In April, 2020, The South African reported on the murder of a young boy believed to have been sacrificed in a muti ritual.
Five-year old Mzwandile Zitho, was reported missing by his grandmother, Gogo Nompumelelo Zitho. She'd been bringing up the boy since he was five years old.
When the grandmother went to the police station after several, fruitless hours searching for her grandson, she found a neighbor who owned a nearby tavern already there.
She was shocked to hear that he told police he'd found the boy's body in his tavern, and he didn't know how it got there.
Community member Anna Makhubu who entered the tavern described it thus, "When we got there we found Mzwandile naked, standing in an upright position. His hands and feet were bound. There was muthi bottles and a handkerchief that had small ropes in it." There was a red rope tied around the child's neck. This is evidence the child was used in a muti murder.
Later the grandmother said, "He (neighbor) was telling me not to go to the police station and that we would find Wandi by the end of the day. He was so reassuring, but I was concerned and wanted to find my grandson. I feel betrayed because he was one of the first people to start a search party for Wandi when I told him he was missing. He didn't tell me that my grandson was in his tavern the whole time we were looking for him. He said he also didn't know that Wandi was there."
The township south of Johannesburg were plagued with cases of missing children and cruel child murders. Up to September, 2020, four children were killed, the first being Mzwandile Zitho.
A few days after the discovery of the boy's murder, Pontso Mohlanka, 29, was charged with the boy's murder. She along with her husband were arrested. The tavern they owned was located less than 30 meters from Mzwandile's home.
Charges were not placed against the man since the prosecutor said there was currently no prima facie case against him. The charges against the woman were withdrawn on August 28.
On June, 18, a waste picker came across a plastic bin. Inside was the body of Ansia Kheha, 3, with a stab wound to her upper body.
Police investigated the cases but with no success finding the culprit.
Mpho Makondo, 8, and Simphiwe Mncina, 6, two friends were found dead on September, 19, 2020, only hours after being reported missing. The electricity had gone out in the neighborhood that night, but neighbors searched for the girls nonetheless, calling it off at 4 a.m.
Their naked bodies were discovered at 5:30 a.m. outside a tavern on Extension 4, the same where Mzwandile Zitho's murder had taken place. The girls had several muthi implements placed on their corpses.
Pontso Mohlanka was rearrested and police spokeswoman Peters revealed she was illegally in the country, and had killed the girls three days after being released from custody when she was a suspect in the case of Mzwandile "Wandi" Zitho.
Peters said, “Police can confirm that this is the same suspect who was arrested in April 2020 for the murder of another child, a boy who was her neighbor, after the child’s body was found in her house. The boy had been reported missing earlier in the day on April 15, 2020, and the search led to the woman’s house where the child’s body was found. The woman and her partner were both arrested but charges were withdrawn against the male suspect. The murder case of April 2020 has been temporarily withdrawn in court pending the outcome of the toxicology report. The 29-year-old woman was released from custody on September 16, 2020, three days before the murder of the two children."
In November, 2020, the murder case against Pontsho Mohlanka was postponed until December pending further investigation.
Every year approximately three children per day are killed in South Africa according to official records. Many believe the figure is undercounted.
Shanaaz Mathews, the country’s leading expert on child homicides, thinks there are many victims that are completely missed; there is no investigation nor prosecution into the crime.
She said, "Violence has become entrenched in the psyche of South Africa. How do we break that cycle? The number (of children killed) are not going down. If anything, they are going up."
Joan van Niekerk, a child protection expert, recounts numerous cases tainted by police ineptitude and corruption.
Even though some children fall victim to their own family members, there is a large number which are killed in use of "medicine murders", where they mutilated and tortured alive, since their agony is believed to increase the "juju" of the body parts
These "blood rituals" are mostly used to invoke prosperity, riches and good luck. Some believe "political correctness" has allowed the practice to flourish, "since it is one part of indigenous African culture, which the media is not particularly eager to let the public know about."
Tribal healers hold a wide belief in the power of human sacrifice, and some have been known to kill their own children in ceremonies.
In 2011, there was a 10-year "moratorium" on crime statistics. In 2001, approximately 2,500 South African "were caught in possession of human parts, many of which were traded through the hospitals."
Africans with albanism (albinos), are especially at risk since their body parts are highly prized due to their supposed power. Their organs can cost tens of thousands of dollars, leading investigators to believe that human sacrifice is practiced in the some of the highest circles of African society.
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