Hospital that sell body parts to murderers who harvest organs from live victims for muti have been uncovered.
African Muti Murders – taking body parts for black magic spells. Albinos are reported to be their prime target.
“An albino’s’ arms, fingers, genitals, ears and blood are highly prized for their especially powerful magic, according to believers.”
In cases where body parts from the deceased are needed, they are often obtained illegally from area hospitals or stolen by grave robbers from corpses that they remove from fresh graves (it is uncertain whether or not the traditional healer would be able to tell if a body part is removed pre- or post-mortem). In other cases, a living person’s nail clippings or hair cuttings may be secretly collected by, for instance, a jealous neighbor or friend and used in potions targeted against that person. These types of harvests are the least disturbing.
The harvest of body parts from live muti victims
African witch doctors visit a local village. It’s now a dirty little secret in South Africa, it is once again on the rise. Called “muti murders” or “medicine murders” (sometimes termed “ritual murder” or muthi-murder), it takes its name from the Zulu word “muti”, the term for traditional black magic medicines that utilize human body parts and flesh as critical ingredients in order to produce supposedly miraculous medicinal effects. The phenomenon is widely acknowledged to occur in southern Africa where it is estimated that from 50%-90% of the population believe in black magic and witchcraft. The Limpopo province alone once recorded 250 muti-murders in a single year. Body parts from dead corpses serve a valuable purpose but the best muti medicine ingredients are taken from body parts that are harvested while the victim is still alive.
Muti cases are still on the rise today. On August 15 2018, the second largest hospital in the African country of Swaziland, was accused of operating a black market in human body parts used in black magic muti spells. Described as “an open secret”, people come to the hospital from neighboring South Africa to buy bones, hearts, brains, genital organs, tongues, ears, eyes, hands, legs, lungs, arms, jaws, fingers, and other human body parts to use in muti medicines.
What is “muti” medicine and how does it relate to muti murders?
In Africa, the word “muti” is a Zulu word meaning “medicine” – but not medicine in the sense that the modern world is accustomed to. In Africa, particularly south Africa, medicine is manufactured using “traditional” means. Healers, or witch doctors, grind up human body parts (body parts from children are considered especially desirable) and combine them with roots, herbs, seawater, and animal body parts to prepare potions and spells for their clients. The resulting medicine can be rubbed on the skin, into open wounds, or ingested per the witch doctor’s instructions.
Countries outside of South Africa will find the belief in muti medicine and witch doctors difficult to fathom. The Journal of Investigative Psychology and Offender Profiling explained the underlying belief system of muti:
“In traditional African beliefs, it is assumed that there is only a certain amount of luck in society. Each individual receives a portion of that luck. It is therefore believed that if another person is successful, then they have obtained an extra portion of luck via devious means, usually with the intervention of the supernatural.
Setbacks or calamities, such as drought or illness, are signs that the natural and social order have been disturbed. One means of obtaining this extra portion of luck or restoring the natural order is through the use of strong muti. It is with this strong muti that muti murders are often associated. Muti made from human body parts is considered to be exceptionally powerful.”
The paper went on to explain the perceived value of various body parts in muti medicine.
“Just as different ingredients in a recipe are used for different purposes, certain body parts are used for particular goals. For example, eyes may be stolen and used in a magic ritual to help restore a client’s failing eyesight, whereas severed hands are used to assure business success, and genitals are believed to attract luck.”
Body parts taken from live victims are considered to be the most powerful because it is believed that the agonized screams of the victims, before they succumb to shock, makes the muti more potent. And yes, many times the victim dies during the extraction of the required body parts. Given their requirements, muti murders are particularly brutal, with knives, machetes, sharp rocks, or glass shards used to cut and hack off limbs, breasts and other body parts from their victims. For some reason unbeknownest to foreigners, muti murder victims are typically murdered close to rivers or other bodies of water.
