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.