In the South African context, criminal acts that are associated with beliefs in witchcraft have illustrated the complexities that emerge in the relationship between crime and culture. Witchcraft beliefs continue to play an important role in the lives of many African communities. However, when these beliefs manifest themselves in the harming of others, either through perceived supernatural means or through violence perpetrated against alleged witches, issues of crime add another dimension to the social and cultural context of African communities. In the north-eastern parts of the Eastern Cape Province in South Africa, crimes associated with witchcraft beliefs have occurred relatively frequently, yet the South African Police Service (SAPS) in these areas has been ineffective in addressing these crimes. In this article it is argued that a clear definition of witchcraft-related crimes is needed to assist in dealing with these cases. Such a definition should be holistic, meaning that local perceptions of witchcraft as a crime should be taken into account, along with violence and other more obvious criminal acts. The article is based on a critical engagement with anthropological and other relevant literature, including the author’s own doctoral research study of witchcraft-related crime in the Eastern Cape province of South Africa.
Key words: Witchcraft-related crime, Eastern Cape Province, Mpondoland, South Africa.
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