'We are asking for love and respect'
Traditional healers are scathing of their counterparts who believe in the myths about albinism
Some believe that a person with albinism cannot die. Even if they are gone from the earth, it does not mean they are dead; it just means they have disappeared.
But for the family of Gabisile Shabani, 13, and her 15-month-old nephew, Nkosikhona Ngwenya, these myths mean absolute tragedy.
Both their bodies were found this past week after Shabani, who lived with albinism, and her nephew were abducted from their home in Witbank.
Traditional header Thabo Mapela, from Mabopane, says there are many myths surrounding albinism. These include the belief that possessing the arms and genitalia of a person with albinism can boost one’s business.
“There is also a myth that we do not die and we disappear. There is a myth that we have supernatural powers and that we bring luck. The fourth myth is that sexual intercourse with an albino virgin can cure a person of HIV,” said Nomasonto Mazibuko, the head of the Albinism Society of South Africa.
She was speaking to Times Select following the killing of the two children in Witbank, Mpumalanga, who were taken at gunpoint from their beds in Hlalanikahle in the early hours of January 28.
Shabani was found buried in a shallow ditch last week. Her baby nephew, who was allegedly mistaken for another child who has albinism in her household, was found dumped in a swamp on the N4 between Witbank and Pretoria.
A man believed to be a traditional healer has since been arrested and will appear in the Witbank Magistrate’s Court on Monday.
Mazibuko said the myths around albinos are far-reaching. She has even come across police who failed to investigate the disappearance of an albino person properly because they too believe in the myth that albinos simply disappear.Traditional healer Thabo Mapela stressed that a true traditional healer would never suggest that the blood of one human being could ever heal or bring fortune to another.
“Traditional healers do not use body parts for magic. It is against the Bible, morals or the association we are part of. It is witchcraft. It is not healing and you can see this because most of the people who believe those things go nowhere in life,” said Thabo, suggesting that, instead, they were bringing a curse upon themselves.
“That is why [the suspect from Witbank] was arrested. He was working against the work of the ancestors. He is a criminal,” said Mapela.
He said people resorted to these desperate measures because they put their faith in false beliefs.
“It is not fair that we live in such fear. Our body parts will never give any healing,” she added.
“If we were people with luck, why would our families be suffering? Why would we not be rich ourselves?” she said, adding that like everyone else, they worked hard for all that they had.
The family of the two children are inconsolable.
Eighteen-year-old Mpumi, who was the mother of the 15-month-old, said days before the kidnapping her mother had seen a man watching their home.
“She isn’t sure but she thinks this could be the same man who was arrested,” she said.
Mpumi told Times Select they were concerned about her nephew, who also lives with albinism, who remained behind after the abductions. He is the one the men were believed to have been after when they mistakenly abducted ther 15-month-old son.
“We don’t have a plan yet,” she said.
Two traditional healers from Witbank said the suspect’s actions had brought shame to their practice.
“Ours is to heal and to give life, not take it,” they told Times Select.
Mazibuko issued a plea to all South Africans on behalf of the albinism community.
“We are asking for love and respect from the people from the South Africa and from our families. We are also human and have a right to life like anyone else,” she said.