n Acta Criminologica: Southern African Journal of Criminology - Ritual and muthi murders: An Afro-ethno-criminological assessment of the phenomenon and development of a new typology

Volume 2014, Issue 1
  • ISSN : 1012-8093



This article is the outcome of an interdisciplinary research approach between anthropology and criminology. Support for this approach comes from a recognised expert in the field (Petrus, 2008). In the literature that has been cited in the article, researchers refer to culturally acceptable and culturally unacceptable 'ritual murder'. The study will deal in detail with both forms of 'ritual' murder. However, the article will argue that this classification, as far as culturally unacceptable 'ritual' murder is concerned, is not correct, since no rituals are involved in the perpetration of 'culturally unacceptable ritual murder' and suggests three other categories of murder where body parts are removed, namely: medium syndicated muthi murder; privately initiated muthi murder; and deferred-ritually inspired murder. Throughout this article, the focus is on Africa but special reference has been made to the Venda region in the north-eastern part of South Africa, which has become notorious for these killings. A distinction will be made between ritual and muthi murder. Although the Vha-Venda word for muthi is mushonga (meaning magic potion), the first term is used throughout South Africa and is thus also used in this article. Where authors have been quoted and the word 'ritual' has been used (according to my interpretation) incorrectly and will, accordingly, be placed in inverted commas.

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