DAMON LEFF. South African Witches are offended by SAPS reservist F. H. Havinga’s public libel of their religion and religious practices. Annalie Anticevich’s report on a case of animal cruelty entitled ‘Mutilated rabbit found: witchcraft is suspected’ is a perfect example of how historical fantasies surrounding both traditional African religio-magical practices, and Witchcraft, still serve to reinforce media bias against Witches and Traditional Healers in South Africa. Havinga would have Anticevich and readers of www.looklocal.co.za believe that “African Witches” really are to blame for this as yet uninvestigated case of animal cruelty. They are NOT!
Category: Damon Leff
DAMON LEFF. African traditions ascribe supernatural properties to medicines (muti) derived from both plant and animal sources. In extreme circumstances, unethical traditional healers (nyangas, sangomas and witchdoctors) resort to using so-called muthi made from human body parts, a practice widely eschewed by both ethical healers and actual Witches. Despite accusations to the contrary, evidence will show that the muti murderers themselves are not Witches, but are most often paid by unscrupulous so-called traditional healers to harvest human body parts and tissue for sale for use in alleged magic. Those found guilty in courts of law have not identified themselves as Witches, but rather as traditional healers. Here are just a few of many published examples.
DAMON LEFF. Traditional Courts within sub-Saharan Africa share a commonly held belief that Witchcraft is not a faith that people openly profess, and do not recognize Witchcraft as a constitutionally protected religion. Customary beliefs about Witchcraft remain wholly prejudicial to actual Witches, where Witches are viewed as being responsible for misfortune, illness or untimely death. Traditional beliefs do not assume that a Witch may be innocent of such accusation because it is believed that such criminal acts are in keeping with the nature of the practice of Witchcraft. Within traditional courts, Witchcraft is viewed as a malevolent magical act, one punishable under customary African laws. Accusations of Witchcraft, though illegal under the 1957 Witchcraft Suppression Act, are frequently heard by traditional courts. Accusations are always based on suspicion, rumor, or gossip.
DAMON LEFF. The ANC has repeatedly stated that the painting has divided the nation along racial lines. Truth be told, the painting has done no such thing! On the contrary, it has been used by the ANC to further divide our nation, black against white. The artist Brett Murray has repeatedly been called a racist, despite his emphatic denial. It doesn’t matter if he isn’t really a racist. Repeatedly stereotyping Murray as a racist, simply because his painting of Jacob Zuma offended conservative sensabilities, has bolstered both Mthembu and Mantashe’s campaign of intimidation and threat against the City Press and the Goodman Gallery. Both continue to capitalise on the responding outrage expressed by ANC cadres willing to defend Jacob Zuma’s dignity against a perceived act of hatred against black people in this country. The real debate is not about defending the dignity of the President at all. The ANC government, under Jacob Zuma’s Presidency, has repeatedly failed to resolve the systemic causes of massive service delivery protests, unemployment, crime and corruption within the civil service.
DAMON LEFF. A 1.85m high acrylic on canvas painting by Brett Murray entitled ‘The Spear’, part of Murray’s ‘Hail to the Thief II’ exhibition which hung in the Goodman Gallery until it was defaced on Tuesday afternoon with oil paint by two men claiming to be outraged at the depiction of the President with his genitals hanging out of his trousers, is a sign of the times. Our nation cares more about a painting and its perceived offence than they do about human life or the value of private property. Violent and destructive reaction has become more influential than the freedom of creative expression. In a nutshell, our President’s cock is more important than the life of the nation!
DAMON LEFF. In April, Beliefnet Senior Editor Rob Kerby cobbled together a monstrous Islamophobic indictment of witchcraft in the Third World called ‘What can the Third World teach us about witchcraft’. The article has been roundly criticised as a “car-crash”, “thematic mess”, and “lazy slander” by Jason Pitzl-Waters [The Wild Hunt, Patheos.com] and Patti Wigington [About.com] called it plainly what it is, a “crap article”. With the exception of Pitzl-Waters, who made brief reference in his response ‘Beliefnet News Conflates Paganism and Harry Potter with Witchcraft Killings’ to Pagans and “witch-persecutions” in South Africa, none of the considered responses from Pagan bloggers thought it appropriate to defer to Third World Witches themselves for informed comment. As THE African expert on the subject, allow me to answer the question posed by Kerby.
DAMON LEFF. Those who insist on the weight of historical prejudice against ‘witchcraft’ as defining only ‘malevolent ritual acts of criminality’, deny to modern Witches the right to identify as ‘practitioners of natural (neutral) magic’ on the grounds that “no such thing as ‘good witchcraft’ existed” prior to the modern resurrection of ancient pagan religions. Witchcraft is not a synonym for ‘black magic’ – it never was!
DAMON LEFF. During a recent interview on the ’30 days of advocacy against witch-hunts’ with Kate Turkington – my second interview with her – on 702 (Believe it or not) on Sunday evening (2 April 2012), Kate asked with respect to my religious affiliation as a Witch, “What do you do”? I said religious affiliation, not occupation. I was being asked about my beliefs, not my chosen designation as a human rights activist. It’s an odd question to ask a person when discussing their religion unless referring specifically to religious and ritual actions of faith. If you don’t know what the person believes, how would knowledge of what he does (in a general sense) give you any understanding of what he believes, unless there is already some assumption of what those beliefs are or are not? Making such assumption is permissible if you’re interviewing someone affiliating with a well-known religion, but still, unless the question is targeted at a particular action being undertaken by that person as a result of such an affiliation, the question only has one answer… “What do I do when, where, about what?”