National 13.9.2016 11:29 am

More action needed to debunk myths about albinism

Traditional healers unite to fight the killings of people with albinism. Picture: Zululand Observer

Traditional healers unite to fight the killings of people with albinism. Picture: Zululand Observer

The Albinism Society of South Africa says work needs to be done to demystify the myths about albinism and sangomas.

A KwaZulu-Natal (KZN) traditional healer has slammed the misconception that sangomas used people’s body parts to make muti.

ALSO READ THE INITIAL STORY: Traditional healer slams ‘albino killings’ for muti

“Traditional healers don’t use people’s body parts to make muti. That’s witchcraft,” said Musa Zulu of Maz Herbal Products, who heads the ‘Stop Killing Albinos’ campaign to curb the practice of crimes against people with albinism. Zulu was speaking at the launch of the campaign in Nongoma, KZN, recently.

“Traditional healers don’t harm but rather save lives. We don’t want to be associated with such acts,” said Zulu.

National Director of the Albinism Society of South Africa commissioner Nomasonto Mazibuko said the society supported the ‘Stop Killing Albinos’ campaign and that they worked closely with traditional healers. “When we have engaged with the traditional healers, as [a] society we know that not all traditional healers are involved in such crimes,” said Mazibuko.

While radio personality and stop albino killing activist, Kuli Roberts commended the initiative, she took issue with the name of the campaign saying that it was insensitive to say ‘albinos’ when they were people with albinism. “If we change the way we speak, we will reach our goal quicker,” said Roberts.

She recalled how she heard the myths associated with albinism when she was growing up in the townships, but it wasn’t until four years ago that she realised that the problem was still rife in Africa. Since then, she has used her social media platforms to teach people how to address issues of albinism. She said black people, especially, have a responsibility to curb and educate about such crimes. “No other race kills their own. We can’t live like this,” said Roberts.

AFP reported in June that hostility for people with albinism is a particular problem in Africa, and Canadian charity Under The Same Sun found that 457 attacks on albino people, including 178 murders, in 26 African countries had been committed, mostly over the last decade.

Mazibuko said the society had found that in South Africa, there seemed to be more cases reported of children going missing, but she said they did not have the exact number of attacks on albino people, as she said not all cases are reported. She said the society knew of two cases this year, both of which were reported in KZN.

KZN police spokesperson Lieutenant-Colonel Thulani Zwane said there was no increase in attacks on albino people in the province and only two children have been reported as missing, both from Mkhobosa, Esikhaleni, and are still being sought by police. Sibusiso Nhatane went missing in June 2011 and four-year-old Maneliswa Ntombela went missing in June this year.

While searching for Ntombela, the Empangeni Family Violence, Child Protection and Sexual Offences Unit members followed information that a woman was allegedly arranging to sell an albino child for R100 000 to a traditional healer at Emanguzi. The suspect was arrested in July this year and charged for human trafficking.

Zwane said there was only one case of a woman who was murdered in the Emanguzi area. “We have conducted a numerous [awareness campaigns] in the province about the people living with albinism,” he said.

Mazibuko also condemned attacks on persons with albinism, saying it showed there was ignorance around issues of albinism and that more educational campaigns were needed throughout the country to demystify the myths that exist, such as that body parts of persons with albinism brought luck.

ALSO READ: 10 albinism myths busted

“We need to protect the children with albinism from being killed or trafficked for whatever reasons,” she said.

Roberts does not believe that people with albinism are reflected in society as much as they should be and emphasised that education needed to start at school level.

Caxton News Service

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