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Strong Muti

Strong Muti

by Luke Mason, illustration by Warren Rayesdorf / 01.06.2010

Last week I met a man who had just buried his mother. The eldest child in a family of four, unemployed, desolate, deeply wounded. His mother had been abducted towards the end of last year. Accounts of the incident differ, but from what I heard, she had had her throat cut, her breasts, womb and clitoris remove, her eyes, and tongue taken. The man’s younger brother had lost his mind after finding her dismembered corpse. Community members seemed to be in little doubt that the woman had been murdered by human body-part hunters working in the muti trade. Her fate reduced to a frightened whisper and a warning to be vigilant. I heard that her husband, the man’s stepfather, had been paid R30 000 to arrange the murder. I heard that the stepfather was a free man in the community.

The son was in his late twenties, coloured, Zulu speaking. His mother had been the sole breadwinner of his family and he was now living in the home of a pastor. When asked about his mother, his lips and cheeks tightened in a smile-like grimace, his eyelids quivered. He could not talk about the incident. He explained how he had just put his mother to rest, how it was very difficult for him to unearth his memories of the event. He wanted to know if the pain he would have to face in recalling these thoughts would help him pay his little sister’s school-fees, or whether it would help support his family. He asked if there was any money in it for him. I have never seen such pain in a man’s eyes. It was obvious that it was too big for him to face, that the torrent of sorrow it would release would take with it the last light of his being. I could hardly breathe in his presence.

It is said that muti containing human body parts is more powerful than that without. For these macabre ingredients to be most effective they must be imbued with the will to live of those from whom they are harvested. The harder one fights for their life, the more potent their flesh in death. Children’s body-parts are also desirable: a young life has used up little of its luck and innocence in this world. People use strong muti to ensure success in business, to bring back love and for fertility. They use strong muti when desperation pits one life against another in the basest sense, when someone else’s suffering means nothing in comparison with one’s own.

Human body-part trafficking is a lucrative business in this region of Southern Africa and instances of these so-called muti-murders are not uncommon in our country. For hard facts about this phenomenon you can read an official report by the Mozambique Human Rights League here.

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RESPONSES (18)
  1. Doctor L. says:

    I wonder if they took organs.

    I’m confused about the man being in his late 20s and not bringing in any money to help his mother or himself, though.

    I don’t know how to react to this article, overall. It seems like an emotional and horrified response would be appropriate, but so much of it is hearsay and anonymous, that I can’t bring myself to that. Not denying that this shit happens, but it’s also common for people ekasi naselalini to make this shit up for some kind of end, maybe damning the father, in this case.

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  2. not your immigrant says:

    Doctor L had to comment as quickly as possible on this one, desperately thrying to throw doubt on the reality and the horror of what has been described in very clear and lucid terms. Why? Well, read his other comments on mahala where he relentlessly assaults the presence and influence of people of European racial origin in this land, claiming that their influence has been entirely detrimental to those of African origin. Evidence of ongoing muti murders and the cultural beliefs that incentivise them fly in the face of his propaganda, so playing this down will be key to his agenda for an entirely Afrocentric future for SA.

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  3. Doctor L. says:

    This isn’t about you, you self-involved asshole. Say something about the piece and get the fuck off my nuts. This is my last comment to you. If you want to spin this as some kind of deepest darkest Africa bullshit, then by all means proceed. Swear to god, it’s like your mom holds your dick when you pee. Be a goddamn man fer chrissakes! lol.

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  4. Anastassia says:

    i must say so as not to be taken down by the drama, but also to acknowledge a reality, that i really appreciate Doc L’s initial comment.

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  5. not your immigrant says:

    “This isn’t about you, you self-involved asshole.”
    Considering that I made absolutely no reference to myself in the comment above, I would agree that it’s not about me. It’s about the safety and well-being of my fellow citizens. But then there’s no reason to accuse me of being self-involved, is there?

    “Say something about the piece”
    I did. Read my comment again, “the reality and the horror of what has been described in very clear and lucid terms.”