The particular muti murder threat to albino Africans
The purported use of albino body parts in muti spells vary greatly. For example, fishermen on Lake Victoria will weave albino hair into their nets to improve their catches while miners in the Mbeya coal-fields have been known to splash albino blood on the ground, wear albino muti charms (often body parts or albino flesh ground up into paste), or bury albino bones to “attract” gems and gold to the surface.
In an interview with a well-known Zulu witch doctor, the doctor was asked about muti-murders and their relationship to albinos. His response was surprisingly candid.
“Not all Africans have got black hair. There are Africans who are regarded as very holy, as very sacred. These are Africans who are born with natural red hair. These Africans are believed to be very spiritually powerful. Now, in Africa, such people, albinos or red-headed Africans, were the most victims of sacrifice, especially when they were just entering maturity – whether they were males or females.”
In another albino muti murder , a gang clubbed 20-year-old Enicko Simkoko as he worked on a remote field near Mbeya and skinned him alive. They were caught when the “middleman” was spotted drying the skin in his hotel room. Apparently the “client” had paid 5,000 dollars for the valuable albino skin. Around the same time another gang were caught after butchering 14-year-old Leo Kimwegile-Swile as he herded his father’s cattle. And another was caught when an undercover policeman bought from them the skin of 11-year-old schoolboy.
To obtain body parts from a live victim, the victim is identified and ‘purchased’ via a transaction involving an often minimal amount of money. The victim is often abducted, typically at night, and taken to an isolated place for the harvesting of body parts. It is usually intended that the victim be mutilated while conscious so that the muti medicine can be made more potent through the screams of the tortured victim. Mutilation does not take place specifically in order to kill the victim, but it is of course, expected that the victim will die as a result from his wounds.
Notable muti murders reported in the press
There have been many muti murders reported internationally. Often details of the murders are sketchy – police are reluctant to release information to outsiders – and most reports of muti murders never reach the outside world. Here’s a sampling of a few notable muti murder cases that did make national news.
Body parts hang from a African witchdoctor shopIn 2008, a rash of muti-murders occurred in the Butterworth area of South Africa. Known as the Kei Ripper killings, it was believed that a local witch doctor was responsible for a spate of murders in which body parts were harvested from the victims. The murders began with nine-year-old Vika Nqwiliso, who was butchered in front of three of his friends by a man in October 2008. Authorities later found his body with his organs sliced out.
A few weeks later the body of Nobijolo Dulini and that of an unidentified middle-aged man were found in nearby Dutywa, both with missing facial and body parts. Three people, Macebo Langeni, Mvuleli Mdolo and Veleka Mkiva, were attacked by the Kei Ripper (some lost body parts as a result) but survived.
As the investigation progressed, it was theorized that the murders could be the actions of more than one person. Several suspects emerged as “helpers” in the crimes, including one who was arrested while in possession of a “medical bag containing a woman’s placenta, the severed head of a cat, and chicken skin.” The suspects confessed to one of the killings, the murder of Khanyisa Mama, whose body was found in a forest, eyes, heart, and genitals missing. Khanvisa Mama quickly became the focal point of the entire Kei Ripper investigation.
One of the three victims who survived a Kei Ripper attack described her ordeal in a public news report. 40-year-old Veleka Mkiva, a community health worker, told how she was standing at a popular hitchhiking spot near her village of Xawuka when her assailants came up behind her. They showed her a piece of paper with sketches of body parts and said she must choose which one she wanted to lose.
“One of them asked me which parts I can offer them and when I refused he pulled out a gun and a knife. I was scared and gave him my breasts to cut off. It was painful and I passed out while he was still trying to cut them off.”
During the attack, two of the attacker’s accomplices stood by on “lookout”.
“Before I passed out I saw a car approaching from the villages. They ran away without finishing their job.”
