KwaZulu-Natal Premier Zweli Mkhize

The KwaZulu-Natal provincial executive council on Thursday. expressed concerns over the “growing trend” of elderly people killed on suspicion that they were witches.

“We call on our people never to use suspicion of witchcraft as an excuse to commit murder. Any attack is not acceptable,” said Premier Zweli Mkhize after a meeting of the council.

The cabinet was reacting to recent incidents where people – mostly the elderly – were killed for allegedly being witches.

Last month in Lindelani Elsa Dubazane, 62, burnt to death in a mud shack while her husband Raphael Zulu, who had managed to escape the burning shack, was “necklaced” a few metres away.

The couple had been accused by residents of witchcraft. Eleven suspects have been arrested for this crime.

More recently, 50-year-old Masisi Mhlongo, Fanelesi-bonge Ntuli, 6 and Amahle Nxumalo, 5, were burnt to death inside their home in Maphumulo, near Stanger.

Police were still investigating the deaths as some have suspected foul play.

According to some reports, it is believed that Mhlongo could have been attacked as she was accused of being a witch.

King Goodwill Zwelithini also strongly condemned these killings. Speaking at the commemoration of the Battle of Isandlwana, the king lamented the silence of the human rights activists and that of government on these matters.

Ndabe Sibiya, the spokes-man for the premier, said the provincial government was responding to the calls by the king and would be stepping up awareness programmes aimed at educating the general public about the welfare of the elderly.

“We have to ensure that people understand ageing as a natural process and not as a problem.”

Sibiya said some of the programmes by the Premier’s Office would be to create awareness on Alzheimer’s dementia,” because in some communities the mental dis- order is wrongly associated with witchcraft”.

To champion the cause of the elderly, Mkhize has established the senior citizen’s forum which is housed in the Premier’s Office.

But the senior citizens forums would be rolled out to all the districts in the province.

Sibiya said there were many other programmes – including the establishment of luncheon clubs for senior citizens – that the government would embark on to ensure that the elderly are integrated into communities.

“We will also be develop- ing an intergenerational programme to ensure that senior citizens can impart the knowledge they have on to younger generations which would ensure that the stigma associated with ageing is dealt with.”