n Acta Criminologica : African Journal of Criminology & Victimology - Armed robbers : creating a perception of invisibility and invincibility through mysticism - are Sangomas providing protection?

Special Edition 4
  • ISSN : 1012-8093


The study upon which this article is based sought to investigate the possibility of using criminal career research to inform policy development and/or evaluation with regards to the prevention of armed robberies, particularly those against the banking industry. Forty offenders who committed robbery with aggravating circumstances (i.e. branch robberies, after hours robberies, Cash-in-Transit (CIT) robberies and Automated Teller Machine (ATM) bombings/attacks with explosives were interviewed at eight correctional centres around the Gauteng province of South Africa (SA). One of the aspects covered during the qualitative interviews of the research was the influence mysticism or belief in supernatural had on the armed robber's criminal career. Out of the 40 participants 35 (87.5%) expressed that it is vital to consult a Sangoma before executing an armed robbery because the Sangoma is clairvoyant and can therefore predict if the robbery will be successful or not. Also, these offenders strongly believe that the muti the Sangoma prescribes plays a significant role in the robbery process in that, once it is applied, it makes one brave, powerful, invisible, wild or can protect one from being shot or arrested for example. Although inconspicuous in their responses, respondents also divulged some information about the ingredients placed in the muti. The main reason provided for the discreetness in divulging information on the content of the muti was that Sangomas do not open up on what they put in their concoctions. To note is the fact that there was during this research an atypical case where one respondent reported the use of a human body part (a penis) as one of the ingredients used. As a result, this article will also briefly expound on the issue of muti murder. The law regulating traditional health practices is also concisely consulted.

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