Mbabane - Swaziland’s albinos have called on the government for protection before elections expected later this year, fearing their body parts will be harvested by candidates seeking good luck.
“Those in authority must make sure our safety is guaranteed,” said Skhumbuzo Mndvoti, an albino community leader living in the southern town of Nhlangano.
“I can warn adults and parents of albino children to take extra care during these election days,” Mndvoti said.
Ritual killings are common in Swaziland, and elsewhere in Africa, with “muti” practitioners – a catch-all for traditional medicine and witchcraft – using limbs or body parts as amulets.
In the past albinos as well as epileptics have been specifically targeted, prompting the police to set up registries.
In 2010 the killing and mutilation of albinos, including in one instance the decapitation of two children in Nhlangano, prompted panic.
Sipho Dlamini, 28, said such albino killings regularly took place, but in the past were masked by rumours about albino behaviour.
“People were told that when an albino dies, he would go and die far away where he or she would not be found. I think they were killed,” he said.
Mndvoti blamed witchdoctors who mislead people into believing that using human body parts will help them win seats to parliament or prosper in business.
The local albino community has threatened not to vote if no special security measures are taken.
President of the Traditional Healers of Swaziland, Nhlavana Maseko said those who misled people to use ritual murder to win elections or wealth were witches and wizards and not traditional healers.
“A witch is born and never trained but a traditional healer undergoes intensive training to heal people through traditional means,” Maseko said.
“We have a problem here in Swaziland of the colonial law called the Witchcraft Act which does not make a difference between a traditional healer and a witch or wizard.” – Sapa-AFP