In Vhembe, people live in fear of ritual murders

Date: 24 August 2017   Read: 17754

Nthambeleni Gabara writes:

Placing orders for human body parts is not enshrined in the Bill of Rights. According to the Bill of Rights, everyone has the right to life.

While the Bill of Rights guarantees that everyone has the right to freedom of movement, people in the Vhembe District, Limpopo, live in constant fear of being abducted and brutally killed for their body parts. In this district situated in the far northern part of the province, some people are still keeping the barbaric idea of muti murder alive. This practice is attracting negative publicity at home and abroad.  

The on-going muti murders in the area is a clear indication that there are clients who are placing orders in the existing secret market of selling human body parts.

In the recent past, many protests march and campaigns were staged that were aimed at changing the attitudes of those who think that body parts can bring them wealth and power. We have heard communities openly condemning killings for muti, but not all of these are yielding results.   

It seems as if some residents know the perpetrators. These are residents who know when the muti murder season is open. During their conversations, they use the local popular saying “mmbwa dzo vula,” loosely translated as: dogs are out to bite.

Relatively very little is known about the perpetrators who are involved in ritual murders. However, what we know is that muti murderers are very secretive. Fingers always point at traditional healers, but they are quick to distance themselves from the rumour that they use human body parts to give their muti great power.  

In the past, cases of this nature used to be rife in the deep rural villages and were linked to businesspeople, traditional leaders and traditional healers. It has been a well-known fact that before a new store or shop opens its doors, somebody will be ritually murdered, following the myth that human body parts make the business prosper.

Again, before a traditional leader is installed, somebody will disappear, only to be discovered dead later and with some body parts missing. On the other hand, traditional healers were also accused of perpetuating muti killings when initiations schools begin, as well as before the closure of such schools.

Today in the rural areas, the people who are fingered in muti killings are businesspeople, traditional leaders, sangomas, prophets, pastors, politicians and a family member of the victim. The question is what is fuelling ritual murder to continue and spreading to other areas in the district such as Gumbani near Malamulele. Will it ever stop?

It has recently emerged that muti killings are no longer happening in the deep rural villages of Mutale and Thulamela, but they are also happening in towns such as Makhado/Louis Trichardt, Thohoyandou and even in cities such as Polokwane. Therefore, there is a need to investigate if the muti murders happening in towns and cities can be linked to foreign businesspeople from Asia and local politicians as the motive of muti murders is believed to be money and power.

However, the police’s inefficiency to crack down on the human body parts market is one of the major problems foiling attempts to end the muti murders.

Frankly speaking, the police are currently in need of a strategy to fight the scourge of muti killings. They need to develop strategies that will lead them to arrest those involved in the selling of human body parts in the Vhembe District. The failure by some traditional leaders, sangomas and pastors to speak out against muti murder is fuelling the perceptions that they are the ones involved in the spate of ritual killings.

On the other hand, the silence of politicians who are guided by the National Development Plan (NDP), which sets a goal to ensure that by 2030, all women and children will feel safe at their homes, streets, school and workplace, is deafening when it comes to condemning ritual murder

Now, the role of traditional leaders should be to wage war against ritual murder by working with the police in identifying possible solutions to crack down on the human body parts market in the district.

Traditional healers, pastors, prophets and politicians should collaborate with law enforcement to investigate the spreading of ritual killings to towns. The police investigations should also focus on whether foreign businesspeople in towns are involved in ritual murder or not.

Public Service and Administration Minister Faith Muthambi is one of the politicians who are known for speaking out against muti murder. Upon receiving the sad news of the latest muti murder victim in the Vhembe District, Rirhandzu Manganyi (16) of Gumbani, who was found dead a few weeks ago with some body parts missing, Muthambi told residents that the only way for the police to close the net on the alleged killers was when residents gave the police information.

“Fighting crime is not the duty of the police alone, but a collective task of both the police and you as the community. If you want to see police making a breakthrough in this case, give them information,” she said.



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