The author of a new report on the trafficking of human body parts in Southern Africa says a rise can be expected in so-called human ”muti” (medicine) trafficking ahead of the 2010 FIFA Soccer World Cup.
News24 says Simon Fellows, author of the survey results report, titled Trafficking Body Parts in Mozambique and South Africa, said:
There is a clear link between muti and business. With the World Cup approaching, people we surveyed believe more people will be killed and their body parts used in muti that is bought to ensure businesses prosperity.
The Human Rights League in Mozambique and Childline South Africa commissioned the report, which has just been released. The survey took seven months to complete
According to the survey, over 70 percent of South Africans believe muti killings will increase as the Soccer World Cup approaches. The report added that of the people surveyed in Mozambique and South Africa, 70 percent believed human body parts make muti more effective. Fellows said:
Although this stems from generalized questions, it does indicate a deep-founded cultural belief that (human) body parts make the medicine more effective and that it can solve any problem, from poverty to health issues. Witchdoctors, usually through a third party, actively seek human body parts from live victims.
The survey used workshops attended by 413 people of whom 139 where interviewed. The interviewees included a broad spectrum of people, including members of human rights organisations, religious bodies, women's movements, local authorities, police, municipal councils and traditional healer organisations.
The interviews revealed some bizarre facts, including one that those who approached unscrupulous traditional healers where made to pay with more than just money. Some were called upon to contribute body parts of family members.
A recent case involving a man who killed and boiled parts of a relative, including his head, could be an example of this practice. Police have not yet confirmed this, however.
The research revealed that the trade in human body parts was trans-national. It showed that body parts of people murdered in Mozambique were smuggled to neighbouring South Africa. Author Fellows said:
Muti murders are shrouded by a code of silence, where people are fearful of speaking out, allowing the practice to continue with little or no consequence for the perpetrators.
Fellows said seven muti murders had occurred in the eastern Mpumalanga Province, with four more in the northern Limpopo Province confirmed by police. Both provinces border Mozambique
Traditional Healers’ Organisation (THO’s) National Co-ordinator, Phephisile Maseko, made it clear this practice was no longer acceptable. She said:
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. 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.
The THO has 25,000 members in South Africa.
The organisation’s website complains of government neglect of practitioners of traditional African medicine. It says government has not supported legislation aimed at helping those who use traditional medicines, which the website says comprise 72 percent of South Africa’s population. Despite having a Traditional Medicine Directorate, the healers’ group says government is not doing anything to ”sustain healer formations.”
Further regulation of traditional medicine in Southern Africa could result in fewer abuses, as is the case with Western medicine.