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Muti is a term for traditional medicine in Southern Africa as far north as Lake Tanganyika.
The word muti is derived from the Zulu word for tree, of which the root is -thi. African Traditional medicine makes use of various natural products, many of which are derived from trees. For this reason, medicine generally is known as muti, but it is also applied to formulations used in traditional medical dispensing.
In Southern Africa, the word muti is in widespread use in most indigenous African languages, as well as in South African English and Afrikaans where it is sometimes used as a slang word for medicine in general.
- Source: Muti, Wikipedia. Last accessed, Jan. 7, 2009
You can still see blood on the rocks that shaped the sly hiding place where they butchered Sello Chokoe. To the golden horizon in every direction the land is perfectly flat save for the husky remnants of a harvested maize crop and these rocks that form strange S-shaped parallel lines.
It was in this lonely place that the 10-year-old’s killers held him down while they chopped off his right hand, right ear and genitals before hacking a hole in his skull to take slivers of his brain. Then they ran away, leaving him to stumble 50 metres before collapsing. In keeping with the gruesome way in which such attacks are carried out, Sello was conscious during the whole unimaginable episode.
In the tiny village of Moletjie in Limpopo province, 250km (150 miles) north east of Johannesburg, Sello’s family are struggling to come to terms with what happened to the boy they say was always laughing. The loss of any family member is great, but the manner in which Sello was killed has traumatised his whole community. Because Sello Chokoe was harvested as surely as the maize in which he was found.
This is the world of muti murder, in which victims are chosen for their body parts to be taken for use in black-magic medicine. In South Africa alone, as many as 300 people a year are killed in this way to provide power, luck, health or money for “clients” with enough resources, and enough faith in ancient African beliefs, to put in an order for a fresh human harvest.
A belief in muti, Zulu for medicine, is deep-rooted in the sub-Saharan African psyche, from Nigeria to Benin, South Africa to Tanzania.
It usually relates to the traditional use of animals, herbs or plants in natural remedies. But there is a small, dark corner in the world of muti that advocates the use of human body parts, a corner that is not unique to Africa. There is growing evidence that its malevolent shadow has already spread to the UK.
The discovery of a boy’s headless torso floating in the Thames in 2001 provided the first clues that muti killing and had arrived on our shores. And now African and British experts believe that it is only a question of time before we will be visited by more muti murders of our own.
- Source: Where were their eyes as this boy bled, their ears as he screamed? Steve Brogan, The Times (UK), Aug. 17, 2004.
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