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Woman flew naked in winnowing basket on 'witchcraft mission'

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It may sound like its fiction but believe it, its true, that is according to Regina Sveto, a 21 year old woman who says she flew in a winnowing basket (rusero) from Zihute in Murehwa to Harare on a journey that took only three minutes.

Sveto has appeared at a Harare court facing charges of public indecency after she was found naked at a relative’s house in Highfield.

In her defence Sveto says she was recruited into practicing witchcraft without her knowledge and left behind at the Highfield home after refusing to carry out ritual orders to kill her brother in law.

At around 6am Sveto was discovered naked last Sunday at a house in Harare’s high density suburb of Highfield.

Her explanation for this…she was left behind by her father in law and aunt after allegedly refusing to perform rituals as commanded by the two to kill her brother in law who lives at the Highfield house.

So it is punishment for refusing initiation into the deadly art of withcraft, she says.

Sveto’s case at the Harare magistrates Court has drawn hordes of people where she is facing charges of public indecency.

The case which has fascinated many due to startling revelations of the magic underworld, has also sharply brought into public debate the issue of witchcraft, and its complexities.

Witches are hated in African societies and blamed for the evil things they do. In Zimbabwe, witches can expect no mercy if they are caught practicing their craft.

Assault, divorce, and even death have been the fate of withes and in many cases those suspected of engaging in the feared practice.

On the surface Sveto appears to be a common witch but how should society respond to a situation, if it is true, that she was forced by her father in law into practicing the dark art of witchcraft unwittingly and without her consent.

The issue of her morality has also provoked debate as she says she refused to kill her brother in law.

Under a 2006 amendment to the Witchcraft Suppression Act, accusing a person of witchcraft means the accused person (is possessed by a spirit or) has used non-natural means to cause death, injury, disease or inability in another person.

In the new amendment spoken words do not constitute an act of witchcraft unless accompanied by or used in connection with other conduct commonly associated with witchcraft.
Previously, accusing someone of witchcraft was illegal. Another amendment allows magistrates and judges to call traditional healers from ZINATHA to give their expert knowledge on issues to do with withcraft.

Sveto‘s case on public indecency continues at the Harare magistrate court next week with chief Jonathan Mangwende of Murehwa expected to testify.
But as for the possibility that she will stand trial on charges that she is a witch and whether she has willingly practiced the art of witchcraft or was forced into it against her will, only time will tell.

Part VI of Chapter V of the Witchcraft Suppression Act now reads:


"Whoever accuses a person of witchcraft means to indicate that the person (is possessed by a spirit or) used non-natural means (witch-finding) to cause death, injury, disease or inability in any person. "Any person who engages in any practice knowing that it is commonly associated with witchcraft, shall be guilty of engaging in a practice commonly associated with witchcraft if having the intention to cause harm to any person. "Such practice inspires in the person against whom it was directed, a real fear or belief that harm will occur to that person or any member of his or her family, and be liable to a fine not exceeding level ten or imprisonment for a period not exceeding five years or both."

In the new amendments the spoken words shall not constitute an act of witchcraft for the purpose of this section, unless accompanied by or used in connection with other conduct commonly associated with witchcraft. "For the avoidance of doubt, it is declared that any person who assists another person to commit the crime of engaging in a practice commonly associated with witchcraft, by giving advice or providing any substance or article to enable that person to commit the crime, shall be liable to be charged as an accomplice to the crime.

"A court shall not take judicial notice of any practice that is said to be commonly associated with witchcraft, but any person who, in the opinion of the court, is suitably qualified to do so on account of his/her knowledge, shall be competent to give expert evidence as to whether the practice that forms the subject of a charge under this section is a practice that is commonly associated with witchcraft, whether generally or in the particular area where the practice is alleged to have taken place."

 
 
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