We find it extremely difficult to digest the fact that three women, who hail from the Alfred Nzo district municipality in the Eastern Cape were, late last year, burnt to death because they had allegedly been witchcraft practitioners. This can only be described as the worst aberration of what might be called “mob justice”.
It was recently reported that elderly women in the Eastern Cape are physically abused, raped and killed, because they practised witchcraft. They feel that they are in fact persecuted, in this manner, for the mere fact that they have grown old and wrinkled.
This kind of inhumanity is spine-chilling; who would have thought that this world would change to a horrific and evil place where women are killed in such a brutal way based on groundless accusations and false pretences.
There cannot be any justification for harming any person because of unfounded allegations that they practice so-called witchcraft or not. In the eyes of the law, murder is murder and the perpetrators of these depraved crimes should be caught, prosecuted and jailed.
The United Democratic Women’s Organisation (UDEMWO) understands that these women have asked government for protection and to be moved away from their communities for safety reason. This would mean that they will in essence be banished and torn away from their loved ones. UDEMWO does not agree that, to isolate these women based on spurious allegations, is a viable long-term solution.
Our constitution protects our rights to have inherent dignity and the right to have our dignity respected and protected. UDEMWO therefore condemns this violence and brutality in no uncertain terms, but even more so when it happens to our elders.
We are so frustrated and aggravated that the women in this country are faced with different forms of abuse left right and centre, yet women’s minister Bathabile Dlamini is nowhere to be found. She should be the champion of women in all of our struggles.
Lastly, UDEMWO believes that government must play a greater role in demystifying traditional practices within the confines of the law. It should step up its efforts to educate citizens on the role that such practitioners play in our society and broaden its information campaign to change people’s perception so that they can honour the fact that their fellow citizens and they have equal rights.
Ms Thandi Nontenja
UDEMWO Secretary General