A competition pitting witchdoctors against each other in a battle of skills this weekend in eSwatini – formerly known as Swaziland – has been banned, according to a government statement.
Organisers had planned to hold the competition in Manzini, the second city of eSwatini, a land-locked country in southern Africa ruled by King Mswati III, one of the world’s last absolute monarchs.
“The proposed competition of witchcraft and magic spells was unheard of in the country and it was regarded as an anomaly in the lives of the people of eSwatini,” government spokesman Percy Simelane said in a statement.
“Government will not sanction any competition of that nature. Anyone who will persist with any activity related to witchcraft will face the full might of the law.”
The statement, released on Tuesday, said the Witchcraft Act of 1889 defines witchcraft, sorcery or the practice of voodoo as a punishable offence.
“Government cannot sit back and watch while the lives of the citizens of this country are exposed to illegal and weird practices that have the potential to poison the minds of (Swazi people), especially children,” Simelane added.
“Government will not allow the voodoo competition – period!”
eSwatini has a population of 1.3 million people, with many following Christianity and indigenous beliefs.
The Times of Swaziland on Wednesday quoted “Africa Gama”, the organiser of the event, as saying the competition would have pit sangomas against traditional healers as under the previous king Sobhuza II, who died in 1982.
“The King was concerned about unnecessary competition among healers so he called them to one place so that they could demonstrate their powers,” he said.
“I was competing with traditional healers, doctors, and prophets from across the world.”