Rev Hendrik du Plessis
Witchcraft in the Kalahari
In the Mission Field you sometimes find yourself in awkward situations. One of our congregation members, a former elder on our church council, survived a severe stroke several years ago. I have to say it hit him quite hard. We prayed for him and his family in church, visited him in the hospital and at home. He is still partially paralyzed and occasionally attends church services.
One evening around eight o’clock I went to visit him. The custom here is and the congregation members know it, that we do not make appointments. If you want to visit someone then you visit him unexpectedly, for the simple reason, with an appointment the people you would like to talk to disappear and those who come to church faithfully usually stay behind for the visit. When I drove into the yard, I saw some of them digging a hole at the entrance to the yard, at the gate.
I see a black man (a Tswana) wearing white gloves and three Bushmen with him. In the light of my flash, I saw that they have just dug out a 30-06 rifle cartridge. My first thought was that these men are from “Wild Life”, or “Fauna and Florah” as they are known in South Africa. From the gate I walked with them to a bakkie (utility vehicle) parked in the yard. The bakkie belongs to the man who had the stroke. Once there, the man with the white gloves asked me to turn off my flash. It was a very strange request to me because it was pitch dark. To the left of the bakkie he then opened the door and fiddled underneath the seats. What he did there I do not know, but the flash had to be turned off. After fiddling around for about three minutes, he was satisfied. Then he asked me to flash the torch for him. The hood was opened after which he stood there for a long time and looked at the engine. I then asked one of the Bushmen in their language who this man with the white gloves was, because I did not want him to hear what I was asking about him. The Bushman also did not know who he was.
At first I thought he was looking for blood splatter and that the poor family was in trouble over something – some antelope for the pot. We then moved from there to the driver’s side. There he borrowed my flashlight and started looking very seriously. Later he ordered that the seats be unscrewed. In the end, he pulled out an old rusty knife and a pangolin shell. I thought this was probably prove – the pangolin shell, but when he started mumbling and swaying his cane here over the engine, I realized, this guy are not from “Wild Life” they would not do this.
My doubt over this affair was clearly visible on my face. The sister of the man with the stroke saw my reaction and remarked: “Every person has his gifts. The Lord also gave this man his gift. ” I then realized that this man was none other than a sangoma and they had asked to find the responsible person for their brother’s stroke, in other words who had bewitched him. From there we went to the room where the sick man laid.
The sangoma asked for a bucket of water. In his large leather bag with its various compartments, he took out all kinds of medicine. Even the witchcraft crystals that can be bought at the big chain stores in town were thrown in the bucket. After a while, he took out his medicine one by one and threw it in the bucket. Later some leaves were thrown in the as well. He burned some of the medicine in a cup and blew the smoke with a horsetail in the direction of the sick person lying there. He started stirring the horsetail into the bucket of water and sprinkled it over the sick man.
He asked me to carry the bucket for him because he wanted to sprinkle the rest of the family with his potion. He didn’t know who I was and had the audacity to ask me to carry his bucket filled with potion. After sprinkling the family, we headed out to the house to cross the four corners of the yard all sprinkling. Meanwhile, the sick man’s wife had to get her ready to be sprinkled in the middle of the yard.
We were busy from the second corner post to the other one (cross) when I made the decision tha tthis bucket was too heavy to carry around. I have to admit that I was grateful that no one took a picture of us that night, a reformed minister being bewitched by a sangoma and carried the bucket for him. I excused myself and I left. Later I heard that the sangoma had removed a lot of strange things from the patient’s body .
As I said at the start, would I have made an appointment with them, they would have canceled it and asked me to come at a more convenient time. In the end the sangoma came to the conclusion that close family members “bewitched” the man and that was the reason for the stroke. According to the description the sangoma gave, the family came to the conclusion that it could be none other than their uncle and aunt.
From time to time we had problems during our church services with the wife of the one who survived the stroke. She would just have convulsions during the service (almost like an epileptic seizure). A few women would rush to her side to try to calm her down. This is very disruptive, because you have to interrupt the sermon until she calms down. After one of these insidents an elder asked if he could pray. His words were: “Lord, if this phenomenon that we now see here comes from You, let it happen among us even more.” After the service, the elder and I were on our way to one of the farms where we held sermons, and we could talk calmly about the incident. He still wanted to seek justification for the woman’s actions and that it might have come from the Holy Spirit. I interrupted him said briefly and decisively: “You can say whatever you want, the Holy Spirit does not work like that.” It did not seem like he was happy with my answer, but we left it there. About two years later the same group accused him (the elder) of witchcraft. He and his wife and apparently would have “bewitched” someone’s child to die. The elder came to me and said to me, “Hendrik, do you remember our conversation about the woman with the convulsions in the church, and you told me that the Holy Spirit does not work that way. Now I believe you. ”
If only the people could see what I saw that night with the sangoma. It was easy to plant the 30-06 rifle cartridge there in the dark. The rusty knife and the pangolin shell were planted by no one but the sangoma, just at that moment when he wanted me to turn off the flash. When he asked me to turn off the torch and he fiddled for under the seats for 3 minutes, he had more than enough time to plant the shell and knife. That no one noticed it are beyond me. For them it was a miracle, as the sick sister remarked: “Everyone has received his talents from the Lord, and so has this man.” Like a well-trained magician, the sangoma drew things out of the sick person’s body in front of them and they were stunned. In the dark it was so much easier for this sangoma to deceive, and worst of all, they believed it.
Two days later, very possible Bushman trans dancer came to dance for the sick through the night, to free him from this so-called magic spell. The tragidy: Sunday we prayed for him in church. On Monday the sangoma visited him and on Wednesday they danced for him – syncretism at its best.
This brings us back to the question: Who was the real “magician” then? The answer is undoubtedly, none other than the sangoma. Not only did he bewitched them, he incited families against each other who for yers were convinced that their uncle and aunt wanted their cousin dead. The result was an intense hatred for each other and this bacause of a lie that the devil himself came to plant in their midst. These sangomas that move around so freely in South Africa and everywhere in Africa are responsible for millions upon millions of broken households, because if he said this and that and a certain person has ebewitched another, you do not doubt it. Another question is, with how many murders have they gotten away with? If I have a grudge against someone, and I want to poison that person, to whom do I go to get poison? To none other than the sangoma. Recently there was an article in our local newspaper where someone here in Gantsi who works at the council refuses to pay a sangoma, because the sangoma promised him to bewitch someone to death, but to his shock the bewitched man still walks past him every day and nothing has happened to him yet. How could he pay the sangoma if he did not carried out his order?
Many people and especially the EFF romanticize the distant past, but little do they know, it was a dark past where the sangomas swung the scepter. How many innocent families and nations had been killed because of pronouncements made by sangomas? If you, no matter how innocent you are, are accused by the sangoma of witchcraft, there is no chance that you can prove your innocence. You and your whole family are wiped out. What was the accusation against Piet Retief and his men: “Bulalani Abathakhathi!” “Kill the sorcerers!” Why? Because the sangoma told it to Dingaan.
Frits, an elder in our congregation from time to time have problems and experience a lot of pressure from his family to consult sangomas, said to me: “Hendrik, even if I have to die, I will never visit a bushman doctor or a sangoma again in my life, not now that I have experienced the light and enlightenment of the Gospel.”
In John 8:32, the Lord Jesus says, “And ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free.” May the truth of the Gospel also free us here on the mission field from the lie of the devil. In this regard, too, we so desperately need your prayers.
Your brother in Christ,
Hendrik du Plessis