SALRC finds Witchcraft Suppression Act unconstitutional

The new Issue Paper released by the South African Law Reform Commission has confirmed the following:
a) the Witchcraft Suppression Act’s prohibition of identifying as a witch and professing knowledge of witchcraft is unconstitutional, and b) the Act’s prohibition of engaging in divination’s is unconstitutional.

Download the SALRC Issue Paper here:
DP- Witchcraft Suppression Act- FINAL 19 Jan 2016

The Commission found that three issues remained… 1) allegations of harmful witchcraft practices, 2) witchcraft accusations that lead to harm, and 3) muthi murders. A draft Bill [PROHIBITION OF HARMFUL PRACTICES ASSOCIATED WITH WITCHCRAFT BELIEFS BILL] has been prepared for comment that attempts to deal with these three issues.

SAPRA will oppose this proposed Bill for three reasons.

1) Allegations of harmful witchcraft practices rely almost solely on a prejudicial belief that supernatural means may be employed to cause harm to others. Whilst this belief may be true for those who believe it, the allegation can never be proven in any court of law. Criminal acts that result in harm against another may be perpetrated by any person, irrespective of their religious beliefs. We are of the opinion that whilst criminal acts should be prohibited, beliefs about “harmful witchcraft” are not relevant to this prohibition, and the term ‘witchcraft’ should be removed from any relation to or mention of such acts.

2) A new Bill should focus solely on the prohibition of accusations of witchcraft which lead to violence against the accused and alleged “witch”, and should seek only to protect victims of accusation against accusations of witchcraft, and seek to prevent witch-hunts.

3) Muthi murders should be removed from the proposed Bill and from association (by belief) with witchcraft entirely, and should be dealt with under the existing Human Tissues Act, and included as a prohibition in pending legislation aimed at regulating practices associated primarily with Traditional Healers (who are solely implicated in a number of instances in the commission of these crimes).

For public comment or media coverage, contact: Mr. Damon Leff at or 044 850 1297

Leave a Comment