Witchdoctors Join Frenzy to Make A Killing from Mandela’s Illness

Witchdoctors and soothsayers in
South Africa, popularly known as
Sangomas have joined the scramble
for a slice of the country’s 94 year
old icon, Nelson Mandela.
From private companies to tour
guides to traders and even roadside
merchants, everyone is making a kill
from the sudden interest the world
has over South Africa’s history that
Mandela’s illness has stirred up.
Meanwhile Mandela’s family feud over
his final resting place continues even
as reports of one of Mandela’s
grandson’s attempt to seize the icon’s
home were brought to the fore.#
The family feud is said to revolve
around the sheer value of Mandela’s
name. The name has the potential to
attract huge investments.
In Soweto, where anti-apartheid
crusaders from retired Archbishop
Desmond Tutu to Winnie Madikizela
own homes, the Sangomas are
offering an unlikely service –
predicting the nation’s future without
But they also go further, claiming
they are communicating with
ancestors to find out about his health
and what they would want done about
the family wrangles. For that, they
charge a fee to journalists and
To critics, such blatant hunger for
cash may seem immoral because it
exploits a matter that has caused
concern internationally. But again, the
soothsayers seem to have no written
code of ethics.
South Africa’s witchdoctors are well-
known around the world for their
rather unorthodox ways of defying
science. They have been popularised
by songs such as Yvonne Chaka
Chaka’s Sangoma.
One mother Sangoma even has a
school where she teaches recruits
how to commune with spirits and
other beings in the underworld. This
could reflect a high level of
acceptance of her activities by people
in a country whose laws recognises
the role of traditional healers in
The recruits fall to their knees
whenever the mother Sangoma passes
by. She charges 1,500 Rand (about
Sh15,000) for consultations with
ancestors in front of television crew,
other journalists and tourists.
“We would like to know…” one
journalist asked when we went to
witness the consultations, but was cut
“You don’t tell us what you want; we’ll
ask the ancestors why you are here.”
Then followed a fervent beating of
drums, shaking of the body and
chants in Zulu.
The Sangomas kept touching and
dropping bones, dice and small rocks
arranged on animal skin. “You are
here because of your concern about
Madiba’s health,” one said.
She would not continue until we
confirmed she was right.
“Yes.” “The only thing that is keeping
him alive is the ancestors. There are
people of the family wishing him to
go because they’ll make money.”

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