Witchcraft has gone 3D

RECENTLY the University of Dar es Salaam organised a well-attended workshop on reducing harm(s) caused by witchcraft beliefs and witch hunting in Tanzania.

Presentations from different stakeholders raised resourceful insights on the issue. Is witchcraft and traditional healing the same?

Who is a witch or a healer? Is witchcraft a science or a technology?

This topic has now attracted the academic world not just as a study but as an issue that needs to be addressed seriously and sustainable solutions found. I believe witchcraft has now gone digital and since the narratives are not taking us anywhere, we have to use the 3D mode approach.

In this case, Tanzania Media Women’s Association (TAMWA) a non-profit and a professional and activist organisation focusing on women and children’s interest(s) has something to share here.

Members are known to lobby and do advocacy for policies and laws which are in the interest of women and men and will result in equitable economic and social transformation.

The first agenda was to crack this hard nut called Sexual and Gender Based Violence from the gender perspectives.

The views I express and reflect here are not necessarily TAMWA’s. In 1997 TAMWA supported by her fellow activists staged a big bang camp in Dodoma to deliver to Members of Parliament (MPs) the results from their ten years work on SGBV, share findings and present recommendations.

The first product was the Sexual Offences Special Provision ACT (1998). 25 years down the road as active and vibrant civil society we wonder why everything is moving in slow motion and we are all faced with a dilemma in our development work.

There is a very thin line between witchcraft and healing. We are not the only ones who have this dilemma we just differ in sophistication. Would you call the white goat during King Charles III coronation witchcraft or a superstitious act? It all depends on your cultural heritage and what the white goat symbolises.

Basically a healer compares with the modern doctor since they both have to diagnose the cause through different means in order to prescribe the treatment.

They both use a variety of methodologies to cure physical, emotional and spiritual illnesses. Logically even if you don’t understand what they are doing or not doing, as long as you get well you will believe them.

In Kiswahili we say Uongo wa mganga nafuu ya mgonjwa meaning a doctors lie relieves the patient.

A witch starts with an evil mind and witchcraft is the means through which the evil intention is implemented. So we are all potentially witches, hence the Kiswahili saying, heri mchawi kuliko muongo- better deal with a witch than a liar.

The logic is you go and look for the witch, but a liar has the tongue to harm someone’s integrity. A liar is dangerous and can cause social disorganisation worldwide!

The British bequeathed us statutory laws in writing which prohibited what they didn’t understand or couldn’t control.

They undermined our theories and practices for economic and administrative benefits. Today the government’s position on witchcraft is delicate because they need evidence for material penalties.

Customary laws, passed on through generations, guided morals to serve the community and imposed moral penalties. Faith based beliefs recognise witchcraft and magical powers as per Holy Books. In religion material penalties are postponed until Judgment Day.

They use exhortations or instructions. The dilemma is that statutory laws are in conflict with both laws of society and religion. They are imposed on a society who have their own customs and traditions enshrined for generations. Can there be a consensus or harmonisation?

The Media is at crossroad because bad attitude on all sides is like a flat tire, can’t go anywhere. Society using their own standards its justice now, otherwise justice delayed is justice denied. With government justice takes long because justice hurried is justice buried.

Information is power, we need enough time to be informed on this aspect of our cultural heritage before passing any laws.

In this digital world the narrative has little space; we should all go beyond whistle blowing, we need an integrated approach.

The challenge is how do you deal with so many diverse media houses, political parties, faith based organisations, and development partners with opposing policies? Or should we just blow it to the wind?

*The writer is TAMWA member

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