Mbabane - Swaziland's albinos have called on the government
for protection ahead of elections expected later this year, fearing their body
parts will be harvested by candidates seeking good luck.
"Those in authority must make sure that our safety is
guaranteed," Skhumbuzo Mndvoti, an albino community leader living in the
southern town of Nhlangano said.
"I can warn both adults and parents of albino children
to take extra care during these election days," Mndvoti said.
Ritual killings are common in Swaziland, and elsewhere in
Africa, with "muti" practitioners - a catch-all for traditional
medicine and witchcraft - using limbs or body parts as amulets.
In the past albinos, who lack the skin pigment melanin, as
well as epileptics have been specifically targeted, prompting the police to set
In 2010 the killing and mutilation of albinos, including in
one instance the decapitation of two children in Nhlangano, prompted panic.
Twenty-eight-year-old Sipho Dlamini said such albino
killings regularly take place, but in the past were masked by rumours about
"People were told that when an albino dies, he would go
and die far away where he or she would not be found. I think they were
killed," he said.
Both men fear there may be resurgence in attacks in the run
up to elections, the date of which has not yet been set.
Mndvoti blamed witchdoctors who mislead people into
believing that using human body parts will help them win seats to parliament or
prosper in business.
Witches and wizards
"Children should walk in groups to-and-from schools and
they shouldn't be left alone at home."
"Adults should avoid walking at night since many of the
ritual murders happen when it's dark."
The local albino community has threatened not to vote if no
special security measures are taken.
Aspiring MP from Nhlangano, Mthokozisi Kunene said he
sympathises with the albinos' plight.
He admitted that aspiring politicians are prime suspects to
commit the ritual acts, but expressed hope "that won't happen this time".
"As Christians we have prayed that no ritual murderer
or anyone who uses human body parts in attempt to win votes shall ever go to
parliament," he said.
President of the Traditional Healers of Swaziland, Nhlavana
Maseko said those who mislead people to use ritual murder to win elections or
wealth are witches and wizards but not traditional healers.
"A witch is born and never trained but a traditional
healer undergoes intensive training to heal people trough traditional
means," said Maseko.
He expressed hope that a new law would help clear things up
and stop the killings.
"We have a problem here in Swaziland of the colonial
law called the Witchcraft Act which does not make a difference between a
traditional healer and a witch or wizard."
"But the new Traditional Health Practitioners Act has
given clarity between the two."
Voters began registering for elections in Africa's last
absolute monarchy, last week, with unions and the opposition calling for a
boycott of what they dismiss as a "rubber stamp" poll.
Candidates in the election are shortlisted in their
chiefdoms, whose leaders are directly appointed by the king.