Archive for inyanga

The Demon Girl, part 1

Posted in Demon Girl, News Stories with tags , , , , on July 11, 2012 by White Zulu

This is the first part of a story that keeps getting more and more disturbing by the day – part 2 and 3 coming soon

5 July 2012
Nontuthuko Ngubane, reporting from Pietermaritzburg

Family fears ‘demons’ in a small child

The family of a young girl from Mbutshane in Sweetwaters, Ayanda Sibiya (12), who was found murdered with her eyes and chunks of flesh moved from her body in a tank of water near a church, now fear for their two-week-old child. The girl’s mother, Ms Ntombenhle Sibiya (32), who recently gave birth to a little girl, is living in fear that this child will also be possessed by the ‘demons’ that afflicted her older daughter.

Amanda went missing from their household two weeks ago, leaving behind a letter explaining that she had gone in order to protect her little sister from the demons about which she was constantly complaining.

Amanda never met her little sister, as she went missing from their household on the Thursday, and her mother returned home from the hospital with her baby the next day. According to the children’s mother, her little child cries excessively, causing her to suspect that something is not quite right with her.

“My child cries excessively and unusually. This is the first child I’ve had who cries like this. Her crying surprises me and it doesn’t help me to understand what’s wrong with her,” says Ms. Sibiya.

Although Ms Sibiya knew the demons that her daughter was constantly complaining about, as she had stayed for 9 months with an inyanga and was cured there, she said that she had not expected that her ‘sickness’ would be tamed by this.

“I will never forget what I saw – my child murdered so painfully. Her eyes no longer there, and chunks of her flesh gone, tied up like a sacrificial goat. I loved Ayanda, she was my hope, she was always complaining about the creatures telling her stories all the time but I never thought that she’d end up being killed in this way,” said Ms Sibiya.

The girl, whom people say was clever, was in Grade 6 at SibonguMbovu Primary school in Sweetwaters.

“Last year she was out of school for many months because of this sickness of hers, and she only went back to school as the year was almost over, but she pitched up and wrote her tests and passed.”

When the police were contacted, Captain Thulani Zwane said that the letter allegedly written by the deceased had been taken by the police to be examined.

“the letter is in the possession of the police now so that it can be examined. No arrests have yet been made in this case but the police are still investigating a case of murder,” said Zwane.

The police also said that they do not have any other cases resembling this one in the Sweetwaters area.


Ubuthakathi, abathakathi and ukuthakatha – a potential explanation

Posted in Explanations with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on June 25, 2012 by White Zulu

 As usual, I’m going to start my explanation with the linguistics. The root of these three words, -thakath-, is most probably related to the verb –thaka, meaning ‘to compound or concoct medicinal mixtures, to mix up medicines, to dispense’. This verb, however, as well as the related nouns ‘umthaki’ and ‘isithako’, does not have a negative connotation – it simply relates to the idea of ‘medicine-mixing’ or pharmacy. In fact, in Vilakazi and Doke’s dictionary, there is no relation drawn between the two words. Another potential relationship might be between the root and a related noun ‘ubuthakathaka’, meaning ‘limpness, softness, weakness, feebleness or debility’. 

However, before we dive in to the potential roots, what does the word mean? The verb, ukuthakatha, means ‘to practise witchcraft, deal in nefarious charms, concoctions, poisons, etc.’. The related agent-noun is ‘umthakathi’ (plural ‘abathakathi’), meaning ‘one who practises witchcraft’, whereas the concept noun ‘ubuthakathi’ simply means ‘witchcraft’. However, these terms translated thus are not entirely accurate. Christianocentric views of ‘witchcraft’ or modern ‘wicca’ are that it is a negative system of belief or worldview, but this does not reflect the true situation. In fact, a more useful translation of the words would be ‘to deal in nefarious charms, concoctions, poisons or any other negative medico-magical items or interventions’ for ukuthakatha, and then similar translations for the other two words, rather than using the contested and often inaccurate term ‘witchcraft’. 

But what does all this mean? What does it mean when someone is accused as an ‘umthakathi’, or accused of ‘ubuthakathi’? Generally, an umthakathi is someone who aims to use potions, spells, poisons and curses in order to harm other people. There are different versions of how someone does this – some claim that an umthakathi is not necessarily conscious of his or her actions, and that they thakatha at night. Others claim that the umthakathi is completely conscious, and aims to hurt – through cursing with lightning, placing of umeqo spells, or casting an eye (ukuphonsa ihlo) at someone. 

Berglund (1976: 266) argues that 

“the Zulu idiom ubuthakathi implies two fields of evil. Firstly, it refers to an incarnate power geared towards harm and destruction which manifests itself through humans and, either directly or indirectly, is addressed to human beings.

