The essay will basically take sociological approach to relate the past to the present and to argue that belief in witchcraft is not a superstition even in our new democratic and constitutional state; hence the essay will attempt to sociologically eradicate the mythical belief of associating witchcraft to women and will further argue that witches should not be prosecuted in our new democratic and constitutional state.The first people to come and relate to Africans in a human way were the missionaries.
They were in the vanguard of the colonization movement to ‘civilize and educate’ the savages and introduce the Christian message to Africans and to put their beliefs in one down position. The religion they brought was quite foreign to the black indigenous people. African religion and/or beliefs in its essence were not radically different from Christianity. Africans believed in one God, they had their own community of saints through whom they related to their God, and they did not find it compatible with their way of life to worship God in isolation from the various aspects of their lives.There was no hell in African religion and/or beliefs. 2 It was missionaries who confused people with their new religion. They scared people with stories of hell.
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They painted their God as a demanding God who wanted worship “or else. ” People had to discard their beliefs and customs in other to be accepted in this new religion. By some strange and twisted logic, they argued that their religion and/or belief was scientific religion and yet Africans’ a superstition.
In this way belief in witchcraft brought confusion since to Africans and it is a blunder to deny the existence of African beliefs and regard them as superstition.However, it is clearly understandable when society is taught to question some of their beliefs, values and customs but not to regard them as superstition. Who can resist losing respect for his tradition when in school his whole cultural beliefs and background are summed up in one word- barbarism? 3 So there is no way that missionaries can liberate society mentally from participating in killing and causing harm resulting from their belief in witchcraft, yet they are the one who confused people from the beginning.However, no attempt has been made to research in detail the nature of the beliefs in witchcraft and ancestors’ spirits.
4 Even though missionaries and most church leaders from mainstream churches, or historically white or European-controlled churched churches, spoke contemptuously of witchcraft beliefs and practices but majority of their followers even in this new democratic and constitutional state still believe in witchcraft. Due to structured gender inequality resulted from African tradition, values, custom and beliefs, the essay attempts to eradicate the mythical belief of associating witchcraft to women.Women were placed in a one down position even in the realm that is supposed to be their main sphere of activity. 6 That is why there is mythical belief of associating woman to witchcraft. It is how African people grew up. Bad things are actually associated with women and for that reason; witchcraft powers were also believed to be passed on in the female line. Majority of victims were the women who reflected broader attitudes within the community.
7 However, according to Marxist approach, this is no longer the stage to put women in a down position.For Marx, the stage of women’s oppression was a ‘Primitive Communism. 8 This was a simples society referred to as tribal society where the division of labour was minimal and divided between men and women. During this stage only men were superior and owning private property unlike women.
However, one of greatest sociologists, Dukheim, argues that through socialization women are placed in a down position. For Dukheim, socialization is the ‘process through which individual learns to be a member of the society. ‘9 Through socialization, girls are taught to be submissive and over-respectful of the authority of men, and men are taught that women are meant to serve their needs.As a consequence, women have less power and status and yet associated with bad things.
This, in turn, led women to be the witchcraft victims and exploitation. 10 However, it is argued by the report of Ralushai Commission that women were not the only one who were witches and victims and also associated with bad things. The most widely reported single episode took place in 1986 in the village of Nkwana in Sekhukhuneland during which 32 people were burned to death over a two-month period. While the executioners were young men, most of the victims were over 50 and two-thirds were female.And yet the killings have continued since the establishment of a democratic despensation. 11 Moreover, belief in witchcraft is not itself a crime, but acting on that belief constitutes a crime. 12 Here, the essay attempts to answer the question that witches should not be prosecuted in our new democratic and constitutional state since it has attempted to show that belief in witchcraft is not a superstition and a crime, and also to eradicate the mythical belief of associating women to witchcraft.
For Nthai, South Africa is now blessed with a Constitution containing a Bill of Rights. 13 This Constitution is a monument to the determination of a society to overcome the burden of its history- the evils of colonialism including the eradication of superstition ideology by missionaries and the manifold social problems that are the legacy of centuries of inequality. 4 This Constitution of the Republic of South Africa is one, sovereign and democratic state founded on the values of human dignity, the achievement of equality and the advancement of human rights and freedom (section 1).Furthermore, calling someone a witch violates the right of someone’s dignity (section 10). However, the right to belief in witchcraft still stand and is protected by the Constitutional provision that insist the right to religion, belief and opinion (section 15), and the right to language and culture (section 30). 6 Nevertheless, it also appears that any legislation dealing with witchcraft violence should be guided by the values and aspirations elegantly expressed in the aforesaid sections of the Bill of Rights.
Any legislation outside the framework of the Constitution would in any case be declared invalid. 17 Therefore, the Constitution in new democratic state of South Africa is the ‘Supreme law of the Republic, law or conduct inconsistence with it is invalid, and the obligations imposed by it must be fulfilled’ (section 2). 8 I n the view of this essay, witches should not be prosecuted because witchcraft is a talent to Africans who perform it.Therefore, only those who force collection of money to consult diviners to sniff out witches, those who consult lawyers to represent people charged with witch-hunting or witch killing and those who encourage and participate in ritual murders and also senseless witch-hunts should be prosecuted, as also argued by Ralusahi Commission. 9 In conclusion, the essay attempted to take sociological approach to relate the past to the present and to argue that belief in witchcraft is not a superstition; hence the essay sociologically attempted to eradicate the mythical belief of associating witchcraft to women.
Furthermore, the essay answered the question by disagreeing with the fact that Witches should be prosecuted in our new democratic and constitutional state.