Ritual Murder and Witchcraft in Southern Africa in relation to Unity Dow's "The Screaming of the Innocent"


Term Paper (Advanced seminar), 2007
40 Pages, Grade: 1.7

Excerpt

Universität Duisburg-Essen
Standort Essen
HS South African Women Writers
WS 2006/07
Abgabe: 14.04.2007
Ritual Murder and Witchcraft in Southern Africa in relation
to Unity Dow's The Screaming of the Innocent
Hauptseminar Leistungsnachweis
Jessica Narloch
MA Anglistik
9. Fachsemester

2
Contents
1.
Introduction
...page
3
2. Unity
Dow
2.1
General
Information
2.2 Her Profession as a Judge and Human Rights Activist
...page 4
2.3 Her Profession as a Writer
3. Unity Dow's The Screaming of the Innocent
...page 5
3.1 Summary
3.2 Beliefs and Traditions ­ Witchdoctors
3.2.1
Chapter 9 ­ The Witchdoctor
3.2.2
Chapter 19 ­ The Witch in the Yard
...page 8
3.2.3
Chapter 20 ­ The Healing of Ramarago
...page 9
3.3 Ritual
Murder
...page
10
3.3.1
Chapter 1 ­ The Victim and the Perpetrators
3.3.2
Chapter 24 ­ Description of a Murder
...page 17
4. South Africa ­ Botswana
...page 18
4.1 Common Facts
4.2 Religion
4.3 Witchcraft Beliefs and Witchdoctors
...page 20
4.4
Muti
Murders
...page
23
5. Recent Cases of Ritual Murder in South Africa
...page 26
6. Comparison
...page
28
7. Conclusion
...page
29
8. Bibliography
...page
30
9. Appendix
...page
33
9.1 Articles from AllAfrica.com
9.2 Interview with Unity Dow
...page 38

3
1. Introduction
In 2002, Unity Dow's book The Screaming of the Innocent was published. It deals with
the topic of ritual murder in Botswana and gives detailed descriptions of the South
African belief in witchcraft, traditional healing and ritual murder. Since the book is not
based on a true story it is interesting to find out whether the themes Dow writes about
are fictitious as well or if they can be related to Botswana's every-day life. In an
interview Unity Dow claims that ritual murder actually still happens in Southern Africa.
This essay will have a closer look on some relevant passages of the book The Screaming
of the Innocent and will relate them to the religion, the witchcraft belief, the belief in
witchdoctors and the topic of ritual murder in Botswana. A comparison will show
whether there are parallels between the fictitious story of the book and the real life in
this specific area of Southern Africa.
2. Unity Dow
2.1 General Information
Unity Dow was born in 1959. She comes from a rural background with her father being
a farmer and her mother not speaking any English
1
. She "studied law at the University
of Botswana and Swaziland, with two years at Edinburgh University, Scotland"
2
.
During that time she received the William Brennan Human Rights Award as well as the
Doctor of Law's honorary degree from Kenyon College in Gambier, Ohio
3
. Today she
lives in Lobatse, Botswana, together with her family
4
.
1
http://oraclesyndicate.twoday.net/stories/3259502/ (March 2007)
2
http://www.icj.org/article.php3?id_article=3270id_rubrique=13 (March 2007)
3
ibid
4
http://www.afrikaroman.de/autoren/autor.a_z/autor_dow.php (March 2007)

4
2.2 Her Profession as a Judge and Human Rights Activist
Unity Dow is widely known as a lawyer and a human rights activist. In 1990 she
established a centre for women
5
in her home village. This centre is called "Metlhaetsile
Woemen's Information Centre" and Unity Dow was its director from 1994 to 1998
6
.
During that time she was engaged in the promotion of the human rights of women and
children
7
. The same year she co-founded the Women and Law in Southern Africa
Research Project
8
, a research establishment which tries to improve women's rights
9
.
Besides that, Unity Dow is a "member of International Women's Rights Watch"
10
. In
January 1998 she became Botswana's first female High Court Judge and is engaged in
"human rights and women's issues"
11
. Since then she has been involved in some very
important cases about women's rights concerning citizenship (Citizenship Case)
12
and
the rights of the Bushmen (Kgalagadi Court Decision)
13
. In Feburary 2004 she was
elected to the International Commission of Jurists
14
and since May 2006 she has been
one of the ICJ's Executives
15
.
2.3 Her Profession as a Writer
Besides being a judge and a human right's activist, Unity Dow is a writer. So far she has
written four books, namely
Far and Beyond (2000), The Screaming of the Innocent
(2002), Juggling Truths (2003) and The Heavens May Fall (2006). In her books she
deals with human rights, gender issues, poverty, diseases and the differences between
traditional and western values
16
. Her first novel, Far and Beyond, is about AIDS and
poverty, whereas her second novel, The Screaming of the Innocent, is about ritual
5
http://www.cca.ukzn.ac.za/images/tow/TOW2004/dow.htm (March 2007)
6
http://oraclesyndicate.twoday.net/stories/3259502/ (March 2007)
7
http://www.icj.org/article.php3?id_article=3270id_rubrique=13 (March 2007)
8
http://www.cca.ukzn.ac.za/images/tow/TOW2004/dow.htm (March 2007)
9
http://oraclesyndicate.twoday.net/stories/3259502/ (March 2007)
10
http://www.law.uc.edu/morgan/newsdir/dow020515/ (March 2007)
11
http://www.cca.ukzn.ac.za/images/tow/TOW2004/dow.htm (March 2007)
12
ibid
13
http://oraclesyndicate.twoday.net/stories/3259502/ (March 2007)
14
ibid
15
http://www.icj.org/article.php3?id_article=3270id_rubrique=13 (March 2007)
16
http://www.cca.ukzn.ac.za/images/tow/TOW2004/dow.htm (March 2007)

