Last week, Ingrid&Maria published the story of Bob and Betty, who had to leave South Africa after two black men repeatedly tried to snatch their daughter Dora – to use her in witchcraft ceremonies, known as muti.
– The muti doctors are untouchable here even though they are evil and scam people all the time, says Mike Bolhuis of Specialist Investigators in Pretoria.
Mike Bolhuis and his team have 35 years experience of specialist investigations into serious violent and economic crimes in South Africa. He has never heard of a white child being sold or kidnapped to use in witchcraft, so what happened to Bob and Betty might be totally unique.
But muti doctors do exist in South Africa. In the detective novel Deadly Harvest by Michael Stanley, the author describes it like this:
“Throughout sub-Saharan Africa, witch doctors hold influential positions in society. Most people believe in them and their powers to some extent. Even Western-trained scientists may carry a residue of belief …
There are a few witch doctors, regarded as very powerful, who use human body parts in their muti [magic]. They often choose a victim for a specific reason. If a male client wants to be virile, a witch doctor may kill a young boy and make muti from his sex organs to improve sexual energy … Even more horrific is that the power of the muti is thought to be enhanced if the body parts are removed while the victim is alive.”
People believe in magic
So, muti murders happen. They happen because people believe in magic and want it to be used on their behalf. These murders are very hard to solve because there’s usually no connection between the killer and his victim, which makes it hard to pin down a motive.
– In my 35 years of experience I have never heard of any white people who have sold their children. And we have never heard of a similar case, so it could be that what happened to Bob and Betty is unique. For sure it does not happen regularly. I have heard of people being scared for their children being targeted for muti, for witchcraft purpose, but that has always been black people.
How do these muti doctors pick their victims? Once they had targeted Dora they went on to pursue the family and even grabbed the girl from the grandmother’s arms, why were they so obsessed with this child?
– It’s possible that they have identified this child, believing that she could bring something specific to their witchcraft domain. In other words that they need this specific child in order to make a specific drug that they can sell or use.
What would they have done to Dora if they had taken her?
– Our investigations during the years have shown that they use body parts for medicine. They use the organs and most of the body parts, but specifically the genitalia, the eyes and other smaller body parts believed to have some kind of magic or healing power. The drugs would then be used to cure those that have a specific disease.
Do you know how many children they kidnap and murder?
– As I said it is very, very rare, but we know that black children are disappearing, this happens quite a lot. And there has been a lot of information regarding stillborn or unborn babies from the townships being used for muti. But we have not heard or do not have records of an incident where a white child has been stolen and used for muti in the witchcraft industry.
Can you tell us about this ”religion” or belief that muti is? Why do they believe in this?
– These are very, very old traditions. They just believe it. The “doctors” are black men who have invested money in this industry and what they do is that they purport to have the answers and the knowhow to heal people and assist them, but obviously for a fee. They make themselves known in their culture stating that they have had successes with boiling and eating or doing anything else with certain body parts and they show people some fake results.
– People are being scammed all the time. When a muti doctor shows someone who they say was diagnosed with HIV but took these and these organs and were cured, many believe it. But the “cured” person is actually in cahoots with the witchcraft people. People fall for it because they see a healthy person – but he was never sick, it is a scam!
Muti is an evil belief
– This is how it is spreads around, and many believe it. Unfortunately, in these cultures people easily fall for such shows and it just takes a clever scammer to start rumors about what he has achieved to fool a lot of people.
Mike Bolhuis calls the muti a very evil belief, but since it’s so strong many black South Africans follow the muti doctors blindly without doing any investigation or checking it out.
– They thrive on the people being illiterate, not knowledgeable or aware. And then they abuse them financially.
It’s really hard for Western people to digest that such things are happening – kidnapping children to murder them and make “medicine” out of their body parts. And even stranger is that nobody in South Africa talks about it. Why isn’t this a priority for the police or the ANC government?
– The South African police is in our opinion up to 80 percent corrupt. Corruption doesn’t necessarily mean taking money from criminals and complainants, it also means when you don’t protect and serve. There is no proper protection and no proper police service in South Africa. No proper infrastructure of the police. Witchcraft is a very big industry here – it is a scamming industry, a knocking industry, Knocking means you take somebody’s money for a service even though you know the service is not going to be rendered, it’s called a knock – taking someone’s money and not delivering a service.
– This witchcrafters are all in cahoots with the crooked cops and the community. Needless to say, they are extremely feared. Because when you meet them or investigate them or deal with them, they give off an aura of evil, they have an evil spirit around them and they make very sure that people are deadly scared of them.
Mike Bolhuis goes on describing how the hoaxes fool people. Muti doctors use clairvoyance, hypnotism and spike people with drugs. That’s how they influence not only the people they sell it to, but also the authorities.
– They use anything in order to gain both fear and confidence. Unfortunately, the muti doctors are feared. Not necessarily respected, but in a way untouchable. And there are no proper case studies, no special unit who investigates this. It’s rather seen as a form of religion that people have a right to practice.
– We almost never read about it in the media. One of the main reasons is the fear factor. Because so many people really believe in these witch doctors they are standing with them and actually protecting them. The little minority that sees through them and want to talk about them, is extremely frightened and intimidated – that’s why you never get a lot of cases against them and seldom read stories in the media.
– This is an underground world. It’s very evil, very dark and very dangerous. It goes along with threats and intimidations – and killings, if necessary. Witchcrafters have a law of their own and they practice “djungle justice” if they have to. So the authorities and government might frown upon this, but they do not take it seriously or act against it.
– Our organization is specialized. We take these cases in, and we’ve had many. But they are very difficult to solve since we do not have the government or authorities infrastructure to assist us. So we try to do it through the media and we tell about these cases on video, audio and newspapers.
The filmmaker Jonas Nilsson’s third movie about South Afrika will be released in June. Watch the trailer for The Witch Doctor’s Curse.
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