May 6 2011
Male genitalia are the most sought-after human body part for use in harmful traditional practices, including witchcraft, in South Africa and Mozambique.
This is according to a research report released by the Mozambican Human Rights League in partnership with Childline South Africa in Durban on Thursday.
The study also found South Africa had created a market for body parts trafficked from Mozambique.
The research showed that at least one mutilation occurred in both countries every two weeks during the 14 months of the study between 2008 and 2010.
Male and female genitalia, tongues, ears, heads and breasts were among the body parts that topped the list of those most sought after in the two countries.
According to the research project’s manager, Simon Fellows, the vast majority of mutilations, 89 percent, took place in Mozambique. However, 75 percent of the parts removed from a body ended up in South Africa.
Fellows said this indicated that South Africa was on the receiving end, while Mozambique was the supplier of human body parts.
The research concluded that body parts were trafficked regularly and organs often taken from victims while they were alive or directly after they had been murdered.
Fellows said the project hosted 59 workshops and worked with 48 focus groups. About 327 people were interviewed and the workshops were attended by 1 949.
He said many participants in the research believed the body parts were to be sold or used for activities relating to witchcraft, muti (medicine) or harmful traditional practices.
“The belief was that the use of body parts in muti was to create powerful traditional medicine based partly on human body parts,” said Fellows.
Traditional healer Bongani Shangase, speaking at the launch of the report, said he and other traditional healers did not dispute the findings, but they did not agree with statements that traditional healers used body parts.
“We want this research to differentiate between witches and traditional healers because we do not use body parts to carry out our calling. Witches do that,” he said.
Other traditional healers criticised the study, saying it painted them in a bad light and asking for more conclusive research to be done so people could understand how traditional healers worked.