Secondly, ubuthakathi is associated with the embedded neutral powers of materia, imithi, the manipulation of which is geared towards evil ends.” 

So there is a difference between a malevolent and evil power (ubuthakathi) manifest in people (abathakathi) who then wield it in order to cause harm, and the use of neutral imithi in order to cause harm, through the knowledge of the medical materials’ power. 

This complicates matters somewhat – medical materia or imithi are by their nature neutral, and anyone can obtain such material in order to poison or to use those properties which they possess in order to harm someone. Thus someone who is an inyanga one day can, by selling medicines which can be used to kill, become an umthakathi the next day. For this reason, it is often innocent izinyanga who are killed because their knowledge of herbs is feared. The second ‘field of evil’ would best be translated by the English word ‘sorceror’ – someone who uses physical or chemical preparations or concoctions in order to effect magic. The first ‘field of evil’, however, implies something supernatural and mystical, associated with things such as flying through the air, invisibility, and gruesome unions with various familiars and beasts.

Another distinction is that the umthakathi yemithi – the sorcerer – is usually something transmitted from parent to child. The other type of umthakathi usually works outside of any social group or clan.

Whether this clears up the issue of ubuthakathi, or calls for another explanatory article, is part of the ongoing discourse on the subject. As Berglund wrote in 1976 (269),

“thinking on ubuthakathi does not always follow only traditional patterns of expressing itself. Zulu society allows for continual and ongoing additions to the ideas of the reality of evil. Ubuthakathi is inclusive in a remarkable way, no description however fanciful and incredible being too extravagant to be true in the realm of ubuthakathi”

Inyanga – a definition and potential explanation

Posted in Explanations with tags , , , on March 27, 2012 by White Zulu

As with all things to do with religion and culture, the definitions of certain ritual roles in Zulu society are quite fluid, and have often been misdefined. An example of this is the word ‘inyanga’. For many years, this would have been defined as a ‘witch-doctor’ by people from outside Africa. This term, apart from being patently insulting, is incorrect. Let’s start with etymological definition first:

the word inyanga fits into a class of nouns in isiZulu which usually contains words for certain ritually or culturally (as opposed to biologically or relationally) defined humans: such as inkosi (chief), intombi (girl at or around the time of menstruation or ukuthomba), and indoda (man or husband). The root of the word is -nyanga, which is also this word’s homophone – inyanga, meaning ‘a moon’ or ‘a month’. So, at the heart of this word is the root-meaning of ‘moon’. 

Thus, to offer an etymological meaning of the word, I would suggest ‘moon-ritual-person’.

But this doesn’t really help us to understand what role the inyanga plays in Zulu society, other than to say that they are associated with the moon. In fact, the practical definition of an inyanga might be ‘herbalist’ or ‘medicine-mixer’ (in contradistinction to the isangoma who, traditionally, did not make use of physical concoctions or herb-lore in order to heal). An inyanga is usually a lineage-based position, meaning that it is passed on from parent to child. The position is one of inherited or traditional knowledge, and involves the specific concoction of various medicinal materials in order to heal the physical, psychological and spiritual ills of clients who come to consult the inyanga.

So how does this relate to ‘moon-ritual-person’? According to an inyanga whom I interviewed as part of my MA thesis, as well as various anthropological writings on the subject, many of the medicinal materials can only be gathered at certain times of the day, when the essence of the material is particularly strong. This often coincides with specific lunar cycles, and the gathering usually occurs at night. Hence ‘moon-ritual-person’.

I hope that this clears up some misconceptions about izinyanga in general – they are not witch-doctors at all, but are rather something like a mix of doctor, psychiatrist and chemist. 

Fake izinyanga – a potential explanation

Posted in Explanations with tags , on March 24, 2012 by White Zulu

Izinyangambumbulu have made an appearance in two linked stories over the past week and a half – but what is actually going on here?

16th to 25th March

Dominating the news recently have been the stories of the izinyangabumbulu – the fake izinyanga. These are not something new. In fact, they are the reason why people tend to have such a negative attitude to magical practitioners and herbalists in general. Given various names in various places and at various times, snake-oil sellers, con-artists, goetes, and travelling conjurors tend to prey on the desperate – and who could be more desperate than an unemployed person in the middle of an economic recession, living in an area where his only hope lies in the tens of thousands of offers of ‘get-rich-quick’ and ‘bring back your lost lover’ thrust at him at traffic lights. Coming to the city from rural areas like Ingwavuma, where izinyanga and izangoma are legitimate and sacrosanct members of the social fabric, the trust given by people to anyone claiming to be an ‘inyanga’ is not that surprising.