5
murder. The Juggling Truths is about the differences and "the juggling of truths between
traditional African beliefs and Western thought"
17
. Her recent novel, The Heavens May
Fall, deals with the life of a young female lawyer in Botswana.
3. Unity Dow's The Screaming of the Innocent
3.1 Summary
Unity Dow's The Screaming of the Innocent is about a murdered girl and a box full of
evidence which disappeared and is found five years later by Amantle Bokaa who works
at the Gaphala Health Clinic in a small village. The girl, Neo Kakang, became the
victim of ritual murder but because of the perpetrators being powerful people the
evidence gets lost and the police try to cover up the crime. They tell her family that Neo
was killed by wild animals. Although none of the villagers believes this story it is
Amantle who finally reopens the case and finds out what really happened five years ago.
3.2 Beliefs and Traditions ­ Witchdoctors
In her book The Screaming of the Innocence Unity Dow describes some scenes in which
witchcraft, witchdoctors and traditional beliefs play an important role. These scenes are
very significant because they give the reader an impression of how some African people
deal with such topics and what they believe in.
3.2.1
Chapter 9 ­ The Witchdoctor
In Chapter 9, Unity Dow describes a scene in which Motlatsi, the mother of Neo, goes
to a witchdoctor named Samesu because of her "female condition"
18
. Her problem is
that her companion has sexual relationships towards other women and that, although he
17
http://www.cca.ukzn.ac.za/images/tow/TOW2004/dow.htm (March 2007)
18
Unity Dow (2002), The Screaming of the Innocent, p. 80

6
has five children with her, he does not want to marry her
19
. Samesu's profession as a
witchdoctor is described as follows:
"
The man, she'd been told, specialised in female conditions. He could help a barren
woman become pregnant, just as he could cure sexually transmitted diseases. He could find a
husband for a woman who was seeking one, just as much as he could help a woman win a
promotion at work. People had reported he was especially good at correcting conditions relating
to wombs: tilted wombs; painful wombs; barren wombs; bleeding wombs; unattractive wombs ­
you name it: he was the expert."
20
It is also said that women from all over the place come to see him and ask him for
advice and healing. When Motlatsi enters his hut she finds him naked and is nearly
immediately asked to undress, too
21
. Because of his "soothing and kind voice"
22
and her
impression that this was the common procedure she takes off her clothes and does
everything he asks her to do. His explanation for being nude is that it was to "reach
nature, we have to be natural: you'll have to take off your clothes"
23
. It becomes obvious
that he tries to make her feel comfortable and to give her the feeling of everything being
as it should be. Even when he "had become busy preparing his instrument of
divination"
24
she is not suspicious. The phrase "preparing his instrument of divination"
is very ambiguous because it could either mean the creams he will use later on or it
could mean that he masturbates because he will also use his genitals to heal her when
they have sex later. He goes on talking to her in a "gentle, reassuring voice"
25
when he
starts rubbing her body and private parts with some ointment
26
. By then, Motlatsi has
the feeling that she had "no option but to comply"
27
. The reasons for that are this he tries
to reassure her and that she wants the procedure to be a success. He then gives her
something to drink which makes her feel "helpless but not fearful"
28
and she realizes
that "something had started happening to her, and that she was losing control"
29
. After
another drink Samesu begins to have sex with her, and although she does not resist and
19
ibid
20
Unity Dow (2002), The Screaming of the Innocent, p. 80
21
Unity Dow (2002), The Screaming of the Innocent, p. 81
22
Unity Dow (2002), The Screaming of the Innocent, p. 81
23
ibid
24
ibid
25
Unity Dow (2002), The Screaming of the Innocent, p. 82
26
ibid
27
ibid
28
ibid
29
Unity Dow (2002), The Screaming of the Innocent, p. 82

