Fortunately, I am not the only one worried or angry about the mutilating and murdering of people living with albinism in sub-Saharan Africa. We have people like Anas Aremeyaw Anas, the famous Ghanaian undercover reporter, Deprose Muchena, Amnesty International’s Regional Director for Southern Africa, Overstone Kondowe, director of the Association of People with Albinism in Malawi, Richard Rooney in Swaziland, Kassim Kazungu, President of the organization Albinos without Borders in Burundi (‘Association Albinos sans Frontières de Burundi’) and – last but not least, the people running Under The Same Sun, an organization fighting for the rights of Persons with Albinism in Tanzania, headed by Peter Ash. And there is Tom Head.
I read his piece on ‘why albinos are being murdered in South Africa’ and immediately felt the need to share it with you, the reader of this blog on ritual killings in Africa. Tom Head is, according to his own writing, a 26-year old writer and English Teacher. ‘British by birth, South African by heart. His wife is definitely his better half. Known to follow rubbish sports teams. Writes mainly about current affairs, politics and sport.’ Unquote. Judge for yourself whether I took the right decision to include his article on this site. His article dates from the end of March, this year. Thanks Tom for your precious contribution!
A luta continua – the struggle continues!
Why are albinos being murdered in South Africa?
Myth and superstition threaten the lives of one of society’s most marginalised groups.
Published: March 29, 2018
By: Tom Head
In 2018, it goes without saying that no-one should be fearful of their lives because of what skin colour they were born with. However, this is very much a reality for albinos in sub-Saharan Africa.
The UN state that people who live with albinism are treated “more like ghosts than humans”*, following years of ostracisation and a general lack of public understanding. Feeling marginalised by society is one thing. But being murdered because you’re different is a whole other, heartbreaking issue.
What causes albinism?
Albinism is hereditary. It doesn’t have to be passed on directly from an albino parent, but the mother or father must be a carrier of the gene for a child to inherit the condition.
When the human body fails to produce enough melanin, it affects the colourisation of the skin and its pigmentation. Around one in 20 000 people worldwide are albino.
Why are albinos murdered?
Their persecution is almost entirely based on myth and superstition. Witch doctors operating in southern Africa believe their body parts possess magical powers. Some think that possessing their limbs can ensure better health, and will bring good luck to the owner.
The idea is beyond ridiculous, but it is ultimately tragic. On the other side of the coin, some witch doctors also teach the idea that albinos are cursed. The crackpot theories range from the ideas that they are trapped spirits, to being the living souls of colonialist invaders.
Those living with albinism are also at risk of sexual assault and rape. The falsely-believed notion that having sex with an albino can cure HIV / AIDS is not a real scientific fact, but it is a real, terrifying threat.
Where is it most dangerous for albinos to live?
Malawi has reported “at least 18” murders of albino citizens since 2014. However, Tanzania is where the most murders occur, and that’s due to the sheer size of their albino population. It’s estimated around 7,000 people live with albinism in the country.
According to a UN report, nearly 80 albino Tanzanians have been killed since 2000. It’s reported that albino body parts can fetch “up to $75 000” on the black market.
Albinos killed in South Africa
Violence against albinos has never matched the same levels seen north of Mzansi. However, there have been some high profile cases in Mpumalanga this month that have forced South Africa to confront a horrifying reality.
A traditional healer who allegedly killed two children with albinism appeared in a Witbank court last month. Following that, the grave of an albino local was dug up in Pienaar near White River: His hands and right foot had been cut off.
Police in Mpumalanga have vowed to step up their attempts to protect the albino community. General Mondli Zuma stated this week that the “barbaric act” of dealing in body parts has to be stopped.
Misinformation and lies should never result in the death of a human being. But when they are systematically pedalled to target one specific community, something drastic has to change. Albinos can no longer be treated as ghosts, rather than people.
* – Report of the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights.