Muti murderers are not Witches!


African traditions ascribe supernatural properties to medicines (muti / muthi) derived from both plant and animal sources. In extreme circumstances, unethical traditional healers (nyangas, sangomas and witchdoctors) resort to using so-called “muti” made from human body parts harvested from the victim whilst he or she is still alive, 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 as traditional healers. Here are just a few of many published examples.

In 2006, 4 year old Connie Ncube was abducted and murdered by traditional healer Mandla Ephraim Zulu because he wanted to remove parts of the young girl’s body to make “a muti for financial prosperity”. He was hired by a hairdresser Lourence Eric Ngoveni. Neither Zulu nor Ngoveni identified themselves as Witches.

Also in 2006 Bishop Joseph Tanzwani of the Holiness Apostolic Church, and sangomas Mukondeleli Phosha and Shumani Dzebu were tried in the Thohoyandou High Court for the murder and mutilation of Shonisani Thinandavha. Her right hand, left ear, nipples and upper lip were cut from her body. None of the accused identified themselves as Witches.

In 2007 KwaDabeka police investigated the beheading of a 7 year old KwaZulu-Natal boy believe to have been the victim of a “witchdoctor syndicate”. The body of Vuyani Ngqulunga, who went missing on November 1, was found with his head and testicles removed. The alleged perpetrators, two 18 year olds named Lizwi Gwiqisa and Bandile Msikiofwere, were hired by building contractor Petros Gwosebenn. None of the accused identified themselves as Witches.

Also in 2007 Abigail Njapha and five men, all allegedly members of a “muti gang”, were accused of harvesting and selling body parts and charged with conspiracy to murder 15 women. None of the accused identified themselves as Witches.

In 2008 Vusi Sixikixa and Sonwabile Qhosha appeared in the Bizana magistrate’s court for the alleged murder of 9 victims. Police confirm that they were investigating two sangomas implicated in the murders. None of the accused identified themselves as Witches.

In 2009 Demakatso Sheli Shabangu was allegedly sold by her caregiver to a teacher from Sibange village. The teacher later admitted to being part of a “human body part syndicate”. None of the accused identified themselves as Witches.


Despite evidence to the contrary, a 2007 article published in The Daily News and republished on IOL entitled ‘Muti killings on the rise in KZN’, quotes Kara Heritage Institute director, and ANC Chief Whip Dr. Mathole Motshekga as saying “…the increase in witchcraft and muti-related crimes was the result of the socio-economic conditions that affect the majority of South Africans… witchcraft and muti-related crimes posed a major challenge to the country”.

This accusation implicating Witchcraft (and therefore Witches) in muti murders was again leveled at Witches in 2009 and twice in 2010 by Traditional Healers Organization national co-ordinator, Phephisile Maseko.

“I can’t speak for others, but our members are well-informed. They would never participate in muti killings and don’t believe in it. We heal, we don’t kill,” she said. “I have heard reports of muti killings but I have never personally seen it. Those who do that are witches who don’t belong to any organisation. They haven’t been trained so they do as they please,” she said.
[Phephisile Maseko – Muti killings up ahead of 2010? – published 06 March 2009]

[2] She (Phephisile Maseko) said traditional healers who used body parts to make muti were not true healers, but “heartless witches”. “How could a healer use body parts or remove somebody’s body parts while the person is still alive? That means you are a witch, not a healer,” she said.
[Money muti harvesting increases – published 08 February 2010]

[3] “Witchcraft is all about greed and jealousy… unless there are leaders in government, who are willing to lead the fight against witchcraft, legitimate traditional healers are not going to get over this hurdle.” 
[Phephisile Maseko – Dept, healers declare war on muthi killings – published 18 February 2010]

Neither Maseko nor Motshekga are able to provide any evidence to link muti murders to the practice of Witchcraft or to actual identified Witches, because the alleged Witches are not Witches, but rogue traditional healers acting outside the boundary of approved traditional healing practices. Maseko and Motshekga are knowingly and deliberately using Witches as scapegoats to deflect negative attention away from those who abuse traditional healing practices for their own criminal gain.


The often repeated defamation against Witches by the media generally cannot be excused by appeals to contextualize accusations of witchcraft within traditional African beliefs concerning ‘witches’ and ‘witchcraft’. The general public will believe that Witches are indeed the muti murderers and the protest of real Witches who dare to make their religious affiliation known in public will be ignored, as it is, by the public clamor for justice and vengeance.

A lie told often enough is rarely examined by the mob.


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