Sunday 13th May – Tuesday 15th May 2012
Prague, Czech Republic
Ritual and Muti Murders amongst the Vha-Venda People of South Africa: An Ethnographic Assessment of the Phenomenon
University of Limpopo, South Africa
South Africa is a multi-cultural society that includes at least eleven major black cultural groups as well as a contingent of European descent. Within certain black cultural groups such as the Vha-Venda in the North–Eastern corner of South Africa, ritual murder is an age old practice. Ritual murder is distinguished from other murders by the fact that body parts are removed from the victim. Muti murder (medicine murder or ritual murder as it is mostly referred to) is a brutal act of violence. Body parts of the unfortunate victim are removed and the killers do this preferably while the victim is still alive. This is because believe exists that the potion made using such organs are more potent than muti made of organs harvested from a corpse. The entrenched cultural belief by certain sections of the community in the study area that “muti”, mixed with human organs or body parts or the organs on their own, invoke supernatural power that can change or alter the course of events, can be seen as the motivational factor behind ritual murders. According to the report of the Commission of Enquiry into Witchcraft Violence and Ritual Murders in the Northern Province (now renamed, Limpopo), ritual murder is ingrained in the cultural or traditional way of life of the Vha-Venda nation and woven into the very fabric of society through the deep- rooted belief in witchcraft. (Ralushai et al, 1995). Kitchens and Koche (1991: 46-51) confirm this view in respect of ritual murder associated with royalty when they state that the belief exists that the energy from the ritual victim is transferred to the new chief at inauguration. This implies that there are two kinds of ritual murder, namely culturally unacceptable and culturally acceptable ritual murder. The study will deal in detail with both forms of ritual murder. It also introduces a new trend that the author termed “organised muti murder”.
The paper deals with this phenomenon as it is still practiced today amongst the Vha-Venda. It also analyses the cultural and mystic beliefs as well as the prevalence and nature of these murders.
The Symbology of Violence: Women, Witchcraft and Weakness in the Rural Eastern Cape
Wendy Isaacs-Martin and Theodore Petrus
Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University, South Africa
South Africa’s historical and political past diminished the role, position and status of women in society. There is a gender dichotomy present, government legislation dictates gender equality but many communities advocate women as secondary beings. We examine the role of the scapegoat in the community and ask why African women in the rural Eastern Cape continue to be accused of witchcraft? While the entire community is not directly involved in the violence perpetrated against the women they are all informed of the accusations leveled at them. Rene Girard, historian and philosopher, argued that these women are arbitrary victims who have no direct bearing on the problems that distress the community. These victims are part of the community but exist on the periphery for social reasons that set apart by conditions that characterise them as different. The aim of this article is to argue that the perpetrators have ‘common sense’ but their intuition guides them to accuse the victim. The objective is to argue that firstly mimetic desire leads to expulsion and murder of women. Secondly, is to assert that those who are vulnerable are easier targets for persecution. The conclusions drawn are firstly that women are predetermined victims. Secondly, symbols of community are often used to exclude these predetermined victims through the cultural mechanism of witchcraft. And thirdly, the failure of the South African government to adequately deal with the problem of witchcraft violence has impacted on efforts to address the marginalisation of women, particularly in the rural Eastern Cape.
Militarization and the Issue of Child Soldiers: Children Playing with Guns in Burma/Myanmar
Anna Rosario Dejarlo Malindog
Political Science Faculty, University of the Philippines – Visayas Tacloban College, The Philippines
They are between ten and eighteen years old. They wear army uniforms and carry war weapons. By whatever standard you use, they are all and are still children and for what it may seems, they are playing war games. One of the alarming trends relating to children in the contemporary world is the active involvement and participation of children in the on-going armed conflicts in many and various parts of the globe. This unfortunate phenomenon is very much true and felt in the case of Burma. Since 1998, the massive and intensive recruitment of child soldiers contributed much both to the expansion and strength of the Burmese army, – the “Tatmadaw” and the expansion as well of the combatant capacity of non-state actors or the so-called insurgent/revolutionary groups in Burma/Myanmar. Though, this maybe the case, it is interesting to note that the methods and motivations of children joining both the Tatmadaw and the NSAs are but sundry. The use of children as soldiers in Burma is indeed no doubt a serious offense against children and indeed a grievous human rights abuse. It is in this context that the purpose of this paper has been crafted. The paper attempts to portray and analyze the dismal consequences of recruiting child soldiers, and the negative impacts this action brings to the lives of the children in Burma/Myanmar. This paper aims to both contribute in strengthening the advocacy and lobby work, and to respond to the challenge posed by the United Nations and the international community at large in promoting documentation, monitoring and awareness of the violations and abuses committed against children in situations of armed conflict and on the pretext of militarisation.