Union says jealousy behind 'witchcraft' murders

Jealousy may have been at the centre of the murder of two women accused of bewitching a northern KwaZulu-Natal school, a teachers’ union reported on Friday.

National Teachers’ Union (Natu) spokesperson Allen Thompson said investigations by the union had revealed that one of the women burnt to death last Monday had a granddaughter at Manhlenga High School. He said the granddaughter had been the only grade 12 pupil in her class who was passing her exams.

“What happened is a case of witchcraft that started last year. This woman that was killed ...
she has a female child studying grade 12 and was the only child passing. The other students were failing.”

He said the girl’s grandmother was known to be an umthakathi (traditional healer).

He said the girl’s classmates then decided to take action against the umthakathi, whom they blamed for their failures at school.

He said Natu members who had investigated the incident for the union had told him that the second woman who was killed was simply visiting the umthakathi.

The two women in their 60s—Mangubane Msaba Zungu and Qibile Thabitha Thusi—were dragged from a home and taken to a sports field where they were doused with petrol and set alight. Zungu died at the scene and Thusi later died in hospital.

Thompson was not able to say which of the two women was umthakathi.

“We believe that there is something that must be done to assist that learner so she can complete her studies. We condemn the action [of the other pupils].”

Police spokesperson Jabulani Mdletshe could not be reached for comment on Natu’s investigations.

Meanwhile, parents and the guardians of the “bewitched pupils” were urged on Friday by KwaZulu-Natal safety and security minister Bheki Cele to hand their children over to the police.

Cele said that parents and relatives—who are hiding their “criminal children”—were themselves guilty of committing a crime.

Police believe the double murder was premeditated and that residents from the Manguzi area in northern KwaZulu-Natal had helped a group of pupils commit the crime.

“Youngsters of this age cannot go underground and hide. They need food, transport and money and can only be in hiding with family or relatives,” said Cele.

He said only the parents of the culprits would know where they were.

“I am appealing to the parents of the culprits to help us implement the law—by handing their children over to the authorities,’ Cele said.

“I just can’t understand how parents can allow criminals living in heir home. These culprits have committed a crime and broken a South African law, which is punishable,” he said.

“I don’t undermine the beliefs of people, but beliefs cannot be used as an excuse to commit a crime.”

Attempts to contact KwaZulu-Natal education department spokesperson Christi Naude were unsuccessful.—Sapa

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