A campaign has started in Swaziland called ‘Don’t kill us, we are human beings too’ to raise awareness about people with albinism.
People in Swaziland with the skin condition live in fear of their lives as some traditional healers, witchdoctors and others use their body parts in spells to bring good luck.
The Stukie Motsa Foundation is now using social media to dispel the false belief that people with albinism cleanse back luck and bring fortune to people.
There have been concerns in Swaziland for years that people with albinism have been targeted and murdered. Witchdoctors use the body parts to make spells that they claim bring people good luck. Sport teams have also been known to use spells to bring them good fortune during matches. Witchdoctors’ services are especially sought after by candidates contesting parliamentary and local elections. An election is due in Swaziland later in 2018.
In January 2017, the Director of Public Prosecution’s office in Swaziland told witchdoctors in the kingdom to stop murdering people for body parts. The witchdoctors, also known as tinyanga, were advised to go to the Ministry of Health for body parts, such as bones.
During the national elections in Swaziland in 2013, people with albinism lived in fear that their body parts would be harvested by candidates seeking good luck.
Independent Newspapers in South Africa reported at the time, ‘In the past [people with albinism], who lack the skin pigment melanin, as well as epileptics have been specifically targeted, prompting the police to set up registries.
‘In 2010, the killing and mutilation of [people with albinism], including in one instance the decapitation of two children in Nhlangano, prompted panic.’
In August 2013, Independent Newspapers quoted an academic at the University of Swaziland, who did not want to be named, saying, ‘Ritual killings to achieve elected office are a natural outgrowth of a government based not on rationality or democratic principles but on superstitious beliefs.
‘The Swazi king claims power through an annual Incwala festival where a bull is brutally sacrificed and mysterious rituals occur, and this sets the tone. No one knows how office-holders are appointed in Swaziland. It’s all done in secret, without recourse to merit or any rhyme or reason, so this fuels irrational beliefs.
‘Ritual murder has long been part of Swazi life.’
At present, a Swazi traditional healer is in police custody in South Africa for allegedly killing two children from Vosman near Witbank, one of them living with albinism. The South African Deputy Minister for Social Development, Hendrietta Bogopane-Zulu said the killing of people living with albinism by people believed to be Swazis has become a national crisis in her home country.
The Swazi Observer reported on Tuesday (27 March 2018), ‘The deputy minister said she wanted to know what Swaziland was doing to stop the killing of people living with albinism. She also stated that some of these people were quitting their jobs and schools in fear of being kidnapped.’
Albinism affects the production of melanin, the pigment that colours skin, hair and eyes. It's a lifelong condition, but it doesn't get worse over time. People with albinism have a reduced amount of melanin, or no melanin at all. This can affect their colouring and their eyesight. Albinism is caused by faulty genes that a child inherits from their parents.
PEOPLE WITH ALBINISM WANT PROTECTION
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