The term “quack doctor” takes on a whole new meaning when you consider the situation in Southern Africa. There are more than 400 tribal groupings in South Africa. All of them come from a tradition in which ancestor worship is the norm and evil spirits cause misfortunes and disease.
According to this belief system, there are only three reasons for something bad happening to you:
- Someone has bewitched me and caused this to happen to me
- The ancestral spirits are angry with me
- Evil spirits are haunting me and making me sick
Someone who has grown up with this belief system will not embrace such notions as “human immunodeficiency virus.” Rather, they will tend to believe: “I have been poisoned. Witchcraft medicine was mixed into my food and that is why I have contracted the flat tire disease (AIDS).”
It is the norm for people who live with these beliefs to take revenge for the actions of the person whom they believe poisoned them. Sometimes it means eliminating the people whom they are convinced did harm to them.
Not surprisingly, there are 200,000 traditional healers who carry out more than 80 percent of the country’s medical consultations. “Traditional healer” is one of those marvelous politically correct descriptions that Americans are worn away like a collective pumice stone to accept – despite the fact that the collective consciousness knows what a nonsense it is. These days, instead of emerging from a mud hut to toss the bones, the sangoma or traditional healer is likely to have a suite next to your nice Dr. Stott.
Western medical practitioners in South Africa are finding it increasingly difficult to bridge the chasm between Western science and indigenous voodoo.
Although mainstream traditional healers (nyangas and sangomas) say they don’t recommend rape, it is not an uncommon prescription in Africa for everything from boosting a business to exorcising the evil spirit in your mother-in-law. Yet these “traditional healers” are rarely prosecuted. Why, the victim or victim’s family wouldn’t dare go to the authorities, lest the traditional healers casts a spell on them!
In a country ravaged by AIDS, the number of child rapes grows like Hydra’s heads. In a story written this week by Afrikaner activist Fred Rundle, it is claimed that there are 961 child rapes a day in South Africa. In the small town of Theunnissen (population 40,000) in the Orange Free State, there are six children raped every week. Says Rundle, “It must be clear that all the rapes are committed by blacks.”
According to Suzanne Leclerc-Madlala, an anthropology lecturer at the University of Durban Westville, as the deadly virus tightens its stranglehold on South Africa, the myth that sex with a virgin will cure AIDS is become standard received wisdom. This could certainly account for the horrific rape statistics that emerge from that troubled land. Justice officials and AIDS workers say that in KwaZuluNatal alone at least five rapes cases involving girls under eight are being dealt with daily in every magistrates court in the province.
There are similarities between the way in which sexually transmitted diseases were dealt with in Europe in the 19th century and modern day “treatments” prescribed by some “traditional” healers. In the 19th century, it was widely believed that sex with a child would provide a cure for syphilis. Quack doctors kept brothels in Liverpool in the United Kingdom for this purpose. But as a noted British journalist pointed out, “This is the 21st century and not the 19th. What the ANC’s Marxist rule has done in effect is drag the country back two centuries. Except few people dare to say so for fear of being seen to be ‘racist.'”
AIDS researchers in Zambia, Zimbabwe and Nigeria confirm that the myth also exists in these countries where the rate of child rape is also high.
Black men believe that raping a child will cleanse them of AIDS and also acts as a preventive measure to avoid contracting the HIV/AIDS virus from older women.
A 23-year-old black respondent told an AIDS worker: “Everybody over 12 years old in the township might already have the virus, so its better if you go for the 6- or 8-year- olds. …”
Another 20 year-old added: “If I have HIV, I can just go out and spread it to 100 other people so we can all go together. Why should they be left behind having fun if I must die?”
The overwhelming silence over AIDS and the lack of real discussion about sexuality among Africans is where the real problem lies.
“People back off the issue. It has become a taboo within the AIDS taboo,” says Jan Lamprecht, author of “Government by Deception.”
Stephanie Shutte, a counselor for Childline in the Western Cape thinks the increase in child rape is directly related to the way HIV and AIDS is understood in the community. (The community is another PC word. It actually means “the herd of sheep.”) The belief is that the cleanliness and pureness of the child will strip the virus away. Both girls and boys are being raped because of this belief. A dose of purity is rendered ineffective with a condom.
While Americans continue to export cargo-loads of condoms to the continent, they remain blithely ignorant of the true uses to which the condoms are put. The current favorite use is to put jelly in the condom and throw it at a car windshield. When the driver stops and attempts to clean it off, he will be attacked while the other hijacker speeds off in his car.
Rape perpetrators are not often arrested and brought before the court. In the rare cases that they are, they seldom acknowledge the offense, so it is difficult to know the motivation that lies behind the crime. Sometimes the motivation is a complex mix: “I’m HIV positive and angry, I want to take revenge and infect as many people as possible, but raping a baby will cure me. …”
In a country ravaged with disease, there is deep irony in the fact that the country’s health minister, Manto Tshabalala-Msimang, is up for a prestigious award from the World Health Organization.
Just as Hillary Clinton’s vision for health care promised to be all encompassing, so does Tshabala-Msimang’s politically correct and terrifyingly asinine vision threaten the populace. Not long ago, South Africa was shocked when a 2-year-old boy was discovered near Soweto. His thumbs had been cut off and there had been an attempt to gouge out his eyes. It is a known fact that muti (the “medicine” used by traditional healers) is considered more powerful if the innocent victim is still alive when the parts are removed.
It was also reported that a man had slaughtered his 6-year-old like an animal (at his home in Diepkloof). He emasculated him, split open his chest, removed his heart and cooked and ate it. The dead child’s genitals were in his pocket when he was arrested. According to Johannesburg’s muti-king, Dr Kessavan Naidoo, “Thumbs are used as medicine to call up ancestors, while human eyes are gouged out and ground into a paste which users apply to their foreheads in the hopes of obtaining ‘third eye vision’ enabling them to see the spirit world.”
In the new South Africa, these “traditional healers,” who throw the bones and prescribe what you have read above have been co-opted into the South African Department of Health.
They are embraced in the same way as practitioners who hang their certificates from Edinburgh University on the wall and carry out complicated brain surgery. They consult alongside specialists in state-controlled health facilities.
In the country where the world’s first heart transplant operation took place, primary health care has become primitive health care. Yet no one will say, “The emperor isn’t wearing any clothes.”
Such is the madness that exists in South Africa today.
Jani Allan is a British-born journalist and talk-show host. She spent many years in South Africa.