Category Archives: witchcraft

Looking closer at Tanzania’s witchcraft ban

The Citizen, 24/8/14

The Citizen, 24/8/14

Tanzania bans witchdoctors,” says the headline on The East African website. For those who speak the language, the BBC Swahili website puts it a little more elegantly: “Wapiga ramli kupigwa marufuku.”

Both articles, along with many more in the Tanzanian papers this week, report on the announcement by the Minister of Home Affairs, Mathias Chikawe, of new efforts to address a spate of violent attacks against people with albinism in Tanzania. Such attacks have been going on for some years, linked to a demand for the body parts of people with albinism for use in witchcraft, but a rise in attacks last year and the abduction last month of a four-year-old girl in a village near Mwanza has refocussed attention on the issue. Continue reading

Chart of the week #24: Attacks on people with albinism across Africa

Witchcraft-related attacks on people with albinism are big news in Tanzania, and have been for some years. Back in 2008, Vicky Ntetema, then working for the BBC, first went undercover to investigate, and then into hiding after receiving threats.

Vicky is now the Executive Director for Tanzania of Under the Same Sun, campaigning for the rights of people with albinism. They recently published a report on the number of reported attacks on people with albinism across Africa.

Below, I have turned the data from their report into a map and two charts: Continue reading

Healer kills his child because she had been born in breech position

Tanzania Daima published a story last week about a remarkably unpleasant event that allegedly took place in Mpanda district, in the west of Tanzania. The reaction the story has generated within Tanzania demonstrates that the events described are not a typical / common occurrence. Nevertheless, I think it illustrates some wider interesting points, so I have translated the story in full. And make a few quick points below the translated article.

The original article is legally problematic, in that it potentially prejudices a pending legal case, (as do the Police Commander’s remarks), but that’s not the point I want to make here. Nevertheless, to avoid repeating the problem, I have changed or obscured the names of key participants and other identifying details in the translation.

Healer kills his child because she had been born in breech position

Source: Tanzania Daima, 2/9/2014 

Walter Mguluchuma

A fourteen-month-old baby, Consolata George, has been killed by her father, George Lubanga “Chuiwe”, 27, apparently because she was born in the breech position. Continue reading

The cat man, the politicians and the mind games

Manyaunyau, from Facebook

Manyaunyau, from Facebook

Dr Manyaunyau is a well-known “traditional healer”, based in Dar es Salaam. His name derives from an informal Swahili word for cat – “nyau”, (from the noise it makes) – and he is said to use cats in some very gruesome ways in his work.

And a few days ago he was interviewed for a post on the website of Times Fm radio station (warning: graphic images). “Manyaunyau wants the senior politicians who seek him out to do so openly, explains what he does during elections,” was the headline.

Manyaunyau is more open than some in his profession, not just in interviews like this but also having his own website and facebook page (both have more graphic images. But it would be wrong to assume that this is generally an underground profession; these guys need customers, so they do their marketing.

So what did he say in the interview? Continue reading

Witchcraft in Tanzanian law

The Citizen, 24/8/14

The Citizen, 24/8/14

Witchcraft is a huge issue in Tanzania at the moment. Levels of belief are extremely high, with horrific consequences for two groups in particular: older women (and others) who are accused of being witches and in many cases murdered as a result, and people with albinism who are attacked or murdered for their body parts, which are said to possess supernatural powers. With a general election coming up next year, there are fears that the situation for people with albinism could get even worse. And though it is less obvious, the manipulative actions of people calling themselves witchdoctors – tricking people out of their money through big promises and/or blackmail and fear (as alleged in this case) – are also highly damaging.

I will explore this issue in more depth at a later date, but for the moment, I just want to bring one thing to wider attention: did you know that Tanzania has a Witchcraft Act on the statute books?

It dates from colonial times, 1928 in fact, but was amended as recently as 2009.

I will come to what the law says in a moment, but first, how exactly does it define witchcraft?
Continue reading

Chart of the week #12: Belief in witchcraft in Tanzania

How does belief in witchcraft in Tanzania compare with other countries?

Source: Pew Research Centre, data from 2010

Source: Pew Research Centre, data from 2010

Belief in all these things – witchcraft, curses, evil spirits, etc. – is not just stronger in Tanzania than in any of these other countries – it is much stronger in Tanzania:

Almost all Tanzanians (93%) believe in witchcraft, while less than half the population of Rwanda, Zambia, Uganda, Kenya and Ethiopia share that belief. Even in Nigeria, belief is much lower than in Tanzania.

Some questions, to which I don’t have the answer:

First, why is this the case? Why are Tanzanians apparently much more likely to believe in the supernatural than their neighbours in Kenya, Uganda, Rwanda and Zambia?

Second, what are the implications? What effects does this near-universal belief in witchcraft have on life in Tanzania – on politics, on business, on health, on education, etc? I posted a chart on witchcraft-related killings in Tanzania last month, but that’s only part of the story.

Third, what can be done about it?

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The charts are produced using data from 2010 (pdf – see pages 178-182), collected by the US-based Pew Research Centre, as part of their Religion and Public Life Project.

Long-term readers may note that I’ve published this chart before, when the Pew survey originally came out. But it’s such a startling conclusion that I felt it justifies being repeated.

Chart of the week #9: Killings due to witchcraft beliefs in Tanzania

How many people are killed each year in Tanzania due to witchcraft beliefs?

Source: Tanzania Human Rights Reports, 2010-2013

Source: Tanzania Human Rights Reports, 2010-2013

This chart is based on data from police reports and compiled in the annual Tanzania Human Rights Reports, published by the Legal and Human Rights Centre (LHRC). The latest report, covering 2013, was published a couple of weeks ago. Continue reading