News24.com (SA), August 16, 2006
Nelspruit — There’s a growing tendency among Mpumalanga school pupils to accuse their teachers of witchcraft and then start a riot or boycott class.
Pupils at four schools have rioted in separate incidents since March, said provincial education spokesperson Hlahla Ngwenya on Wednesday.
In the incidents, one pupil was killed, while three others were injured and a teacher, who accused a colleague of witchcraft, was dismissed.
The latest incident happened on Monday when pupils at Mambane secondary school in Nkomazi, south of Malelane, refused to attend classes after allegations that teachers were bewitching them.
The pupils returned to class on Tuesday.
“Our preliminary reports indicate that the pupils protested after some of their peers died in succession over a short period,” said Ngwenya. “They seem to believe this was the doing of their teachers.”
He said the department was investigating the incident and that pupils found guilty of instigating the boycott faced expulsion.
Provincial spokesperson for the African National Congress (ANC) Paul Mbenyane, said the party regarded the “continued disruptions in a serious light and condemn them in the strongest terms possible.”
The department of local government and housing is drafting new legislation to crack down witch hunts.
Anyone involved in “sniffing out” or persecuting suspected witches will be prosecuted in terms of the proposed Mpumalanga Witchcraft Bill.
They would face fines up to R5 000 or prison terms up to five years.
The bill will not, however, outlaw witchcraft itself.
South Africa’s constitutional Bill of Rights guarantees freedom of religion and therefore legalises witchcraft, sorcery, Satanism, and various other controversial beliefs.