    “get the fuck off my nuts”
    I’ll consider that when you stop hurling racist abuse towards a paticular ethnic group. You got on the nuts of others first.

    “This is my last comment to you.”
    Is that a threat or a promise?

    “If you want to spin this as some kind of deepest darkest Africa bullshit, then by all means proceed”
    There is spin and then there is evidence. Is all the evidence of muti muders to date fabricated, or is it symptomatic of a serious social problem that any sane society should tackle aggressively? Should we wish this away together with equivalent social ills amongst whites such as wife beating, family murders, paedophilia and racist behavior from certain individuals? Responsible communities don’t accuse others of prejudice when problems become evident within them – they take owneship of these things and work towards solving them.

    “Swear to god, it’s like your mom holds your dick when you pee. Be a goddamn man fer chrissakes! lol.”
    I don’t think that any reasonable or intelligent person could fathom that this should have any bearing on my comments (or my gender). It’s just arrogant and insulting and speaks poorly of your ability to engage productively in any debate.

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  6. Anonymous says:

    hey, stop fighting like little kids! It’s not nice and no-one wants to read it. This article is about someone who lost their mother due to a terrible act. The facts may be second-hand, but the reality is true, people are dying and hurting because of this awful crime. Stop wasting your time on justifying your point of view, and do something about the problem.

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  7. not your immigrant says:

    Hey Anonymous, what are YOU going to do about the problem? Kakking on people who express an opinion does not count.

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  8. bkaay says:

    The article has been reduced to a confrontation/spat between Doctor L and Anonymous, my bit on this is different a family member of mine was a recent victim to human trafficking. Luckily the family was able to find him before any horrific acts of cutting out of body parts. Nonetheless it was a horiffic experience for my family. Shit happens I for one never thought I’d be affeceted.

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  9. Doctor L. says:

    Apologies for detracting from the article, but I’ve found the tone of my 2nd comment is the best way to deal with these people, short of ignoring them. How do you even begin to construct an argument with someone who, though insisting they’re not prejudiced, takes every turn in their rhetoric to infer that you’re inept because your skin is darker than their’s? My 1st comment is my piece: ignore the rest.

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  10. not your immigrant says:

    Once again, Doctor L takes wild swipes at people who do not agree with him and makes unfounded accusations that they are racist. I challenge anyone to find any phrase in my previous comments that is racist or prejudicial towards Doctor L because of his skin colour. Quote me, please, so that we can all learn something from this sorry episode. I, on the other hand, can easily quote Doctor L from his previous comments on mahala where it is obvious that he is intent on chastising and baiting white people for reasons that are unfounded and highly subjective.

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  11. Andy says:

    Ag DJF just chill. Dr L is just coming from a different perspective. As far as I can tell, there’s no racial baiting going on. People just have different, views, experiences and expectations…

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  12. wisdom says:

    jinne people, chill.
    Its hectic that muti is still such a living trade, excuse the pun. But it’s the fears behind this that drive the attacks on ‘witches’ and all of the related doubt, hate and otherness. Is this all driven by the hidden hand of modern evangelists? Where is the link to modern sensibilities and perhaps worse, modern drive for wealth? the muti will make you rich stuff?
    Its all too weird for my whitey sensibilities but this is the kind of shit we lapped up in school when ‘True Africa’ was banned reading for whitey laaities – is it sensationalist to check it out or is this just bad kak for nation building when we kill people for thier mojo?
    Lets ask the real questions and not get caught up in the stupid hakking and kakking poephols – Im talking to doctor and NYI here bros. Get real people.

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  13. Sean says:

    @ Andy

    Read this thread and see if Dr L is just coming from a different perspective.

    http://www.mahala.co.za/culture/the-globalisation-of-ooga-booga/

    @ Dr L

    You can disregard every single fact in this article and just be horrified by the fact that this phenomenon exists in this enlightened Africa of ours. We’ve got people hacking each other to bits in the name of ‘my kultcha’.

