Muti killing a crime against humanity - Phiyega

Johannesburg - Muti killings are serious crimes against humanity and a collaborative approach is needed to combat them, Police Commissioner General Riah Phiyega said on Saturday.

"Women, the elderly and children remain the most vulnerable," she said at a crime awareness campaign on ritual murders and mob justice in Giyani, Limpopo.

She said a study prepared for the United Nations' Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial summary or arbitrary executions in 2011, documented that witchcraft had been widely practised in African societies since before the colonial time.

"Belief in how witchcraft is practised varies from state to state, but the belief and practice of witchcraft is often to give a justification for why bad things happen to certain people."

She said this led to accusations against certain individuals who were suspected of having been directly involved in the acts of witchcraft.

"Accusations of witchcraft can lead to violations of a wide range of human rights, including the right to life," she said.

"If we are to make a progressive Limpopo a reality, a shift in our mind-sets and perceptions is of paramount importance. We feel that it is time to gather and talk about where these beliefs emanate from."

She said it was time to call on traditional leaders, community police forums, community-based organisations and other community leaders to deliberate on these issues.

"We need to deliberate in detail on the truthfulness of what research on ritual murders depicts on issues such as the beliefs that particular body parts harvested through a particular process and from selected victims could enhance health, strength, wealth or power.

"These matters can no longer be swept under the carpet and kept secret," she said.