So, these are a special type of con-artist – preying not just on the gullible and desperate, but also on those whose belief and trust in traditional systems of healing and ‘magic’ predisposes trust. They are actually easier targets than many people conned by those pretending to be banks (phishing scams) or wealthy third-world donors (419 scams), and their cons rely not on a faith in economics or human nature, but in the logic-systems of belief. 

‘Head-in-fridge’ killer’s accusations get an innocent inyanga’s home torched

Posted in News Stories with tags , , on March 20, 2012 by White Zulu

Front Page Headline:  Famous Inyanga distances himself from the one found with the head (in his fridge)

Third Page Headline: ‘I never told anyone to kill a person’

Isolezwe 20 March 2012 page 3

By Ngqeshe Buthelezi

A famous inyanga from Mafakathini, outside Howick, has said that his hands are clean and that he has never (not even on one single day) ordered a person to go and kill and decapitate someone. He issued this statement because a person accused of doing just that has associated himself with him.

Mr. Mduduzi Innocent Manqele told Isolezwe, who visited him at his home on Friday, that this situation has caused him great pain in his life, as his home had been burnt down as a result of these allegations.

“The punishment of this boy had made me very happy because he had been telling lies about me,” said Manqele, who appeared very upset and had tears slowly running down his cheeks.

He was talking about the punishment of Roger Thusi (31), who was convicted in court for the finding of a human head in his fridge, and who said that he had been sent by Manqele the inyanga so that he could get a human head.

It was later found that the head was that of Loyiso Jokweni. Thusi was sentenced to imprisonment two weeks ago in the Pietermaritzburg High Court. Manqele was arrested in this case but he was released after 30 days in jail, when the court found that there was nothing linking him to the case.

While he was still incarcerated the community set fire to his home and nearby businesses, and his family fled the area.

“This boy didn’t know me but I heard a report about him saying that he had hollowed out a hole near our gate, saying that he was placing protective medicine there. As the induna of this area I made a report on this situation, and I offered up my house to the police, and the hole was covered over in front of me,” clairified Manqele.

He said that he had found out that this man said he was looking for a child’s head. He proceeded to say that he was very shocked when the police arrived at his home, accompanied by that boy with his hands tied, saying that the boy had said he was sent by Manqele to find a child’s head.

Manqele said that it made him very happy that the police had conducted such a thorough investigation with the result that the court found no case against him.

“Even if there are still people who call me ‘umthakathi’ wherever I go, there is no person against whom I hold against me for this.” Manqele said that he had long ago been told of a person who was accused of the deed of which he was accused, who also didn’t do it, and of what was done by the community.

He said that many of his possessions were thrown out and his house was burnt and that his work of healing people was disrupted. He said that it was the same as starting his life again from scratch because they had not just stopped at burning his house but that many of his possessions had been stolen too.

At this moment Manqele has now returned to the area, and is beginning the task of setting the place to rights. He said that the small degree of reconciliation that he has seen from the community is cheering him up, and that he is committed to settling in this area. When Isolezwe was in the area people wanting to be healed and helped were beginning to come out and queue for him

Fake Inyanga to appear in court (fourth one arrested in two weeks in Durban)

Posted in News Stories with tags , , , , on March 19, 2012 by White Zulu

Monday 19 March 2012 – Isolezwe

10th page Headline: Fake inyanga to appear in court

A Ghanaian man, who called himself an inyanga and who allegedly conned a Marianhill man out of R18700 (promising that the man would get a huge bundle of cash from the ancestors) will appear in court today.

This fake inyanga (26) was arrested on Friday by police from Durban Central, after a trap was set by the man who was conned out of his money, and whose story was reported not so long ago.

Last week Isolezwe reported the story of Mr Nkosinathi Shange of iNgwavuma, who was conned out of R45 000 (which was his pension money from quitting his job) by a fake inyanga.

A man who was conned, having followed what happened, has refused to have his name used because he said that the people back home didn’t know that he was in debt, or that he was penniless because he’d entrusted his money to an inyanga. He said that he was walking around Durban and took a newspaper from a street vendor.

“I looked at the paper and I turned to the back sections in order to find out how I could be cured of my bad luck. At the back it said that everything could be cured by me going to an inyanga,” said this man. 

The man said that when he arrived at the inyanga’s and explained the problem he had at home, the inyanga said that there was bad muthi at the man’s homestead – and that he should bring R450 to him to sort it out.

“I brought this money and he then gave me an envelope which he said contained muthi. He said that when the muthi was used by me at home everything would come right, because the muthi would enter with me. He said that it was muthi to remove bad luck. When I opened the envelope I found R100. When I asked the inyanga about this he said that the ancestors had long been wanting to give me luck, but they didn’t know to whom to give it,” he explained.

He said that he went to buy something with the note, and it worked.

