South African Man Abducted, Hands Amputated in Suspected Muti Attack

What You Need to Know:

A 30-year-old walking during the early hours of the morning in Vosman, near Witbank, was attacked by six unidentified assailants on March 20th. The man had his hands and feet bound, and was told by his attackers that they planned to kill him. Instead, the attackers took the victim into a bush, amputated both of the victims hands, and took off with his body parts, leaving him to die. 

Security services arrived at the scene and the man is currently recovering in hospital. Police have opened a case of attempted murder, but have yet made no breakthroughs in locating the attackers. 

Lieutenant General Semakaleng Daphney Manamela, Provincial Police Commissioner in Mpumalanga stated, “though the victim was not killed however the acts committed by the suspects are heartless and should be strongly condemned in the strongest possible way.” 

The Details:

Muti, also known as umuthi in Zulu, is an alternative word for medicine in some localities but colloquially refers to witchcraft. Muti is characterized by the use of body parts in rituals to bring protection or strength to an individual or tribe. Oftentimes, victims are healthy young males, or the strongest warrior from a rival tribe. 

‘Muti murders’ involve the ritual killing of an individual for the use of the victims body parts in creating ‘magical medicine.’ As stated by Harriet Ngubane, a South African Anthropologist, “in a definable part of southern African medical practice … ethics permit a practitioner to recommend in certain special cases a ritual killing.”

“Ritual homicide [carries] very high professional fees … The inyanga [expert] who prescribes a muti homicide … arrives at his advice … within the … worldview of African traditional medicine.” 

However, with ritual killing now illegal in South Africa, attacks on individuals which stop short of murder but involve the amputation of limbs has increased. 

An academic investigation into ‘Violent Hand Amputation and Replantation in South Africa’ conducted by Wendy Young, Pragashnie Govender, and Deshini Naidoo, claims that in 2001, almost 2500 individuals were caught with body parts in their possession. This highlights just how ingrained the practice of ritual killing is in the nation. 

Analysis:

It is highly likely the man attacked in this case was a victim of a crime with connections to the practice of muti. 

The practice of muti is particularly prevalent in Mpumalanga, with three doctors and a nurse suspended from Bernice Samuel Hospital in 2021 after an infant admitted with diarrhea had her hand amputated. A case of negligence was opened against the nurse and three doctors, and officially a possible muti motive was not investigated, but it is also highly likely the amputation was done so the hand could be used for ritualistic magic. 

Bianca Bridger
Bianca Bridger
Bianca Bridger is a Political Science Graduate from the University of Otago, New Zealand. Currently working as an Editor for The ModernInsurgent and writing for Atlas News, her interests include conflict politics, history, yoga and meditation.

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