July 9, 2006

Witchcraft ban ends / Zimbabwe signs China energy deal

Zimbabwe has lifted a ban on the practice of witchcraft, repealing legislation dating back to colonial rule. From July the government acknowledges that supernatural powers exist - but prohibits the use of magic to cause someone harm. In 1899, European settlers made it a crime to accuse someone of being a witch or wizard. The new law effectively legitimises many practices of traditional healers. These include rolling bones to foretell the future, divination, attempts to communicate with the dead, using muti - traditional powders and fetishes - to ensure the desired sex of a child. But there will be some legal grey areas, like whether it is legal for a husband to place some charms in his bedroom - charms that may injure his wife if she is unfaithful.

The new Criminal Law Codification and Reform Act will demand proof that a person has supernatural powers and that they are using them to harm others. "It's not going to be easy task," says Custom Kachambwa, a judge with years of experience in the legal field.
He says witnesses will often be traditional healers, who could be accused of practising harmful magic in the future.

In the meantime, China has signed a US $1.3bn deal with Zimbabwe to help relieve an acute shortage of energy. Chinese companies will build new coal mines and three thermal power stations in the Zambezi valley on the Zambian border. In exchange, Zimbabwe will provide China with chrome. "Right now we are beginning to experience power shortages in the country," Vice-President Mujuru said. Chinese companies are furthermore also to rebuild Zimbabwe's rail network and provide trains and buses. (bbc / The Financial Gazette, South Africa)

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