Articles

Witchcraft Resurgent

Africa for Christ

Many hearts are turning to Jesus Christ, particularly in Africa. Christianity is making great strides on this continent. It is African Christians who, in bold faith, have resisted Western attempts to bring homosexuality into Church and State. Indeed,“the people who walked in darkness have seen a great light.” (Isaiah 9:2) But in spite of all the light, much of Africa is still dominated by superstition and witchcraft. - In Tanzania, for instance, the fear of witches is so great, that “about 20 000 persons are said to have been killed as ‘witches’ in the decade 1991 to 2001. And in Uganda, a calculated “total of 22 000 to 23 000 Africans were killed as ‘witches’ by fearful neighbours.” 1)

Witchcraft

Even in South Africa, which has enjoyed the light of the Gospel more than any other African country, witchcraft has increased. In Limpopo at least 97 women and 49 men were killed as ‘witches’ in less than a year (April 1994 to February 1995). In Lebowa it was 312 over 10 years. In Venda, in the early 1990s, more than 400 people accused of witchcraft had to seek refuge in police stations. In Limpopo, in 2000, over 1300 cases of witchcraft were opened. 2) These are surprisingly high figures, for most people surely know that God says: “There shall not be found among you anyone… who practises divination or tells fortunes or interprets omens, or a sorcerer or a charmer or a medium or a necromancer or one who inquires of the dead, for whoever does these things is an abomination to the LORD… You shall be blameless before the LORD your God.” (Deuteronomy 18:10) 3)

By God’s grace, many witches and witchdoctors have, however, been set free from occult powers by the Lord Jesus Christ. “He disarmed the rulers and authorities and put them to open shame, by triumphing over them...” (Colossians 2:15)- The book “God among the Zulus,” by Dr Kurt Koch, documents the power of God over the forces of darkness. It speaks of 60 years of the Mission KwaSizabantu in KwaZulu-Natal 4) and is a great testimony to the redeeming power of our Lord Jesus Christ.

Children without the Gospel

It is a tragedy that in South Africa most children no longer hear the Word of God at school. The vacuum is being filled by Humanism and Animism, and the result is that, as people enter into the main stream of life, Christian ethics go out of the workplace and Christian observance from public life. The Bible says: “If the Son makes you free, you shall be free indeed.” Yet, spiritual bondage has increased and is impacting all areas of life.

Faltering Development

In a revealing article entitled “Witchcraft and African Development” Dr Erich Leistner, former head of the Africa Institute, shows why much of Africa is bound up in poverty and strife. It is because of superstition. He writes: “Africa’s problems, and in particular the reasons for its faltering development, cannot possibly be grasped without considering the role of witchcraft. Witchcraft belief is commonly viewed as belonging to the outmoded worldview of primitive societies. Together with other superstitions, it is expected to fade away thanks to education, Christianity, the media… The opposite has, in fact, happened in post-colonial Africa, including South Africa. Recent decades in particular have witnessed substantially increasing fear of witchcraft as well as countless brutal killings of alleged witches throughout the continent.”

Fear of witchcraft arises from a magic world view, in which man feels himself surrounded by invisible forces, spirits, demons, and souls of the departed. They are all around him – in rivers, fountains, trees, rocks, everywhere. And in order to deal with them, he looks for specialists who can interpret and manipulate them - healers, herbalists, diviners, mediums and witches. Many of these work to good purposes, but “the line between healing and witchcraft is thin and often crossed,” says Dr Leistner. “Thus the Ralushai Commission has found that most traditional healers are also involved in witchcraft-related killings and ritual murders.” – Alienated from tribal life, city dwellers are especially vulnerable to fears and dependent on occult help. In 1998 there were 350 000 healers estimated in South Africa. These “doctors” even advertise in the suburbs. They offer treatment to “remove ghosts from homes,” “cleanse houses and cars from Tokoloshe,”“control lovers,”“control money,” and solve “bad luck,” and “bewitchment.”

