Punish killers of vulnerable rural women
The murder of an elderly woman in the Eastern Cape who was accused of witchcraft is a demonstration of how far we need to go to rid our communities of ignorance and steeped prejudices that breed violence.
The 83-year-old woman was beaten before being burnt alive at Majuba village in Sterkspruit on Sunday.
The reasons for the attack reveal how easily rumour mongering, the peddling of lies and irrational fear can turn deadly.
Police said a group of young men attacked her, claiming she was responsible for the death of another man who was buried at the weekend.
The group also attacked the woman's 23-year-old grandchild.
Paraffin was poured on the younger woman, but the attempt to set her alight failed. She managed to flee and sought refuge with the local police.
This attack is only the latest in what is alarmingly becoming common practice among rural communities in our country.
Last year, it emerged that at least 33 people had been murdered in similar circumstances in the past three years in the Eastern Cape alone.
The victims included 16 women, all hacked to death - some in front of their children - after being accused of witchcraft.
Similar cases have been reported in other parts of the country, such as Limpopo.
These killings demonstrate the worst of humanity: dangerous mobs, fueled by nothing more than ignorance and hate - unleashing unspeakable violence on the most vulnerable in our society.
Furthermore, the lasting stigmatisation on the families of the victims is enormous.
This behaviour must be condemned in a strongest possible terms.
Those who commit such acts must be held accountable and face the full might of the law. Equally, it is crucial for the government and civil society to educate communities about mental health, in particular conditions related to ageing.
Such campaigns must be deliberate and practical in their execution, busting myths that perpetuate hate.
These attacks must be understood by all, without qualification, as barbaric and unacceptable in our society.
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