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By Kanina Foss
Young men are attacked and their genitals cut off while they are still alive; children's throats are slit and their organs removed; and border-crossers are caught with bags containing human heads and sexual organs.
These stories and more are contained in a horror report on the trafficking of human body parts in Mozambique and South Africa, which has unveiled a scary reality: body parts are frequently used in traditional medicine and there is a commonly held belief that such medicine is very powerful.
"Ritual killings are common here; it's like daily bread. We do not even get shocked when a person is found dead with body parts removed," said one of the South Africans interviewed.
Last year, 413 Mozambicans and South Africans attended open workshops and 139 went on to be interviewed. Twenty-two percent of interviewees had first-hand experience of seeing a mutilated body or separate body parts.
Furthermore, researchers could not find a single case in which someone caught carrying a body part had been prosecuted.
According to the Mozambican Human Rights League (LDH), which initiated the research, this is because there is no legislation - local or international - that criminalises the carrying of a body part without evidence linking the suspect to the actual murder.
"We need more legislation. There is no law that prohibits us from going around with a human finger. The law is against cutting it, but not carrying it," said LDH chairman Alice Mabota.
A total of 93 percent of the interviewees believed medicine containing body parts was more powerful.
One of the researchers, Matshidisho Ntsiuoa, from Child Welfare in Bloemfontein, said she had spoken to a woman who had gone to a sangoma for help to fall pregnant. The sangoma gave her a belt to wear. From the belt hung the fingers and penises of children.
Although the woman felt uncomfortable about the belt, she wore it. She paid R4 000 for the consultation.
Most of the medicine is aimed at making businesses more successful, and the researchers are worried that with the Fifa World Cup approaching, body parts will be in higher demand as people try to capitalise on increased business opportunities.
One of the aims of the report is to make it easier for people to talk about what's happening. The interviewees were afraid to be identified and said they'd be killed if anyone found out.
Traditional healers who attended Tuesday's release of the report said they wanted to distance themselves from such "wrongdoings", and were worried that people needing help were not approaching them because they'd heard stories about the use of body parts.