Monday, July 4, 2011

In South Africa, albino teen who disappeared on way home from school 'was kidnapped by witch doctors for tribal sacrifice,' his sister says

From The Daily Mail in the UK. Pictured is an albino child in a South African school.

An albino boy who went missing on his way home from school may have been snatched for a tribal sacrifice in South Africa, it was reported today.

The disappearance of Sibisuso Nhatave, 14, prompted a police search in the eastern province of KwaZulu-Natal amid fears that he had been a victim of black magic.

Albinism, a hereditary genetic condition, is viewed by many across Africa as magical and hundreds carrying the disorder have been killed for their parts.

Today South Africa's Sunday Tribune newspaper quoted the teenager's elder sister, who is also an albino and fears for his life.

Zulmira Nhatave said: 'Time is passing, we are starting to lose hope. But if God is with us, we will find him.

'We used to fear being touched or taunted, now people are fearing for their lives. People are afraid, you never know what will happen.

'People tease you and call you names.' Sibisuso's family live in Mkhobose, 20 miles north of Durban.

Many albinos have moved to live in the area because by forming a group they feel safer and less persecuted.

Ms Nhatave added: 'It is better in our area, because there are a number of people with albinism. But still, some believe that if they shake hands with a person with albinism, they will have luck.

'Some try to be too nice, others want to touch you to know how your skin feels.

'Others say we don't die but disappear, or if you give birth to an albino, you're paying the price for laughing at people with albinism when you were young. They think it's a curse. It's horrible.

'You have to be careful as a woman. People come to you all the time. You have to read them carefully. Some have beliefs that if you have sex with an albino, you will have luck.'

Sibisuso was last seen on June 2 leaving Ikhandlela Junior Secondary School to make his way home. Despite police efforts there appears to be no trace of the pupil.

Concerns over his welfare come after hundreds of albinos have been killed for 'muti' - their organs - which are believed to have magical powers for spells and prayers.

The practice is more common further north in the continent, in countries including Tanzania, where the government introduced legislation to try and combat the problem.

There, albino girls had been raped by men who believed it would be a cure for Aids. The victims' blood, hair and genitals would all be taken by witchdoctors who maintained they would bring luck.

Lawrence Mthombeni, an albino and former local politician in South Africa, said: 'In the black community it is perceived that albinos don't die, they disappear, which is not true.

'Anyone who has this misconception can see me. My father was an albino and he died and I know his grave.'

Albinos have sensitive, pale skin and suffer from poor eyesight. In a country where most people are black, albinos are very distinctive with blonde hair.

Albinism Society of Southern Africa director Nomasonto Mazibuko said the continent needed to rally to protect the vulnerable group and raise awareness.

She said: 'If people were better informed, if they knew that Sibusiso was just like any other child, he would not have disappeared.

'In 2008, after the killings in Tanzania, albinism was declared a disability, which means we now qualify as disabled people due to our weaker skin and eyesight.

'We are trying to get assistance from the government. We are asking for access to sunscreen, access to disability grants to raise our children.

'Teachers, nurses and our government leaders don't know enough about albinism. We need education campaigns.'

Traditional Healers Association president Sazi Mhlongo urged the South African government to tackle witchcraft with tough new measures.
He said: 'People who kill others for muti are witches, and we need legislation that will deal specifically with the suppression of witchcraft.'

Around 12,500 of the 50 million people living in South Africa have albinism. Around one person in 17,000 worldwide is born with the pigmentation disorder.