The Kei Ripper case is particularly difficult to report on, not only because news reports of the attacks are sketchy and well… disturbing, but because some of the suspects were stoned by villagers before they could be arrested and several suspects were mysteriously released from police custody before they could be tried. Other suspects were captured and detained and a few even offered confessions, but alas, those who did confess to the murders later claimed that they “confessed” to the murders only after the police brutally tortured them.
In addition to potential police corruption and falsified confessions, another key factor served to stifle progress of the Kei Ripper case (and other muti murder cases). In South Africa, the witch doctors themselves are feared by the local citizens.
“People who do witchcraft are seen as very powerful people by the community. It is a very secretive activity.”
One Kei Ripper suspect, “Gwayi”, confessed and later recanted his confession claiming he had been tortured by the authorities. Nevertheless, police said that Gwayi described how he came to begin harvesting muti-body parts for an underground witch doctor.
“Gwayi told us what happened and the money he was promised by a man . He was told to look for a person whom he would kill for body parts – and it was preferred that the victim was alive at the time the parts are being harvested.”
Gwayi found four boys at a nearby forest and approached them. Gwayi said he had lost a cow, and asked the boys to help him find it. Then, as they were busy searching for the lost cow, he sat them down, one by noe, and asked them if they would play “a game of killing each other”. The boys asked if they would wake up again and he told them that he would be able to wake them up after the killing. The decision was made to start with Vika, the youngest child in the group.
According to the investigators’ report:
“A sharp instrument was used to cut open the boy’s chest while he was still alive, the penis was then cut off, the liver was also removed and the little finger was also hacked off. All this time the boy was crying. He then stopped crying.”
One of the boys apparently asked Gwayi to stop because Vika was dying.
“I told them he will wake up,” Gwayi said in the confession . Gwayi then allegedly asked the boys who would be willing to take Vika’s eye out, but none agreed because they were afraid.
Gwayi then used a sharp object and took the boy’s eye out. The young boy died during the attack.
The 2010 Human Rights League investigation
The Human Rights League investigated the muti-murders in 2010 in a study titled the Trafficking Body Parts in Mozambique and South Africa. One of the interview samples included in the report was of a case in Bloemspruit where a woman who wanted to become pregnant went to a “sangoma” (witch doctor) who provided her with a magical belt to wear. Dangling from the belt were children’s fingers and penises.
“She was made to drink a concoction she believed contained human blood and fat and she was given a piece of flesh which she believed to be a human organ, perhaps a heart. She sliced small pieces from the flesh each night and fried them on a stove.”
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Sample African witch doctor advertisement
Here is another example of a South African witch doctor advertisement that was published in local African newspapers in 2008.
Example African witchdoctor advertisement
Example African witchdoctor advertisement
Muti ingredients and the function each body part provides in a muti spell potion
African witchdoctor hut with muti ingrediants hanging in entrance
Each human body part is purported to perform a specific function in the muti spell. The following was posted in a forum on the Internet, supposed by a African witch doctor, and explains the purpose of the various human body parts used in muti medicine potions.
Muti and the body parts required
Severed hands: buried under the door of a shop or business these would bring customers to the premises, making the owner wealthy.
Breasts: widely regarded in African traditional culture as the source of “mother luck”, which would be used in magic potions to bring good fortune.
Genitals: both male and female are in demand, used by sangomas (witch doctors) to boost virility in men and fertility in women.
Adam’s apple: would be used to silence a witness who was intending to testify against a sangoma’s client in court.
Skull: used to protect members of one tribe from another by burying the enemy victim’s head in the tribe’s village.
Eyes: supposed to confer far-sightedness.
Tongue: used to smooth the path to a girl’s heart for a prospective lover.
Body fat: usually taken from the stomach, the fat is regarded by some people, especially the Venda, as the source of a good harvest.
Sperm and urine: also widely seen as a source of good luck.
Atlas bone: regarded as powerful muti because of the belief that the circulatory and nervous systems run through it.
Brains: would help to confer intelligence for anyone stupid enough to take it.