A witch! A witch!

There is no denying that the soccer worldcup games of 2010 have been a great success, especially where South Africa's new and improved image in the eyes of the world. No stone has been left unturned to keep the problems that continue to plague the country (such as crime, poverty, miserable living conditions, dysfunctional municipal and governmental services) out of sight. Soccer fans are very enthusiastic, and return home convinced that South Africa is a modern country with an infrastructure and society that are on par with the best ones found in Europe and the US.

Apart from a slight case of witchcraft, that is.

Artist Yiull Damaso, who feels that art should provoke an emotional response, has created a modern version of Rembrand's The Anatomy lesson of Dr. Nicolaes Tulp. In Damaso's version the knife is wielded by the late AIDS orphan Nkhosi Johnson, while the cadaver is that of Nelson Mandela. The onlookers are political figures such as de Klerk, Zuma, Mbeki and opposition leader Zille.

Whether or not this is within the limits of good taste is up for debate - which is not unusual for daring expressions of art. But the ANC has slammed it for entirely different reasons. Not only do they call the painting "racist" (because everything that displeases the ANC is considered racist these days) but the real problem is that we're dealing with a typical manifestation of witchcraft: "In African society it is a foreign act of ubuthakathi (witchcraft) to kill a living person..." according to the ANC's statement.

Witchcraft is not uncommon in South Africa. Every now and then people are killed because they are suspected of witchcraft. Even more people (especially children) are being killed and slaughtered for muti - a form of traditional healing that uses human organs for certain rituals and treatments, and even (if desperate measures are required) human sacrifice. Yes, we are talking about South Africa in the year 2010 - the country that currently hosts the soccer world cup.

There is even a "Witchcraft Suppression Act" in South African law. This bill states that:
6 Any person who conducts himself in the manner below shall be guilty of an offence:-
1 (a) Imputes to any other person the causing, by supernatural means, of any disease in or injury or damage to any person or thing, or who names or indicates any other person as a wizard;
(b) In circumstances indicating that he professes or pretends to use any supernatural power, witchcraft, sorcery, enchantment or disappointment of any person or thing to any other person;
(c) Employs or solicits any witchdoctor, witch-finder or any other person to name or indicate any person as a wizard;
(d) Professes a knowledge of witchcraft, or the use of charms, advises any person how to bewitch, injure or damage any person or thing, or supplies any person with any pretended means of witchcraft;
(e) On the advice of any inyanga, witch-finder or other person or on the ground of any pretended knowledge of witchcraft, uses or causes to be put into operational any means or process which, in accordance with such advice or his own belief, is calculated to injure or damage any person or thing; and
(f) For gain pretends to exercise or use any supernatural powers, witchcraft, sorcery or enchantment.
There is no denying that South Africa has done a brilliant PR job. It's a bit of a shame, of course, that all this money and effort has gone into hiding the country's real problems from the world, rather than solving them, but that's politics for you, I suppose...


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