umuthi and ubuthi.

He said umuthi was a substance used in traditional health practice to diagnose, treat and prevent physical or mental illness, whereas ubuthi was used in the application of negative energy with the intention to kill or harm.

Maseko said the proposed bill did not differentiate between "witchdoctors" and traditional healers.

"Let there be two bills, not one," he argued.

"Witchdoctors and traditional healers are not even on the same platform because they are different," he said.

His organisation accused the government of failing to consult all stakeholders.

Meanwhile, the SAPC convenor, Luke Martin, said his organisation was "very much" against the proposed bill.

"SAPC is a minority religion aimed at advancing the earth's ecology.

"The proposed draft is very disturbing because it infringes on the constitution and the Bill of Rights," said Martin.

He said it denied pagans the right to practice their religion.

"The 1957 Witchcraft Suppression Act, on which the latest proposal is based, has no place in our constitution," said Martin.

Thomas Bongo, director for legal services in the department, said all inputs would be forwarded to MEC Candith Mashego-Dlamini.