26 November 2008

Muti murders and ritual killing

The Daily Dispatch has a good article on the growing number of muti and ritual murders.

Daily Dispatch Online:
THE use of human body parts for medicinal purposes – “muti”, derived from the word meaning tree – is based in the belief that it is possible to appropriate the life force of one person through its literal consumption of another. Medicine, or muti, murder appears in several countries across Africa, with ethnographic evidence going back to the early nineteenth century in South Africa. Research indicates that an estimated 80 percent of South Africans regularly use traditional herbs and medicines for muti.

Not all traditional healers make use of human body parts as an ingredient in their medicines, but those who do place an “order” with a person hired for this specialist purpose. The orders include private parts, tongues, hands, heads, eyes and lips which are used to ensure economic prosperity, sexual potency and to promote romantic matters amongst others.

These are the type of self-centred motives that leads to murder.

The use of human body matter does, however, not always involve killing. F or example, a living person’s nail clippings or hair cuttings may secretly be collected by a jealous neighbour or friend and used in potions targeted against that person. Body parts can also be harvested from corpses, with mortuary workers and hospital staff implicated in this aspect of the trade.

Lest this be thought to be a problem related only to African culture and African traditional medicine, the following report indicates that Western medicine also suffers from this kind of abuse:

News - Crime & Courts: Spotlight on organ transplant scandal:
A decision is to be made this week on who is to be prosecuted in the alleged international kidney transplant trafficking scandal which allegedly involved St Augustine s Hospital and eight KwaZulu-Natal doctors specialists and staff.

And a decision will also be made on what the proposed charges 'the participants' should respond to said Advocate Robin Palmer a law professor at the University of KwaZulu-Natal who has been called in to prosecute the case.

Charges were provisionally withdrawn two years ago against the doctors and Netcare transplant unit staff to allow the State time for further investigations.

Harvesting organs in this manner, whether for African traditional medicine or Western scientific medicine, turns healing into a zero-sum game, in which the health of one person can only be improved at the cost of the health of another.


Anonymous said...
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9eyedeei said...

I think you're being (through kindness) a little overly-even-handed to equate organ-harvesting with the endless callous bestial stupidity of the muti murders (like chronicled ad infinitum on welovesouthafrica.com)...it's the difference between being a werewolf and eating a hamburger...

Steve Hayes said...


Overly even-handed?

There are clearly differences.

People who sell their organs do end up with cash for kidneys, whereas the victims of muti-murders are not volunteers, and don't get cash compensation.

But the relevance of the werewolf/hamburger analogy escapes me.

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