7
"was having the best sex she'd had in a long time"
30
, she knows that he is raping her.
She falls asleep while he rapes her many times and wakes up confused. The description
of that time when she falls asleep and then wakes up makes obvious that Samesu has
given her some kind of drug to make her amenable.
"She'd then faded into sleep. She'd been vaguely aware that Samesu was continuing with
the rubbing and oiling, and many sessions of sex. She, however, had been too far away to be
part of it. She'd wanted to object, but the objections had formed in her head only and gone no
further. Her lips had refused to obey her, as had every other part of her body."
31
This description makes clear that whatever he gave her to drink influenced her in so far
that she could not resist him, neither mentally nor physically. After the procedure
Motlatsi feels ashamed, confused and afraid because she does not know if she might be
pregnant now or infected with AIDS
32
. Nevertheless, she pays him and decides not to
tell anyone about it.
It becomes obvious that the methods of Samesu are very questionable and suspect in
terms of western traditions. He tries to make his patient trust him by giving her a good
feeling as if everything was alright. His explanations for taking off her clothes and
letting him rub her seem to be plausible to her. Then he gives her drugs to keep her from
resisting and rapes her. He might know that the patient is too ashamed to tell anyone or
that the patient is sure that the procedure has to be like this. Motlatsi herself says that
"she hadn't expected anyone to share this view of the sexual encounter ­ after all, she
hadn't resisted"
33
. In the end it can be said that the witchdoctor dominated the female
patient, made her amenable and raped her and after all also gets paid for that. Because of
Motlatsi not resisting and the fact that "female pilgrims would attend from afar to seek
him out for his renowned expertise"
34
it becomes obvious that this is a common
procedure in this area.
30
Unity Dow (2002), The Screaming of the Innocent, p. 83
31
Unity Dow (2002), The Screaming of the Innocent, p. 83
32
Unity Dow (2002), The Screaming of the Innocent, p. 84
33
ibid
34
Unity Dow (2002), The Screaming of the Innocent, p. 80

8
3.2.2
Chapter 19 ­ The Witch in the Yard
In Chapter 19, Amantle Bokaa is reminded of a situation in her childhood when her
grandmother was accused of being a witch. She describes a situation when, as a child,
she woke up in the morning hearing people scream "Witch! There's a witch in my yard!
Witch! Help! There's a witch in my yard!"
35
Amantle gets to know that her grandmother
was accused of being a witch because she stands in her neighbour's yard early in the
morning. She seems to be disoriented
36
when the villagers bring her to a special meeting
place. Amantle does not really know what is happening
"How her grandmother had come to be found practising witchcraft in their neighbour's
yard early in the morning, when she usually hadn't the energy to get up so early, was a
mystery."
37
Amantle has no explanation for this situation. The villagers, on the other hand, have no
doubts about her grandmother being a witch. They do not need any explanation. Instead
of this they make her responsible for everything bad that happened to them and seems to
be easiest explained by accusing her of being a witch.
"It'd seemed as if some trial were already in progress, but too many people had been
speaking at the same time. `Last year all my chickens died, and I never thought it could be her!'
a neighbour had announced. Another neighbour had said in response, `Why did you talk to her?
You should've left her there, stuck in one place for days.' Amantle had known, without ever
having seen it happen, that a witch can stand stuck in one place for days if the owners of the
yard don't talk to her or him. Another contribution had been `We must try her right now ­ right
now!' The crowd had been thickening as word was getting out that a witch had been caught.
`What was she doing when you found her?' `Where are the witchcraft tools?' `She's a witch! A
witch!'"
38
Although the woman might have never had anything to do with the chickens and
although she only stood in the yard doing nothing at all, they blame her for being a
witch. Even when she starts crying and urinating into her pants, when she asks for help
35
Unity Dow (2002), The Screaming of the Innocent, p. 171 f
36
Unity Dow (2002), The Screaming of the Innocent, p. 172
37
ibid
38
Unity Dow (2002), The Screaming of the Innocent, p. 173
Excerpt out of 40 pages

Details

Title
Ritual Murder and Witchcraft in Southern Africa in relation to Unity Dow's "The Screaming of the Innocent"
College
University of Duisburg-Essen
Grade
1.7
Author
Year
2007
Pages
40
Catalog Number
V186365
ISBN (eBook)
9783869437521
ISBN (Book)
9783656994046
File size
778 KB
Language
English
Tags
ritual, murder, witchcraft, southern, africa, unity, screaming, innocent
Quote paper
Jessica Narloch (Author), 2007, Ritual Murder and Witchcraft in Southern Africa in relation to Unity Dow's "The Screaming of the Innocent", Munich, GRIN Verlag, https://www.grin.com/document/186365

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