Tuesday, October 07, 2008

Okay to bring a witch to court in Zimbabwe

This is news already two years old, but I just ran across it while researching the issue.

In July 2006, the BBC reported that Zimbabwe lifted its more than a century old ban on witchcraft.

Back in 1899, Zimbabwe—then Southern Rhodesia—passed the Witchcraft Suppression Act, which despite its foreboding name was actually a positive thing. It made it illegal to accuse someone of witchcraft. Those early colonial settlers remembered the disastrous witch persecutions in Europe and wanted to avoid a similar situation.

But two years ago, the government amended the Act, positing that the supernatural—and witchcraft—exists. Now Zimbabweans can prosecute someone for witchcraft, so long as it’s the bad kind, meant to harm someone. Positive witchcraft, to protect property, for instance, is fine.

The Worldwide Religious News also reported the story, with a very different angle, that the Amendment furthered Zimbabwean culture. It included this quote:

"By rejecting the existence of witchcraft, whites managed to destroy one of the tenets of African traditional beliefs as a way of disenfranchising the blacks of their religious bedrock," said one analyst.

On the plus side, the Amendment does criminalize witch hunting, with a fine or jail time as punishment.

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