However, he who trusts the Almighty is not afraid of anything. He does not fear man or spirit, for he stands in God’s power and protection. The Bible says: “God has not given us the spirit of fear; but of power and of love and of a sound mind.” (2 Timothy 1:7) Jesus calls us to a new life, saying: “Come unto me!” (Matthew 11:28) and He commands: “Repent and believe the gospel.” (Mark 1:15)

Who rules?

At the 2010 Soccer World Cup, when the Cameroon team lost in spite of its well paid attendant witchdoctors, the Cameroon Minister of Sport had to explain the defeat to his Parliament. He said: “Witchcraft, besides mysticism, internal wrangling, jealousy and disorder had been the cause of the Lions’ debacle.” - But not only footballers think on these lines, businessmen and politicians do, too. According to Dr Kenneth Meshoe, leader of the African Christian Democratic Party (ACDP), witchdoctors also serve South African politicians, including cabinet ministers, and they visit Members in the Houses of Parliament. Hundreds of traditional healers allegedly attended Nelson Mandela at his inauguration as State President. President Zuma threatened voters with the wrath of their ancestors, if they failed to vote for the ANC. For the forthcoming 2012 centenary celebrations of the ANC, an interfaith night vigil is planned (6.1.2012) at which “the spirits of all our founding fathers and mothers of our movement” will be invoked. “This very important event will be attended by Kings, Chiefs, and Traditional Leaders and healers and will also include the leaders of the African National Congress and our allied partners.” 5)

Jealousy

Witchcraft is motivated by jealousy and hatred. It aims at diminishing or destroying the life force of the targeted person. “Inequality,” says Dr Leistner, “is a foremost source of tension… If in an egalitarian community someone becomes rich, apparently over-night, witchcraft is the only explanation the neighbours can think of… The very concept of personal advancement and prosperity as the result of personal endeavour, hard work and knowledge is not an inherent part of African culture. Rather, there is the firm belief that all people have the same fixed amount of life-force or ‘cosmic good’, which cannot be increased other than by stealing it from another person through magic manipulation…” 6)

He is amazed that this factor is not acknowledged by economists, saying: ”Considering how severely witchcraft impinges on development, it is remarkable that the subject is totally ignored in the vast literature on African development, particularly the host of studies financed by the World Bank.”

Occult beliefs and practices are thus a major cause for preventing God’s blessings in Africa. Dr Leistner says: “The debilitating fear of occult forces has proved largely resistant to modernisation.” And then he rightly adds: “It would, however, be overcome if people accepted Christ to be stronger than these forces.”

Jesus is Lord.

It is a good sign that Africa is so open to the Gospel, which holds great hopes. And this in spite of modern man having become so casual about Christ, Christmas and Christianity, and therefore ignorant of the blessings Christ has brought into the world. The modern unbeliever does not understand the great liberation of mind and soul which, through centuries of history, has taken place in Christ’s power and by His Spirit. He fails to see the great benefits in all areas of life. But Christmas tells us again and again, that the forces of darkness can be overcome, that the Lord has reached out to man in his lostness and sin. For “God so loved the World that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.” Let us, then, not become careless but set our hope “on the living God, who is the Saviour of all people, especially of those who believe.” (1 Timothy 4:9)

May God bless you richly,

D. Scarborough.

Footnotes:

  1. This letter is based on Dr Erich Leistner’s article, Witchcraft and African Development, November 2011.
  2. Ibid.
  3. Some other passages are: Exodus 22:18; Leviticus 19:26-28, 31; 20:6, 27; Deuteronomy 18:9-14; 1 Samuel 28:7-25; 1 Samuel 28:3, 9; Isaiah 8:19; Malachi 3:5
  4. Dr Kurt Koch, God among the Zulus, reprinted 2011 for the 60 th anniversary of the ministry of Rev Erlo Stegen, KwaSizabantu, obtainable at Christian Liberty Books, PO Box 358, Howard Place 7450, Tel 021-689-7478; e-mail This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. .
  5. Centenary Programme, issued by Baleka Mbete, ANC Chairperson.
  6. E Leistner adds: “Even though accumulation of wealth tends to cause envy and arouse suspicion of witchcraft, it is also very much admired…(but) the holder of wealth must share… make gifts, offer sumptious parties and demonstrate an ostentatious life-style that helps to spread benefits.”


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