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Witchcraft-related Crimes Place Traditional Religions Under the Spotlight

Traditional African Religions in South African LawDr Theo Petrus, senior anthropology lecturer at Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University, has called for a commission of inquiry into witchcraft-related crimes in the Eastern Cape. He is part of an advisory committee formed by the Justice Department to review the current witchcraft suppression legislation.

The conflict between traditional cultures and South African laws is well documented in Tom Bennett’s Traditional African Religions in South African Law, which explores the legal and constitutional implications of traditional religion and, in particular, the state’s intervention in religious matters.

Dr Theo Petrus, a senior anthropology lecturer at the Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University in Port Elizabeth, is one of a growing number of academics who have called for a radical new look at witchcraft-related crime in South Africa.

His 2009 doctoral thesis on witchcraft-related crime in the Eastern Cape and its implications for law enforcement policy is the first of its kind in South Africa, but he says more research is needed, especially on how the justice system deals with such cases.

Petrus, who was approached by the Justice Department to become part of an advisory committee to assist in a review of present witchcraft suppression legislation, believes as many stakeholders as possible should be involved.

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