    I kind of agree with Not you imigrant. While DR L loses sleep over the fact that some black people still work in gardens while being perfectly fine with debating the relevance and truth of people shredding each other alive. What would you have done if the report said a white man cut a black women to bits to concoct an ancient European potion to make his wife love him. But I guess it’s ok if blacks commit crimes – just not whites. Kind of reminds me of the toilet wars in Cape Town. Worse still, if a black dude cuts a white man up Julias gets to sing his song.

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  14. One Man's Meat... says:

    Sean, NYI…You are wasting your breath. You are in the land of the far left.
    Actually – on seconfd thought – you may not be wasting your time…
    Your commentary definitely serves a purpose. As Andy said “People just have different, views, experiences and expectations”

    Your logical and seeminly factual views can open the eyes of the readers to the other (in my opinion..more truthful) side of racially/culturally muddied articles and ensure that they are not only subjected to the well worn & obviously fanciful bleeding heart rhetoric of the self-righteous-guilt-laden Mahala crew of writers.

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  15. Grak says:

    A stunning and beautifully written piece.
    I really dont think that muti killings have anthing to do with the colour of skin.These acts are beyond any kind of human characteristic,they are on a whole other level.There are,unfortunately, examples of these types of horrific acts commited around the world,such as serial killers,for example in the USA and people in war who torture fellow human beings.These kinds of acts transcend any normal human behaviour and often go beyond reason. By associating them (the acts) with such a specifically human characteristic such as the colour of skin we are saying that there was something even slightly human in this killing.Which there is not.

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  16. Sean says:

    @ Grak

    I appreciate what you are trying to say but you are ignoring the details between cause and effect here. Cars with big breaks are usually quite fast. It’s not the breaks that make them fast, but because they have big engines (inside) we can, as a rule of thumb, say that the breaks (outside) are an indicator of speed. A does not have to cause B to be an indicator of it. Cars with big engines go fast and usually need big breaks to kill the speed, therefore one can reverse the logic and say if there are big breaks, there might be a lot of speed to kill which would mean the car is quite fast.

    In the same way a black skin does not make you kill someone’s mum in a muti ritual, but as muti rituals are of a historical cultural nature, it is safe to assume (as a rule of thumb) that black people are involved in this sort of thing. Muti killings is not a white suburban phenomenon. Other bad things are, but not this one.

    Also, serial killers, genocide, torture and the like are different. A serial killer is a pathology. He’s not well and we as a human race acknowledge that. To use a serial killer as any kind of measure or justification is wrong. Genocide very often has a political motive behind it, also making it slightly irrelevant. And human torture is also illegal. International organisations ban it. It is a gross human rights violation world wide.

    What makes this article so morbid is the fact that African kultcha is to be equated to the the lowest most inhumane side of the rest of the world. While the rest of the world would send a search party after whoever committed such a crime, we merely shake our head and say “it might not be true, and if it is, it’s kultcha”.

    I think South Africa should stop treating these sorts of crimes as if it’s some hot potato. We should call it what it is: barbaric, backward, gross and most importantly illegal. But somehow we get caught up in an argument of Africa vs the West and black vs white.

    @Dr L

    If you asked the chap who had his mum murdered whether he’d rather be proudly and traditionally African (and pay this price) or be a sell-out and live a European lifestyle (and have his mum around) I’m pretty sure he’d go for the non-traditional African option.

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  17. mary says:

    Doctor I want to spend time with my boyfriend and at work he’s a trainee so at work they don’t want to give them days to be at home so I want you to make a plan for my boyfriend for him to give them atleast 10 days and at friday I should be living to his place and I want him to stop cheating I want him to date me only I want him to dump all her girlfriends without me and I want a baby with him

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  18. lerato says:

    Doctor,I just need a help on my boyfriend.I love him so much but he doesn’t seems to be loving me the way I do.I just can’t live without him please help me to make him love me back.his name is thato sewape

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