Author: Konanani Happy Raligilia
Acting HoD, Department of Jurisprudence, University of South Africa
When asked by Judge Boshoff about his views on witchcraft, Steve Biko had this to say; “we do not reject it [witchcraft], we regard it as part of the mystery of our cultural heritage, [and] we feel for ourselves it has not been sufficiently looked into with available scientific approaches as of this moment.” Indeed, issues relating to witchcraft are public interest matters and that is so because ordinarily they highlight conflicting and contending views about spirituality. Arguably, the attributing factor to this contesting view is the fact that at the time of the enactment of Witchcraft Suppression Act in 1957, South Africa was still a Christian state as opposed to the current secular post-democratic one which embraces all religious denominations and cultural heritage. The Witchcraft Suppression Act of 1957 exposes a reality that this law failed to divide matters of spirituality and witchcraft, thereby creating a vacuum which often results in members of the communities resorting to judging those who are perceived as witches based on Christian standards of acceptability and norms. Regrettably, the Witchcraft Suppression Act does not provide a definitive answer of what constitutes witchcraft, yet its founding purpose is aimed at suppressing practices of witchcraft and similar practices. However, Reverend Riaan Swiegelaar and Dr Adri Norton announced the country’s first Satanic church in June 2020. It remains to be seen whether its practices would fall out of this witchcraft’s legislative framework and whether those potential witchcraft practitioners would then be prosecuted and punished.