Witchcraft as a taboo in Tanzania

By Zenorine Donath and Mbuya Godfriend

It has been witnessed and brought to light in different parts of Tanzania that there have been an unprecedented number of incidents involving witchcraft occurring all throughout the country.

It is impossible to prove that someone is guilty of witchcraft, as everything remains based on superstitions. While it is challenging to prove beyond a reasonable doubt, citizens choose to take actions in their own hands and unlawfully punish suspects, most of the time resulting in death.

The Universal Declaration of Human Rights adheres that all people are born free, with equal rights, blessed with a full minded and conscious responsibility to treat each other brotherly. This right is in direct contrast to accusations of witchcraft, which always lead to hatred of the victims and the perpetrators, ultimately violating the right to life and peaceful association.

On August 5th, The Daily News reported that a man from Mbeya was killed on the grounds of suspected witchcraft, indicating the recent nature of incidents involving the superstitious tradition.

Statistics compiled by the Legal and Human Rights Centre, as well as the police force, indicate that they have seen an increase in the violation of the right of life due to witchcraft related killings. For instance, According to the 2012 Human Rights Report, 630 people were killed from January to December after they were suspected to be witches.

Titus Mrosso, a resident of Mbagala in Dar Es Salaam, said that in our society there is witchcraft and it has been witnessed by some that the perpetrators are slashed by machetes, with others mostly resulting in death.

There is a tendency in Tanzanian society to believe that some diseases are the result of witchcraft related issues, hence they prefer to use witchdoctors to act as the medicinal supplier for their treatments. The report explains that whenever this treatment doesn’t work the victim puts the blame on relatives, believing that they are behind that disease.

When speaking to Salma Abdallah, a resident of Kigogo in Dar Es salaam, she agrees with the issue of witchcraft to be present in society. “People tend to be witches so as to succeed in some issues in their life, others believe that to kill or making someone insane it will provide money in return,” she said.

There are other reasons that incidents related to witchcraft are on the rise. There are people who believe that elderly people with red eyes are sorcerers, and this is largely found in the Lake zone regions of Shinyanga, Mwanza, Geita and Mara.

In the Constitution of the United Republic of Tanzania, it states that all acts of witchcrafts are punishable under the provision of section 131 of the Witchcraft Act and section 196 of the Penal Code only for committed cases of murder.

Zenorine is currently upgrading her skills in human rights reporting in Dar es Salaam. Her goal is to become an activist and reporter of marginalized people.

Godfriend is a student at St. Augustine University of Tanzania. In the past, he has produced radio programs that focus on the rights of disabled people. His dream is to serve society by bringing light to human rights abuses.

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