“After this I was taken into the inyanga’s office, blindfolded and struck by hands before I was told to open my eyes. When I opened them I saw a pile of money. The inyanga said that this money was all mine, but that I must first get a lion’s skin in which to gather up this money,” he explained.

The man said that he said it was impossible for him to get a lion’s skin. The inyanga said that there were people he knew who could get it, and that the man must bring R8000 in order to buy it.

 “I actually went and borrowed this money and we went to go and fetch the skin. I didn’t see from home we were given the skin, as the door was opened only a crack. The inyanga then said that he needed R5000 for a cow to be sacrificed to the ancestors. I withdrew R2000. He said that I should bring R50 000 to gather the money but I gave him R8000,” he explained.

The man said that he was told that the money was sufficient, but began to suspect that there was some trickery going on. When he asked for his money he was told to wait 90 days and then return to fetch it.

“At this point it was said that I mustn’t tell a soul about this because my family (and I) would be murdered. I ended up reporting it to the police,” he explained.

 Captain Khephu Ndlovu said that this inyanga had been charged with theft and fraud.

“People are warned about these fake izinyanga, and the police are cracking down on them because this one who was arrested is the fourth in two weeks here in Durban,” said Ndlovu.

Man conned out of R45 000 and left with nothing but a sheet

Posted in News Stories with tags , , , , on March 19, 2012 by White Zulu

Tuesday 13 March 2012 – Isolezwe

Front-page headline: Fake inyanga conned him out of R45 000, and all he has left is a sheet

Caption: Mr Nkosinathi Shange of Ngwavuma is stuck with this white sheet that he’s holding, after being conned out of R45 000 in Durban yesterday. A fake inyanga disappeared with his work pension, promising that he would go home with it and return shortly with much more.

3rd page Headline: A man who wanted to be rich is now left gapingly helpless

by Simphiwe Ndwandwe

A man from Ngwavuma, who went hungry to get rich quickly, is now left gapingly helpless with a white sheet, saying that the R45 000 which he took to a fake inyanga from Durban vanished from his sight.

Mr Nkosinathi Shange (29),who yesterday confessed his troubles to police in Durban, was pacing up and down with the white cloth in which he was going to put the money which came back from the inyanga.   

Even if he gets his money back, he has become a laughing-stock as he has been deprived of R45 000 (which was the money he received when quitting his job) which ended up being taken by this inyanga. 

Shange was promised by this inyanga, who was working in the city of Durban, that he could eagerly expect money amounting to R2 million – if he quit his job and brought the money he received from his Provident Fund, which would then be prayed over.

 Shange quit his job in November, waiting all this time for the money to become available, and then brought it to this inyanga so that it could be prayed over – so that he could be turned into a rich man. 

He related this all to the police yesterday, saying that the money came into his account last Friday, and that before the hearth-stones had even cooled he took it all out at a bank in Jozini, soon after which he burnt impepho over it at home. He said that he had not yet said a word to his family about having the money, because he didn’t want to tell them for fear that they would think he was a still just a useless person crying for money.

He said that he started to talk to this inyanga the previous year when he was still living in Mandeni, where they both worked. He said that the inyanga used to take him to the building in which he worked, arriving and talking with his grandfather, who he said used to say everything that needed to be carried out.

“It was this old man’s voice (which the inyanga said was that of my grandfather) which said that I must quite my job so that I could get the R2 million which would make my dreams come true. Suspecting nothing I did exactly as it said. He told me about the money I could make, and then I saw with my own eyes a box full of money that he had. This inyanga then took out R100 from the box and gave it to me, saying that I could get a taxi-ride with it,” said Shange.

Shange said that when he arrived yesterday with the money, the inyanga said that he must not go to the place from which he was working, arriving and saying that he should put the money (and the huge bag which he was carrying and into which he was intending to put the huge piles of money to take home) to one side.

Shange said that the inyanga said he should go and look for a white sheet to use for this purpose instead. When he then tried to contact the inyanga by phone he was either unavailable or his cell was off. He said that he went to the place from which the inyanga worked, but there was no sign of him, and there was a lock hanging on the door of the place where he was supposed to be praying over it. The people working next door to the place denied seeing the inyanga.

Shange kept the cloth that he’d been told to get, shaking it out and then rolling it up, looking like he was on the point of tears. At the police station he was crying, asking how he was going to go home to iNgwavuma.

A spokesperson for the Durban police Captain Khephu Ndlovu, said that this matter is still under investigation. He said that it is an old story, people being conned out of their money because they don’t listen and they don’t tell anyone when they get into this sort of trap. He warned that if there is an inyanga on the sides of Victoria or Prince Edward Roads, and at the Workshop, people must know that their money will disappear because they don’t mess around – they will con someone right out of their money. He said that there have so far been no arrests.