Child murders on Swazi campaign trail

DPA, Aug. 20, 2002

Three children, whose mutilated bodies were found buried in isolated areas of Swaziland, are believed to have been killed as part of traditional rituals to bring luck to election candidates.

Elections, held every five years, are due early next year and as the jostling for votes intensifies, candidates will turn to witch doctors, who are ready to cash in on bizarre demands for human parts to be used in the preparation of luck potions.

With less than nine months to go before the next poll, this trend is already evident. Over the past four weeks, bodies of children with several parts missing have been discovered by cattle herders.

The latest body to be discovered was that of a girl, believed to be 16 years old, missing a left arm, a right hand, and one of the feet. The way the body parts had been sliced off was similar to two earlier discoveries.

The first one, that of a young boy of a traditional leader, had some of the body parts missing and a curious wound under one of the armpits, raising suspicion that blood had been drained from the body before or after the murder.

All the limbs were missing from the body of a pre-school child, discovered several days after he disappeared. The limbs had apparently been chopped off with the precision of an expert and several strategic wounds also suggested that blood had been drained from the body.

During the last poll, several mutilated bodies of children, apparently killed for ritual purposes, were found dumped in isolated areas. The general belief was that these murders were either committed by parliamentary aspirants or their agents.

The tiny southern African kingdom of Swaziland has a difficult political climate with political parties outlawed since 1973. Many people with divergent views were forced to flee the country while those who stayed either languish in jail or are the targets of police harassment.

Traditional leaders are generally detested by common people because of their unlimited authority, which empowers them to evict people from their villages at the slightest hint of dissent.

While elections are usually viewed as a rubber stamp of draconian laws and are characterised by rigging and poor turnout, this year there is a new excitement with incidents of open campaigning evident in many constituencies.

As potential candidates try to win the confidence of the voters, most of whom are illiterate rural people, the methods they adopt range from the ridiculous, like stealing cow dung from King Mswati’s corral, to grisly child murders.

Although the police have promised to apprehend the murderers, the chances that they will ever be found are slim.

Meanwhile further ritual murders are expected as the election countdown starts in earnest.

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Religion News Blog posted this on Monday August 26, 2002.
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