Court says accused in double witchcraft murder a ‘suitable candidate’ for death penalty, imposes lesser sentence because of sincere beliefs

The high court in Zimbabwe has been grappling with the question of how to deal with witchcraft-related murder, and the role that such beliefs should play in a trial. It’s an on-going issue for courts in a number of African countries, and in this case, the presiding judge, Lucy Mungwari, looked at a variety of approaches by other courts. The case she was considering was particularly horrific, as the accused murdered his own father and his aunt, both of whom were well over 80 years old. 

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The presiding judge in this case, Lucy Mungwari, said she agreed that African communities generally embraced traditional healers and that there was a persistent belief in witchcraft. The ‘witches’ in such matters were seen not benign, however, but were regarded as ‘irredeemably wicked’ by their communities.

Judge says law on witchcraft reflects ‘western’ norms, not those of Eswatini. Supreme court disagrees


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The dispute over what legal approach should be adopted by courts in Eswatini arose during the murder trial of Ndumiso Shongwe. He was charged with the murder of a relative whom he believed was a witch. He held her responsible for the death of his parents, and thought she had put a fatal spell on him. As so often in such cases, the victim, gruesomely murdered because she was thought to be a witch, was an elderly woman.

Violence against women: on International Women’s Day, 2022, consider these two cases

Two random, recent cases from Namibia answer the question why there is the need for an annual marking of women’s day round the world. Both show how the vulnerability of girls and women make them easy targets for violence. And how, at crucial moments when they face the most danger, they may be completely deserted and left alone with their attackers.

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Read judgment S v Mutuka

From birth until death, women face danger from attackers who might well be men they count as their closest family. These two cases from Namibia illustrate the point.


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